How to Create a System Backup Image in Windows 10

By Andy Rathbone

Windows 7 introduced a popular way to back up a computer, and you can still use that method in Windows 10. Instead of backing up files, it copies all of your hard drive’s contents into one file and then stores that file on a second hard drive. System images come in handy for two main reasons:

  • Efficiency: When your computer’s hard drive eventually dies, you can replace the hard drive, restore the system image backup, and have all of your files and programs back. It’s a quick way to be up and running again.

  • Completeness: File History backs up only files in your main folders, and the Windows Store backs up only your apps and settings. A system image backs up those things, as well, but it also backs up your Windows desktop programs and their information. For example, File History won’t back up your e-mail from the desktop version of Microsoft Office. A system image will, though, because it backs up everything.

You can store a system image on the same portable drive you use for File History. Make sure your portable drive is larger than your computer’s C: drive.

To create a system image, right-click the Start button and choose Control Panel. Then, in the System and Security section, choose Backup and Restore (Windows 7). When the Backup and Restore Your Files window appears, click the words Create a System Image from the left pane. Follow the steps to tell Windows to create a system image backup of your computer.

You should do this daily, if it’s possible; if not, do it weekly or monthly. Then, if you ever need to take your computer to a repair shop, take in your portable hard drive and tell the technician you have a “system image backup.” The techie can use that backup to rescue all of your computer’s files and programs from the date of your last system image backup.