How to restore files in Windows 8 from a Windows 7 Backup

Win7 backup restore Win8

When upgrading from any new version of Windows, you will always be recommended (at least by me) to make a full backup of your PC before proceeding. This is just in case things were to go wrong and you have to rollback, for example, from Windows 8 to Windows 7 and, of course, to protect your personal files.

The problem is that you cannot choose to restore specific files from a Windows 7 image (full backup) after a Windows 8 upgrade using a clean installation. This means that if you are moving to a newer operating system, you need to create a full backup as well as a copy of all your personal documents.

Although, there is not such a thing as one too many backups, you shouldn’t have to spend time doing the same thing twice. So a simple solution is to have a system image, then restore files in Windows 8 from a Windows 7 Backup using the Disk Management console. And this is actually a pretty simple thing to do as you’ll see in the instructions below.

Before getting started, the good news about a Windows 7 Backup is that it uses a mix of XML and VHD (Virtual Hard Drive) files to create copy of the entire PC. As such, it is possible to attach the VHD file to Windows 8 as a local drive and extract any file you need.


1. Connect the external drive where you previously created the Windows 7 image.

2. While in the Windows 8 Desktop, use the Windows 8 Key + X keyboard shortcut to bring the Power User menu and hit the letter K to open the Disk Management console.


3. From the Action menu, select Attach VHD.


4. Next browse the backup folder, e.g., WindowsImageBackup\[computer-name]\Backup xxxx-xx-xx xxxxxx, select the largest file size with the extension .vhd file and click Open.


Note: A VHD file includes all the bits from the previous installation, plus all your documents. Also note that you’ll see more than one very large VHD file, if you have more than one hard drive installed in your PC. Supposing this is the scenario, the largest file may not necessarily be the one with the Windows installation, but you can attach all and find your files.

Then click OK in the dialog box and Windows will mount the Virtual Hard Drive with a drive letter in Computer.


5. Go to Computer and the drive will be listed under Hard Disk Drives. Now simply double-click the drive and copy all your documents over to the Documents’ library in Windows 8 (depending on the amount of files this could take a while).


Quick Tip: All your documents (music, photos, videos, and other files), are likely located inside the Users >username folder.


That’s all, once you are done copying all the files over, you can simply disconnect the external drive, which will also dismount the virtual drive from your computer. As you can see now, you don’t need multiple backups when moving to a new operating system.

It is worth noting that this method will work in Windows 8 as well as in Windows 7.

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 15 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 21 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].