By Dan Gookin

The only time you need to restore a system image on your Windows PC is when the entire hard drive is dead, missing, or replaced with a cheese sandwich. With all that data gone, you have to rely upon three items:

  • A recovery volume: Use this media to start the PC and access the Windows Recovery Environment. The tools presented help you navigate through recovery.
  • The system image: Use this information to restore Windows and other partitions as a base to rebuild your computer system. Tools on the recovery volume help you use the system image information.
  • File History: Finally, with Windows restored, you run the File History program to recover your PC’s lost files and programs.

You don’t need to restore a system image if you merely need to recover from a Windows disaster. The first thing you should try is System Restore. Second, you can try to reset the PC. Otherwise, the process of using the system image works like this:

  1. Start the PC by using the Windows Recovery Environment.
  2. Choose Troubleshoot.
  3. Choose Advanced Options.
  4. Choose System Image Recovery.

Point the system image recovery tool at the location of the system image files, and then sit back and wait as the system is rebuilt.

Yes, the process is more complex than four simple steps. For example, you may need a replacement hard drive. The good news is that you have the system image if you need it. Along with a recent backup, you can fully restore your system no matter what happens to the computer.