How-To Geek

Lesson 5: Protecting your Data

System Images

When you create a system image, you are taking everything that is on a drive or partition and copying it to a backup medium. Because of the way images work, when you restore one, your computer will restart and the backed up system will overwrite your current installation. When your computer reboots, your computer will be restored to the same state you imaged it to.

Therefore, before making any backup images, make sure you’ve fully updated your system and you’ve installed any main apps you normally use. This ensures your recovery time is minimized if you do ever have to reinstall the system image.

Creating a System Image

To open the “System Image” wizard in Windows 8.x, you can click the link from the “File History” screen.


In Windows 7, you can open “Backup and Restore” from the Control Panel.


If you want to “Create a System Image”, click the appropriate link.


Note, the Windows 7 “Backup” section, and specifically the “Set up backup” link. Clicking this link will trigger the old style “Windows Backup,” which no longer comes installed on Windows 8.x. You can use “Windows Backup” to back up your whole drive or just certain parts.

Since Windows 7 doesn’t come with “File History,” you can use “Windows Backup” for incremental backups, though it won’t be as simple or convenient.


Creating a system image on either Windows 7 or Windows 8.x is virtually the same so we’ll continue this discussion showing the Windows 8.x version. When the wizard first opens, you can choose to save it to a hard disk, one or more DVDs, or a network location.

After selecting your backup destination, click “Next” to move the proceeding screen.


Here, you will need to choose the source drive or partition. Note you can choose one or more sources to back up.


The next screen will ask you to “confirm your backup settings.” It will tell you approximately how much disk space it will take up, and that any existing system images could be overwritten. Click “Start backup” and your backup will begin.


Restoring a System Image

Restoring a system image is easy. In Windows 7, simply open the Control Panel and type “Recovery” in the search box. Then choose “Recovery.”


Then, choose “Advanced recovery methods” below the “System Restore” option.


Finally, choose “Use a system image you created earlier to recover your computer” to begin the recovery process.


In Windows 8.x, use the Metro “PC settings” and choose “Update and recovery” and then “Recovery” and then click “Restart now” under “Advanced startup”. When the computer restarts, you will be shown a blue “Choose an option” screen.

Click “Troubleshoot” to continue.


On the “Troubleshoot” screen, choose “Advanced options.”


Finally, on the “Advanced options” screen, choose “System image recovery” to begin the process.


And that’s it, your computer will be restored and everything will be back in place as you left it!


And so concludes this How-To Geek School series. We hope you enjoyed it and now feel confident and comfortable maintaining your system. If you missed any earlier part, be sure to check out our previous four lessons accessible from the table of contents at the top of the lesson!

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Born and brainwashed an Ohio State Buckeye, Matt now lives a warm, snow-free life just north of the Texas/Mexico border. He fancies himself a modern-day jack-of-all-trades; favorite conversation starters include operating systems, Android, BBQ, quantum physics, and roller skating.

  • Published 03/14/14

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