The image system file, specifically in Windows 10, enables you to restore your computer’s previous state in case something wrong happens to it. An system image copies completely everything on your computer including its settings, preferences, documents, applications, registry, and even your PC’s desktop background. System images however, aren’t as flexible as a file backups because you can’t restore individual files from a system image — but they’re a crucial part of any serious backup strategy.
There are several built-in tools in Windows 10 that you can use to create and restore from a backup system image. Below are the steps you need to go through in order to restore your Windows 10 PC from a system image file.
Creating a System Repair Disc or Recovery Drive
To be able to use your backup image effectively, you will need to create a System Repair Disc or a System Recovery Drive. In case you need to apply a backup to a non-booting machine, you can use this media to boot your PC and apply the backup from outside your Windows installation. If you already have a Windows 10 installation disc, you can also use that as a System Repair Disc. If you don’t have this disc anymore, then you’ll need to create some recovery media. Here’s how:
Create a System Repair Disc
If you have a CD or DVD burner and some blank DVDs or CDs handy, you can create a System Repair Disc.
STEP 1: Insert a blank CD or DVD into your computer’s disc drive.
STEP 2: Go to Control Panel, then click the Windows 7 Backup and Restore tool.
NOTE: You will notice that the user interface looks very similar to the old Windows 7 backup tool. That’s because you’re actually using that tool inside of Windows 10. Microsoft just “wrapped” the Windows 7 Backup functionality in Windows 10 styling.
STEP 3: On the left side of the window, click the Create a system repair disc link.
STEP 4: Make sure your CD or DVD drive is selected, then click the Create disc button.
Creating a System Recovery Drive
You can also create a recovery drive, which is the same as the recovery disc but on a USB drive. Follow the steps below:
STEP 1: Insert a blank USB drive (must have at least 512 MB memory space) into one of your PC’s USB port.
STEP 2: On the Start menu, type in “Recovery Drive” in the search field, then click Create a recovery drive from the search results.
STEP 3: On the next window, uncheck the box next to Back up system files to the recovery drive, then click Next.
STEP 4: If necessary, choose a disc from the list, then click Next.
STEP 5: Click the Create button to start creating the recovery drive.
Creating a System Image
Now that you can boot your computer in the event of disaster, you can proceed in creating a backup image. This image will serve as a “snapshot” of your computer’s current state, wherein it captures completely everything during the time the backup was made. Proceed with the steps below:
STEP 1: On the Control Panel, look under System and Security, then click on Backup and Restore (Windows 7).
STEP 2: On the left side of the window, click the Create a system image link.
STEP 3: Click on the drop-down menu under the option On a hard disk, then select the hard disk you want to use to store the system image to, and then click Next.
NOTE: Your boot disc and all its significant partitions will be selected for backup automatically.
STEP 4: Choose any additional partitions you’d like to include in your system image.
NOTE: It’s recommended that you do not select any partitions that are not on the same physical disk. This way, you will avoid accidentally overwriting files on a hard drive that wasn’t damaged by whatever harmed your system disk.
STEP 5: When you’re ready, click Next.
STEP 6: Review your selections to make sure they’re correct, then click the Start backup button to begin the image creation process.
Restoring From an Image File
When it’s time to restore from your system image, you will need your recovery media and the hard drive with the backup image. Take note that restoring from a system image is an all-or-nothing process. You must restore all the files from the system image or none of the files.
STEP 1: Boot your computer from your System Recovery Disc or System Recovery Drive.
NOTE: You may need to press a hotkey at your BIOS screen (F2 or F12 perhaps) to select an alternative boot disk.
STEP 2: If you see a prompt for installing Windows, click Repair this Computer on the lower-left side of the window.
STEP 3: Click Troubleshoot.
STEP 4: Click Advanced Options.
STEP 5: Select System Image Recovery.
STEP 6: Click the Windows 10 icon to choose your operating system.
STEP 7: Select the desired backup image, then click Next to start the restoration process.
NOTE: When the process is finished, you’ll be able to reboot your computer, now returned to its previous state.