How to Back Up and Restore a Windows Image File

If your Windows environment becomes unstable or corrupted, a special backup feature from Microsoft may come in handy if you plan ahead of time.

System Image Backup generates an entire image file of Windows 10 or Windows 11, rather than just the files and folders saved in File History. This way, if Windows ever becomes corrupted, crashes, or simply stops working, you can restore the entire image and get it back up and running.

This is preferable to a Recovery Drive, which will not save your personal files, and a Restore Point, which can occasionally fail. The only disadvantage is that you cannot restore individual files using System Image Backup; only the entire image can be restored. As a result, you’ll want to create the image on a regular basis to house the most recent version of your Windows environment.

Methods to Back Up and Restore a Windows Image File

Before you begin, you must create an external source to save your image file. The image can be created on DVDs, but the most convenient method is to use an external drive, a network drive, or network-attached storage (NAS) drive. Let’s get this party started.

Create a backup

The Control Panel is the quickest way to access the System Image Backup in Windows 10 or 11. Type Control Panel into the Windows search bar on the Taskbar, then select it from the results. Select Backup and Restore from the Control Panel’s icon view (Windows 7). Yes, Windows 7 is still listed, but this feature works perfectly in Windows 10 and 11.

Click the Create a system image link, then specify where you want the backup saved: on a drive, a DVD, or a network location. If you want to store the image on an external drive, make sure it’s formatted in NTFS. Next, click.

When you encounter the getting Windows ready stuck issue, if you have created a System Restore point or a system image backup with Windows snap-in tools, you can try using the restore point or image file to restore the PC to a normal state.

Confirm which hard drive areas or partitions will be included in the image file, then click the Start Backup button. Windows will now generate the image file.

Make a System Repair Disk.

You should then make a system repair disc to use if Windows ever fails to boot on its own. You’ll need a disc drive to boot up your PC because this option does not yet support USB drives. If your computer lacks the necessary drive, you can always purchase and connect an external DVD drive (Opens in a new window).

Place a CD or DVD in your drive. In the Backup and Restore (Windows 7) window, click the Create a system repair disc link. Confirm that your DVD drive is visible, and then press the Create disc button.

Recover System Image

Let’s say you’re in a bind one day because Windows is acting up. It’s possible that restoring it from the image file is your only option. Check that your backup media is available. Start your computer if you can.

Go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery in Windows 10. Click the Restart now button under Advanced startup in the Advanced startup section on the right. Users of Windows 11 should navigate to Settings > System > Recovery, then click the Restart now button next to Advanced startup.

Go to Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > System Image Recovery > See more recovery options from the Choose an option window. Choose System Image Recovery. Follow the on-screen instructions to restore your image file.

Start your computer with the system repair disc if Windows will not boot. You should be directed to the Choose an option window, where you can repeat the previous steps to restore Windows to a previous and (hopefully) healthy state.