When is the Right Time to Create System Image in Windows and How to restore it?

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You must have taken a backup of your files and folders while working on your system. Taking backup is a simple process, which involves copying of data from one location to another, ensuring data safety. System imaging or creating images of the system is an advanced approach for taking system backup. It involves creating a backup of your system files, partitions, or an entire drive in a single click. However, there are different ways of doing it depending upon the platform being used.

Windows System Image Restore

Windows System Image Restore

What is System Imaging?

A system imaging is a process of creating the entire backup of the system in a consolidated form in the form of an image. It could include set of files, partitions, or everything present on the computer. However, it does not include any empty or unused space. The size of the image would be the total size of the data present within the image. The process of system imaging involves copying of data bit wise. The created system image can be then used to recover lost data from any situation of data loss. There are various tools to restore the system image, but it is recommended to use the same tool that was used while creating the system image, to avoid any complexities.

There are different techniques to perform system imaging. Some of them apply compression techniques to reduce the size of the created image. Such methods should be avoided as compressing might create some problem, especially when you are creating images of your boot volume. However, even if it is used for different partitions, it does not make much difference.

System Image Vs Normal Backup

A normal system backup involves copying of desired files to be backed up from one location to another. You can either backup the files on the same system or to an external storage device. The main idea of creating a backup is to ensure data safety from various situations of data loss. It is recommended to save the backup to a location, which is free from virus and safe from getting misused. However, in case you need to recover your entire system, you cannot do it by just using the saved backup. You need to install a fresh copy of the operating system first. Thereafter, you can copy the data back to the system.

System images eliminate the need of installing the operating system and then copying the created backup separately. A complete system image includes the boot files as well as the entire data present on the system. In addition, it also contains all the programs that were installed on the system. However, they are not considered an ideal for some situations. System images are usually very large in size and they might contain files that you do not really need. For example, in case of hard drive crash, you can just install the operating system. In the same way, in case of data loss from a specific partition, you can just copy the data from the backup, if you have created one. In addition, the process of creating and restoring the system image takes more time as compared to normal backup. Moreover, the system image cannot be used on a different computer due to mismatch in system configuration.

In case you have few important files present on the computer, you can just go for a normal backup. However, the system image is always a better way of restoring the entire system with all the applications and settings intact as it was before.

When to Create a System Image?

System images are useful in many conditions. There are situations where you need to upgrade your system for better performance. In such a situation, installing the operating system, applications, and then copying the data is considered to be a painful task. It requires time and you might miss copying some data or installing some of the applications. In order to save time and effort, you can create a system image of your computer before upgrading the system. You can then restore your image to the newly upgraded system. This would copy all your boot files, applications, and data back to your system.

Such images can be a life saver for system administrators, who need to configure multiple systems with same configuration on a daily basis. In case you are a home user and need to copy only data, you probably might not need to create a system image.

Steps to Create and Restore System Images

Creating and restoring system images are supported across various platforms. For example, to create a system image in Windows 8, you need to follow the below mentioned steps.

create system image

For Windows 8

  1. Open ‘Control Panel’.
  2. Navigate to System and Security->File History.
  3. From the bottom-left corner of the Windows, click the ‘System Image Backup’ link.

For Windows 7, you need to follow the below mentioned steps.

  1. Go to ‘Control Panel’.
  2. Navigate to System and Security->> Backup and Restore.
  3. Click the ‘Create a system image’ option.

Note:  In order to restore the images on Windows 8, you can use the ‘Advanced Startup’ options, whereas for Windows 7, use the ‘System Recovery’ options.

For Mac based systems, you can use the Time Machine feature to create and restore system image backups.

About the author

Frank is an avid contributor at Microsoft help community and helps Windows user solves their computer problems.


+Ayodhyanath Guru holds a B.Tech degree in Electrical Engineering and has worked with various prestigious clients in the IT industry and presently working as a Software Engineer. He is a part time blogger and presently authors the Jafaloo.Com blog. Being a tech enthusiast Guru likes to surf the web and blogs about interesting technical topics like How-To guides, freewares, Tutorials, Software, Gadgets, web applications etc. Apart from blogging he likes coding in Java/J2EE and PHP.

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