Windows 10 System Image Backup instructions
Backup & recovery

How to create a system image backup on Windows 10

A full backup of your PC should always be part of your recovery strategy — Here's how use Windows 10's System Image Backup tool.

A system image backup is what it’s also referred as “full backup”. Windows 10, similar to previous versions, includes a feature to create a copy of your entire system, even if it has one or more hard drives. The feature is called System Image Backup, and it includes everything from the Windows installation files, device drivers, applications, settings, and personal files.

It’s always extremely important to have a full backup of your computer as it could help you to recover from any system failure, errors, or malware. In addition, updates are mandatory on Windows 10, which means that if there is an issue, where you can’t boot your PC because of a bad driver or update, you’ll need a recovery mechanism to fix the problem as quickly as possible.

In this guide, you’ll learn the steps to create a full backup of your PC using System Image Backup on Windows 10, and how to recover individual files as needed.

How to create a system image backup

Use these steps to create a full backup on Windows 10:

  1. Open Control Panel.

  2. Search backup using the top-left search box, and from the results click on Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

    Backup and Restore (Windows 7)

  3. From the left pane click on “Create a system image”. When the tool opens, select where you like to save the backup: on a hard disk, on one or more DVDs, or on a network location. (For this guide, we will select “On a hard disk”, so make sure to connect an external hard drive with enough space to save the entire backup, and click Next to continue.)

    Create a system image backup in Windows 10

    Quick tip: You can use an external USB hard drive with data on it, the tool will not format or erase any files in the drive. Instead it will create a folder called “WindowsImageBackup” to save the system image.
  4. Confirm your backup settings and click the Start backup button. The time to complete the Windows 10 backup will depend on your hardware and data to be backed up.

    Windows 10 Start backup

  5. When the backup process completes, you’ll be promoted to “create a system image repair disc”, click Yes to continue. (A repair disc is necessary in case your Windows 10 computer can’t boot, and the repair disc will allow to boot your computer into a recovery environment to use the system image backup to recover your system.)

    System repair disc to recover Windows 10

  6. Click Create disc and process completes don’t forget to store the backup drive on a safe place.

    Create disc for recovery in Windows 10

How to recover files from system image backup

If at any time, you need to recover individual files, you can connect the external drive you used to create the backup, and browse WindowsImageBackup > YourPcName > Backup xxxx-xx-xx xxxxxx folder. Inside the folder open the largest VHDX file to restore individual files.

Keep in mind that if you’re trying to restore personal files, you will only be able to recover files that were backed up and created before the full backup was performed. To keep files up to date, you should consider using different solutions, such as File History or OneDrive.

Wrapping things up

If you have been running Windows 8.1 or Windows 7, you’ll notice that creating a system image backup in Windows 10 hasn’t change much. In the new version of Windows, Microsoft is only changing the name to where you go to find the tool. In Windows 7, you’ll go to “Windows Backup and Restore” in Control Panel, in Windows 8, the location was changed to “Windows 7 File Recovery”, and in Windows 10, it’s called “Backup and Restore (Windows 7)”.

The reason for the name change and the reference to Windows 7 is because Microsoft doesn’t want you to use this tool to make a backup, instead the feature is there to help you recover files from previous backups. Instead, the company wants you to use File History or OneDrive to keep an up-to-date backup of your files, and Reset this PC functionality to restore Windows 10.

There are a lot things that can go wrong in your Windows 10 PC and having a full backup created can be considered one of the best disaster recovery strategy you can have. You should always consider creating a full backup at least once a week or before making any changes or performing an upgrade.

It doesn’t matter what kind of computer you buy, eventually it will fail or something will happen, and having a full backup of your entire system will help you in many ways.

How often do you perform a full backup of your Windows 10 PC? Tell us in the comments below and which tool you use.