How To Create A System Image in Windows 8/8.1

Creating system image backups of your Windows PC and storing them on an external drive, optical media, or network drive can be very handy, especially when a system error or the sort occurs on your computer. Reimaging a PC often takes a few minutes, as opposed to the hours required to reinstall Windows, the hardware drivers, and all your applications. It is also a good way to migrate your old hard drive to a new one.

A system image is an exact copy of a drive. By default, a backup system image includes the drives required for Windows to run. In also includes Windows and your files, programs and system settings. In the unlikely case that your hard drive or computer crashes, you can use a system image to restore the contents of your computer. When you restore your computer from a system image, it is a complete restoration, you won’t be able to select individual items to be restored, and all of your programs, system settings, and files will replaced by the contents of system image.

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Here’s how to create a system image in Windows 8/8.1:

Note: The first two steps are for Windows 8 users. Microsoft has changed the location of the system image tool in Windows 8.1. To create a system image in Windows 8.1, follow the steps to locate the system tool here. Then follow this guide from Step 3.

1. Search for “recovery” from the Windows 8 Start screen, then select the setting, “Windows 7 File Recovery.”

Create System Image Windows 8 - Search for recovery

2. Once the Windows 7 File Recovery control panel launches, click on the  “Create a system image” option/button from the left side of the window.

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3. Choose the location where you want to save the system image. You can either select an external storage device or burn the system image to DVDs. An external hard drive is recommended, as a system image file can be several gigabytes (GB) or more.

4. Go over the backup settings again, making sure they look correct. Once done, click the Start backup button.

Create System Image Windows 8 - Confirm backup settings

Once the whole process has ended, you’ll have the option to create a system repair disc, , but you’ll probably want to create a USB recovery drive instead.

If any error occurs and you need to reimage your PC using the system image, go to “Settings -> Change PC Settings -> General”, then click on the Restart now button under Advanced startup. If you made a USB recovery drive, you can boot to the drive, then navigate to “Troubleshoot -> Advanced options -> System Image Recovery”.

Once the wizard begins, you’ll need to choose your user account and enter your password. If you get an error message that Windows cannot find a system image, make sure you’ve plugged in the external storage drive where you saved it.