A system image is an exact copy of all of the HDDs/SSDs connected to a computer which can be used to restore the computer to the precise state it was in at the time of the creation of the system image. By default, only the partition of the Hard Drive that houses a computer’s installation of Windows is included in a system image, although users can choose to include as many drives as are connected to their computer in the system image when creating it. When restoring your computer to a state it was previously in using a system image, everything stored on the computer is erased and replaced with the contents of the system image so that your computer looks exactly the way it did before and has everything that it has at the time of the image’s creation – you cannot choose individual elements from a system image to restore.
There are a lot of fancy utilities and programs out there that you can use to create a system image of a Windows computer, but you also have the option to create a system image using Windows’ built-in system image utility which is just as good as all the alternatives. If you want to create a system image of a Windows computer, here’s how you can do so:
Open the Start Menu.
Click on the Control Panel to launch it.
Once you are in the Control Panel, in Category view, click on System and Security.
If you are using Windows 7, click on Backup and Restore. If, on the other hand, you are using Windows 8, 8.1 or 10, click on File History.
If you are using Windows 8, 8.1 or 10, click on System Image Backup at the bottom of the left pane. If you are using Windows 7, however, ignore this step.
Click on Create a system image in the left pane.
The system image creation utility will be launched and Windows will start searching for any and all available backup devices. Let it do so.
Once Windows is done searching for available backup devices, choose where you want to save the backup. Because of the unreliability of networks, it is recommended that you do not save a system image of your computer in a network location, and because CDs and DVDs have become outdated and are simply not a convenient option, it is also recommended that you don’t burn your computer’s system image to one or more CDs/DVDs. You can choose to save the system image to a partition of your computer’s HDD/SSD, but it should be noted that the partition you save the system image to will not be included in the system image itself. That being the case, the most ideal choice is to connect an external storage device such as an external HDD/SSD or USB flash drive to your computer and save the system image to it instead of any other medium.
Once you have selected the location to which the system image will be saved, click on Next.
On the next screen, select all of the drives that you want to be included in the system image. By default, the drive housing your installation of Windows and any other System drives (such as the System Reserved drive) will be already selected. Once you have selected the drives you want to be backed up, click on Next.
You will now be provided with a summary of the system image creation – where the image will be stored, what drives will be included in the image and how much disk space the image will occupy. If you are satisfied with the summary, click on Start backup to begin the creation of the system image.
Wait for Windows to successfully create the system image. This process may take a significant amount of time depending on the sizes and number of drives that you have decided to include in the system image.
Once Windows has successfully created the system image, you will be able to find it in the following directory:
X:\WindowsImageBackup\[Name of your computer]\Backup YYYY-MM-DD HHMMSS
In this directory, X stands for the drive letter assigned to the drive that you have decided to save the system image to, [Name of your computer] is, well, the name of your computer, YYYY-MM-DD stands for the date on which the system image was created, and HHMMSS stands for the exact time at which the system image was successfully created and saved to the location.
Once you have a system image of your computer, you can use it to restore your computer to the state that it was in when you created the system image whenever you like.