Whether moving Windows to another drive or simply trying to back it up, the built-in System Image utility is an ideal option.
System Image is an exact copy of your Windows drive containing everything from your PC’s file structure to the entire operating system. Thus, when you back it up on an external drive, you can quickly recover the content when the computer fails or gets corrupted.
Well, one can create different versions of system images. But when the disk space runs out, the newer version overrides the older one. Also, creating a system image backup after each Windows update is a good practice.
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How Does a System Image Backup Work?
A System Image is simply a representation of the original disk. In simpler words, it is an image file containing all the disk contents (data, files, folders, partitions, and more).
Generally, HDD or SSD has four or more partitions (primary, recovery, extended, logical, etc.). Therefore, creating a system image involves capturing and storing each partition and additional drive as a separate image file. So, when you’re backing up the image, you’re going to store every byte of the partitions on the destination drive.
Now, even if your system fails, you can recover it using the backup image. Each of these image units replaces the corresponding corrupted or failed portion. Thus, you’ll be able to restore the system state to its last working version quite easily.
How to Create System Image Backup on Windows 11?
You can create a system image on an external drive or within the primary disk itself. However, we do not recommend the latter, as your data might get lost if the main drive fails.
Whatever storage device you use for backup needs to be formatted in the NTFS (New Technology File System). Now, without further ado, let’s dive into the step-by-step guide to creating a system image on Windows 11.
Get Appropriate Backup Drive
First things first, choosing an appropriate drive is essential. Since Windows allows the creation of a system image on a hard disk, DVD or network location, we recommend getting any of these devices.
- Firstly, it’s best to get an external drive having enough disk space. This is because the backup can take up considerable space depending on your system data and files.
- Secondly, we do not recommend a USB flash drive as they have relatively low disk capacity. Thus, they won’t be ideal if the backup takes up extremely huge space.
- As mentioned earlier, whether you use an HDD, SSD, DVD, or even a flash drive (of huge capacity), they need to be formatted to NTFS.
Launch System Image Backup Utility
Before proceeding to create a system image backup, let’s get a general idea of how to launch the System Image utility on Windows 11:
- Use the Windows + R hotkey to launch the Run dialogue box.
- Here, use the following command to open Control Panel:
- Now, click on System and Security.
- Here, choose Backup and Restore (Windows 7).
- Finally, select the Create a system image option from the left side of the window.
Backup Windows Image
Once the Create a system image window pops up, you get to choose either of these three options – hard disk, one or more DVDs, and network location. Regarding the same, this section includes the necessary steps for each of them.
On a Hard Disk
Undoubtedly, a hard disk is the best device to store system images. Apart from being cheap, they also offer a faster data transfer rate which can later help recover data much quicker. Kindly follow the below steps on how to back up your Windows image on a hard disk:
- Select the On a hard disk option and expand the drop-down.
- Make sure you choose an appropriate hard disk or partition and hit Next.
- Now, you’ll get a confirmation of the drives that will be backed up. Simply press the Start backup button to continue.
- You may get a popup message, “Do you want to create a system repair disk?” If you’re only planning to create a system image backup, press No. Else, you may choose Yes.
- Wait until the system image backup file is created. This may take several minutes, depending on how much data you’re trying to back up.
- Finally, press the Close button.
If you’re planning to store the system image on a CD or DVD, ensure that it is NTFS-formatted and has enough storage space. You can even use multiple DVDs if the backup takes up a significant size. After inserting the DVD in the right slot, you can now move ahead with the below instructions:
- Select the One or more DVDs option, pick the appropriate disc(s) from the list, and choose Next.
- Now, select those drives you want to include in the backup, and press Next. If you’ve partitioned your SSD or HDD, the EFI System Partition, Windows drive, and Recovery Partition are selected by default.
- Then, click on Start backup to confirm your backup settings.
- Wait until Windows saves the system image backup on the DVD(s).
- Once done, hit the Close button.
On a Network Location
Unlike the previous two options, storing system images on a network location can be a little tricky. Firstly, you need to ensure that the PC is set to discover network locations. Along with that, it requires your network credentials, and you can only keep the most recent image here.
Below is the complete guide on how to create a system image backup on a network location in Windows 11:
- In the Create a System Image window, mark the On a network location option.
- Next, press the Select button to open the Select a network location window.
- Now, input the destination in the Network Location field. Alternatively, you can press the Browse button and proceed accordingly.
- Then, enter your network credentials and hit Ok.
- Once you’re reverted back to the ‘Where do you want to save the backup?’, press Next.
- Wait until the system image backup is saved on your desired network location.
How to Use System Image for Windows Recovery?
A possible result of hard drive failure is that Windows doesn’t start. If you already have a system image backup, it’s relatively easy to restore the OS, files, and other settings to their working state:
- First of all, create a bootable USB flash drive using Windows Installation Media or any other reliable third-party service.
- Then, shut down your PC.
- Next, insert the flash drive and turn on your computer. If you created the system image backup on a hard drive or DVD, ensure it’s also connected.
- Now, get to the BIOS and set boot priority to the USB flash drive.
- Save the changes and exit. Now, your computer should boot from the flash drive.
- Once you encounter the Windows Setup screen, select the appropriate language, time, and keyboard. Then, hit Next.
- On the next window, click the Repair your computer option.
- Now, you’ll enter the Windows Recovery Environment. Here, select Troubleshoot.
- Then, navigate to Advanced options.
- Here, find and pick the System Image Recovery option.
- Once the Re-image your computer dialogue box pops up, choose the Select a system image option and press Next.
- Pick your recovery drive and tap Next.
- Now, mark Format and repartition disks if you wish to delete the existing partitions and reformat all disks. While you’re at it, you may also install the corrupted drivers. Once both are done, click Next.
- Then, press Finish and choose Yes in the new dialogue box.
- Finally, press the Restart now button, and the recovery should be successful.