How to create a Windows 8 system image or full backup (step-by-step)

Here are the steps to create a System Image Backup on Windows 8 to protect all your files, and to recover the operating system, settings, and apps from system failure.

Configure Windows 8 system image

A system image is simply a full backup of your computer, which includes the Windows 8 installation files, apps, personal documents, and device driver. Basically the system image backup contains everything you need to restore your computer to a working condition in case of system failure, viruses, and other error that may occur.

Creating an image of your system in Windows 8 hasn’t changed one bit from how it was done in Windows 7, Microsoft only changed the name from “Windows Backup and Restore” to “Windows 7 File Recovery” — Why the “Windows 7” in the name? This is for backward compatibility with previous version of the operating system.

In this guide, you’ll learn the steps to create a system image backup on Windows 8, as having a full backup of your hard drive can be considered on of the best disaster recovery strategy. You should always consider creating backup at least once a week.

How to create a Windows System Image backup

  1. Open Start, do a search for and select Control Panel to launch the utility.

  2. In the search box from the top-right side of the page, do a search for Windows 7 File Recovery and click the link to start the process.

  3. From the left pane, click Create a System Image.

    Windows Backup

  4. Choose whether to save the system backup on an external hard drive, on a DVD (this could take many discs), or on a network location and click Next. For the purpose of this guide, I’ll be using the network location.

    Note: Files already in the storage media will not be erased by this operation.

    Create full backup

  5. Confirm your settings and click Start backup. The time that Windows 8 will take to create the system image will depend on the amount of data and the location where you are storing the backup.

    Windows backup widzard

  6. Windows will start saving the backup and once the process is done you’ll be prompted to create a “system image repair disc”, click Yes to continue. You want to do this in case your PC hits a serious system failure and the PC does not boot. The repair disc will enable you to boot the PC into the recovery environment and make use of the backup you just created to restore everything.

    Backing Up Bootable disc repair

  7. Click Create disc. After Windows 8 has finished backing everything up, don’t forget to store your system image in a safe place. Taking it offsite to a friend’s house that you trust or a family member is not a bad idea.

    System image repair disc drive

    You are now done!

The benefits of a System Image Backup

The benefits of creating a system image are: consolidation of your whole PC in a single backup, applications are preserved and you don’t have to reinstall them, personal document and settings are maintained as well. But best of all, if you hard drive were to go bad (unusable) you can recovery your full system in matter of minutes by just restoring the backup image.

The future is uncertain

Here is the thing, it seems that Microsoft doesn’t want to use this feature anymore, why? Just look at the name of it. If you do a search from the Start screen using the keywords: “backup” or “system image”, you won’t see this feature as an option. The name is confusing. It hasn’t been updated, and it might go away in the future because it is mainly to restore files from a Windows 7 System Image or to go back after an upgrade.

The software maker now prefers you use the new File History to backup your personal files. And then the company wants you to use the “Refresh your PC without affecting your files” or “Remove everything and reinstall Windows” feature to restore your system or to help you safely get rid of your computer.

How often do you do a full backup of your system? Tell us in the comments below.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].