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.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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