Recovery plan

How to use wbAdmin to create a Windows 10 system image backup

In Windows 10, you can use the wbAdmin command-line utility to make a system image backup, and in this guide you'll learn the step-by-step instructions to create and restore a backup in your PC.

wbAdmin command-line utility for Windows 10

A full computer backup is an essential part of any recovery plan. In Windows 10, Microsoft includes a number of tools to keep the operating system and personal files safe in case of system failure or viruses.

The new version of the operating system includes File History to keep an up-to-date backup of your files, and there is also OneDrive. Once you save your files on the OneDrive folder, they automatically get uploaded to the cloud for safekeeping.

Then there is the Reset this PC, which is an improved version of the feature available in Windows 8.1. Microsoft wants you to use the recovery tool when your PC isn’t on a working condition or you need to reset your system to factory defaults — all without the need of an installation media DVD or USB.

However, if you are about to upgrade the hard drive on your system and you need a migrate solution or you want to make a backup that contains all the partitions, operating system, settings, apps, and personal files with a single utility, you can use wbAdmin in Windows 10.

wbAdmin is a command-line utility that has been around in previous versions of the operating system, and in this guide, you’ll learn the step-by-step instructions to make a system image backup (full backup) on Windows 10.

How to create a system image backup using wbAdmin tool

Follow the steps below to create a full backup of your Windows 10 PC using the wbAdmin command-line utility.

  1. Connect a USB external hard drive to your computer that you want to use to store the full backup.

  2. Use the Windows key + X to open the Power User menu, and select Command Prompt (Admin).

  3. While in Command Prompt, type the following command and press Enter:

    wbAdmin start backup -backupTarget:D: -include:C: -allCritical -quiet

    wbAdmin start backup command in Windows 10

    If you want to make a full backup that includes all the drives connected to your Windows 10 PC, then you need to use the following command:

    wbAdmin start backup -backupTarget:D: -include:C:,E:,F: -allCritical -quiet

    Make sure to note that you need to change the drive letters on switch -include:C:,E:,F: with letters that reflect the hard drives in your computer.

    The command line mentioned above will save a full backup of your system on the D drive as specified in the -backupTarget:D: switch. However, WBadmin is very flexible and it also allows you to save a backup to a shared network folder using the following command:

    wbAdmin start backup -backupTarget:\\sharedFolder\folderName -user:username -password:userPassword -include:C: -allCritical -quiet

    The time to complete the process will vary upon all the data that needs to be backed up and other variables, and the wbAdmin utility will save the image backup inside the WindowsImageBackup folder in the target drive.

How the wbAdmin commands work

Let’s step back and look at the command you’re using. The wbAdmin start backup switch starts a one-time backup on your computer. The -backupTarget:D: switch tells wbAdmin where you want to save the image backup — in this case, I have configured the command to save everything on the drive with letter “D”, which may be different on your computer.

The -include:C: tells the utility to make an image backup of your PC’s main partition that stores the operating system, settings, apps, and on most cases personal files.

Then there is the -allCritical switch that makes sure to include all the values inside of the hard drive, and finally the -quiet switch runs the entire backup without prompting the users for extra input.

How to restore a system image backup on Windows 10

If you come across a system failure or you’re upgrading the hard drive in your computer, you can use the steps below to restore a backup that you have previously made.

You can’t restore a backup within Windows, as such you’ll need to access the Advanced Startup options in Windows 10 to proceed with the recovery.

  1. Open the Start menu, click Power, press and hold the Shift key and click Restart. This action will exit the operating system and into the Advanced Startup options.

  2. Click Troubleshoot.

  3. Click Advanced options.

  4. Click System Image Recovery.

    Advanced options (Advanced Startup)

  5. Your PC will now reboot into the System Image Recovery environment. Select your account from the list.

  6. Type your account password and click Continue.

    System Image Recovery - Advanced options - Windows 10

  7. The latest system image backup will select automatically for recovery, but you can also use the Select a system image option to specify another backup.

    Windows 10 System Image Backup recovery

  8. Click Next.

  9. Click Next again.

  10. Click Finish to confirm and proceed with the recovery.

    Re-image your computer wizard in Windows 10

While Microsoft wants you to use a different approach to make a backup of your system and files. It’s still possible to create a full backup of your system with everything in it, including operating system, settings, applications, accounts, and personal files. However, remember there is a reason why the software giant wants you to use its approach. It’s because a system image backup can only be used to recover your PC with changes since the last backup was created.

A good practice includes to make a system image backup early on when you do a clean install of Windows 10 and you install all the apps and set all the settings you want. Then you can configure File History and/or OneDrive to keep an always updated backup of your personal files. Alternatively, you can keep creating new full backups regularly or every time you make changes to your system.

It’s important to note that you can always create a full backup using a familiar user-interface.

What type of backup solution do you use with your PC? How often do you do a full backup of your PC? Tell us in the comments below.