How to perform a system image backup in Windows

Updated: 04/26/2017 by Computer Hope

In Microsoft Windows, a system image backup is a copy of the drives required for Windows to run. If the hard drive crashes or becomes corrupt, the system image can be used to restore all of Windows.

Note: This type of backup does not allow you to restore individual files. If you want to backup and restore individual files, see our backup help page.

Use the links below the version of Windows on your computer to find the steps for performing a system image backup.

Windows 10 system image backup

  1. Open the Windows Control Panel.
  2. In the Control Panel, click Backup and Restore.
  3. On the left-hand column, click Create a system image.

Create Windows system image

  1. Select where you want to save the backup. For most users, we recommend using an external hard drive connected to the computer as a backup drive.
  2. Once the drive is selected, click Next.
  3. Windows then lets you know how much disk space is required for the backup and the drives that will be saved. Once you are ready to start the backup, click the Start backup button.

Note: If your backup is larger than 4 GB, you must be using a drive with NTFS and not FAT or FAT32.

  1. After the backup is complete, you are given a prompt to create a system repair disc. Unless you already have a system repair disc, we highly recommend also creating this disc, as it will be used to boot your computer and allow you to restore the system image.

Once the backup has been completed, if you saved the backup to a hard drive, there should now be a "WindowsImageBackup" folder on that drive.

Windows 8 system image backup

  1. From the Start screen, type File History and select File History settings in the search results.
  2. In the File History window, click the System Image Backup link in the bottom left-hand corner.
  3. Select where you want to save the backup. For most users, we recommend using an external hard drive connected to the computer as a backup drive.
  4. Once the drive is selected, click Next.
  5. Windows then lets you know how much disk space is required for the backup and the drives that will be saved. Once you are ready to start the backup, click the Start backup button.

Note: If your backup is larger than 4 GB, you must be using a drive with NTFS and not FAT or FAT32.

  1. After the backup is complete, you are given a prompt to create a system repair disc. Unless you already have a system repair disc, we highly recommend also creating this disc, as it will be used to boot your computer and allow you to restore the system image.

Once the backup has been completed, if you saved the backup to a hard drive, there should now be a "WindowsImageBackup" folder on that drive.

Windows 7 system image backup

  1. Open the Windows Control Panel.
  2. In the Control Panel, click Backup your computer.
  3. On the left-hand column, click Create a system image.
  4. Select where you want to save the backup. For most users, we recommend using an external hard drive connected to the computer as a backup drive.
  5. Once the drive is selected, click Next.
  6. Windows then lets you know how much disk space is required for the backup and the drives that will be saved. Once you are ready to start the backup, click the Start backup button.

Note: If your backup is larger than 4 GB, you must be using a drive with NTFS and not FAT or FAT32.

  1. After the backup is complete you are given a prompt to create a system repair disc. Unless you already have a system repair disc we highly recommend also creating this disc as it will be used to boot your computer and allow you to restore the system image.

Once the backup has been completed, if you saved the backup to a hard drive, there should now be a "WindowsImageBackup" folder on that drive.

Additional information

  • See our backup definition for further information on this term and related links.