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How to Use Windows 7′s Backup Tools in Windows 8

Windows 8 has a new File History backup system that replaces Windows 7′s backup tools. However, Windows 8 still contains the Windows 7 backup tools. They’re particularly useful for creating full system image backups.

These tools are considered deprecated and probably won’t be there in future versions of Windows. Microsoft would prefer you use the File History and Refresh features instead.

Accessing the Windows 7 Backup Tools

The Windows 7 backup tools are hidden and won’t appear in searches for “backup” or similar phrases.

To access them, press the Windows key and search for backup. Select the Settings category and open the Save backup copies of your files with File History window.

Click the Windows 7 File Recovery option hidden in the bottom-left corner of the File History window.

You’ll see the familiar Windows 7 backup interface, now named “Windows 7 File Recovery.” It works just like you remember it working in Windows 7, although Microsoft recommends you don’t use both features at the same time. You can’t enable File History if you already have a Windows 7 backup schedule enabled.

To quickly access this window, you can also search for recovery and select Windows 7 File Recovery.

Creating a Full System Backup

Unlike the Windows 8 backup tools, the Windows 7 File Recovery tools can be used to create a full system-image backup. A system image backup is a full copy of your computer’s current state. Restoring from the system image will restore all your files, programs, and settings to the state they were in when you created the image.

To create a system image backup, click the Create a system image option in the sidebar.

You can place the system image backup on a hard disk, on several DVDs, or on a network location. It may be fairly large, as it’s a copy of all the files on your hard disk.

Windows says you can’t restore multiple files from the system image backup, but we’ve covered a way to extract individual files from a system image backup.

Restoring a Full System Backup

To restore a full system backup in the future, open the PC settings screen. Press Windows Key+C, click Settings, and select Change PC settings.

Select the General category and scroll down until you see the Advanced startup option. Click the Restart now button to restart your computer into the advanced startup options menu.

On the Advanced options screen, select Troubleshoot -> Advanced Options -> System Image Recovery. You’ll be able to select a system image and restore your computer from it.

If you can’t boot into Windows, your computer should automatically boot to the Advanced startup options screen after several attempts at booting normally. You can also hold down the Shift key while booting, boot from a Windows 8 installation disc, or use a Windows 8 system repair disc.

Creating a Backup Schedule

If you prefer the way Windows 7’s backup worked to the way Windows 8’s File History backup works (read more about the differences here), you can click the Set up backup link in the Windows 7 File Recovery window to create a Windows 7-style backup schedule.

The process will be the same as setting up the backup and restore feature on Windows 7. Note that you can’t enable File History while a Windows 7 backup schedule is enabled.


Windows 8’s File History feature has a few limitations, but they can be worked around. For example, while File History can only back up files in libraries, you can add any folder on your computer to a library to ensure it’s backed up. The most compelling reason to use Windows 7 File Recovery instead is the ability to create full system backup images.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 12/24/12

Comments (7)

  1. mgo

    Thanks again for the timely article which reveals a useful way to image a Windows 8 machine.

    Re: “File History”…..that’s just another one of Microsoft’s Kludge-O-Matic overly complicated file backup schemes. (same old Windows Backup with a meaningless new name)

    Thankfully good old RoboCopy still exists in Windows 8 for those who want to get some REAL file backup work done quickly and conveniently.

  2. jasray

    Falling snow finches flutter
    Grey fog skies beyond the Portal
    Thanks for the tip!

  3. nt0xik8ed

    i’ve used windows 8 for about a year just hoping it might be useful one day, so you’re getting a review out of someone that’s actually used it. glad i saved my windows7 pro copy. windows 8 and everyone who says how great it is are all full of crap. why does windows 8 need complicated tutorials to do simple tasks? why does howtogeek have to sell a book on how to run windows8? why does anyone need over a thousand screenshots to run a simple operating system? i’ve found linux distro’s easier to run than this junk, i’m just glad it was only $40. i’ll sell it on craigslist, hopefully i’ll get $10 out of it.

  4. NM

    File history for my documents and other frequently accessed and changed items
    Win7 Backup for everything else once per week
    And a system image every few months in case something really bad happens to the OS (which has for me already!)

  5. James

    Yet another reason to avoid this clumsy mess of an O/S. Is there anything in Windows 8 that hasn’t been either omitted, crippled, hidden or just plain harder to accomplish, from earlier Windows versions? It’s not far off to suggest that Linux might be easier to handle!! The gap is narrowing! I admit I lost patience after only a week (the explorer ribbon -that horrid unituitive interface that I avoided in Office by not ‘upgrading’- was the final straw) and I was glad to return to Win7. Overall I still prefer XP for a lean, fast and intuitive experience. Why fix it if it isn’t broken?

  6. beergas

    So far Win 8 x64 Pro doing ok. One learns to work around the little annoyances like corners popping up. Nearly everything worthwhile works as with W 7 x64 Ultimate. Big key with 8 for me was to use Macrium Reflect for fast image. Works in cases where Create/Restore a Point might fail. hmm Dec. 24 patch for Macrium installed easily, no reboot.
    What’s new? 5.1.5496: Lifesaver and great for imaging C: to internal D:
    whereas many of popular backups mess up with that if allow at all. SSD image to a SATA III 2TB and feel safe enough until can put critical stuff on yet another method DVD or external drive.
    Beats heck out of tape drives or CD failures.

  7. nt0xik8ed

    i’ve had my full version of windows 8 on craigslist for 24 hours @ $10 and no one wants it.

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