How To Create A System Image In Windows 7

In our previous we talked about how to use a system repair disk for rescuing Windows 7 or Vista in case of problems. In the System Recovery Options that Windows system repair disk offers, there is an option System Image Recovery that lets you recover your computer using a system image created during a backup.

In today’s article, we take a look at creating a backup image of your machine without the need for a third-party utility like True Image or Norton Ghost. In case of problem, you can choose the System Image Recovery option provided by the system repair disk and use this image to recover your Windows.

All editions of Windows 7 comes with a pretty impressive backup utility which lets you easily create an image of the system very easily. In case of Vista, only Ultimate, Business, and Enterprise editions allow you to create a system image, but Vista Home and Home Premium users don’t have the option. So if you are a Vista user running those supported editions you can follow this article.

What is a system image?

A system image is an exact copy of a drive. By default, a system image includes the drives required for Windows to run. It also includes Windows and your system settings, programs, and files. You can use a system image to restore the contents of your computer if your hard disk or computer ever stops working. When you restore your computer from a system image, it’s a complete restoration–you can’t choose individual items to restore, and all of your current programs, system settings, and files are replaced with the contents of the system image.

Creating a System Image in Windows 7

Note: To create a system image of a drive, it must be formatted to use the NTFS file system. If you save the system image on a hard drive or USB flash drive, it must be formatted to use the NTFS file system.

  1. Open Backup and Restore by clicking the Start button, then clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Backup and Restore.

  2. In the left pane, click Create a system image. If you’re prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  3. Decide where you want to save the system backup image. You can choose an external drive, burn to multiple DVD’s, or store it on a network location.

  4. At the confirmation screen check the amount of disk space the system image may take. If something doesn’t look right or you want to change something, you can still go back from this point and make adjustments.

  5. After confirmation, a progress meter is displayed while the system backup image is created.

    system image backup progress

  6. After the process is complete you will get the option to create a system repair disc (see our article on creating a system repair disk in Windows 7).

If you’re saving your system images on an internal or external drive, or on CDs or DVDs, you can keep several versions of system images. On internal and external hard drives, older system images will be deleted when the drive runs out of space. To help conserve disk space, you can manually delete older system images.

If you’re saving your system images in a network location, you can only keep the most current system image for each computer. System images are saved in the format of drive\WindowsImageBackup\computer name\. If you have an existing system image for a computer and are creating a new one for the same computer, the new system image will overwrite the existing one. If you want to keep the existing system image, you can copy it to a different location before creating the new system image by following these steps:

  1. Navigate to the network location of the system image.

  2. Now, copy the WindowsImageBackup folder to a new location.

Creating system image in Vista

The process is similar in Windows Vista as shown for Windows 7 above.

  1. Open Backup and Restore Center by clicking the Start button, clicking Control Panel, then clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Backup and Restore Center.

  2. Click Back up computer, and then follow the steps in the wizard. If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

    backup windows vista

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