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How To Create A Windows System Image

In this guide, I’ll show you how to make a complete backup of your computer. Windows, all your installed programs and every file and folder on your system will be included.

When we’ve finished, we’ll have a system image file that can be used to completely restore the computer. To return the PC to a working state, exactly as it was when the backup was taken.

How To Setup Windows Backup.

Using Window’s own system backup means there aren’t any extra programs to download and install. It’s all there, on your computer, ready to go. It just needs setting up.

You will need to supply an external hard drive to store the backups on, but other than that, there’s nothing else you’ll need.

To get started, plug in your external drive, then left-click the START button and then type

control panel

Left-click on the Control Panel when it appears at the top of the list.

Accessing Control Panel from Windows Start Menu.

If you’ve never done this before, it can at first seem a little weird. There’s nothing to type into, no box to type control panel into.

The Search box will appear as soon as you start to type. So just click the START button and then immediately start typing control panel.

Try it, you’ll see


When the Control Panel opens, it’ll probably open in Category View.

We want to change that.

Left-click the View By box in the top right corner.

On the menu that opens, left-click LARGE ICONS.

That’s better.

Once you’ve got Control Panel in Large Icons view, left-click BACK UP & RESTORE (WINDOWS 7)

Back up & Restore (Windows 7) doesn’t mean we’re going to be backing up or restoring Windows 7.

It simply means that this program was first introduced in Windows 7.


On the Backup & Restore files page, left-click SET UP BACK-UP.

You’ll see a window appear “Starting Windows Backup”. It may take a few minutes to complete.

Setting up backup options in Windows Backup and Recovery.

Eventually, the Backup Destination window will open.

This is where you tell the computer which drive to store your backups on.

Windows will automatically select what it believes is the best option.

In my case, it’s guessed correctly.

Either way, left-click once on the drive that you want to use, then click the next button.

Selecting a backup destination drive.

On the next page, you can choose what exactly gets backed up.

I’m going to suggest that you leave it set at the default option “Let Windows Choose”, at least for now.

So click the NEXT button.

Using this default setting, Windows will create a system image, and also, it’ll back up your Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Videos and Music folders.

If we need to, we can add extra folders to be backed up later.


That’s all the setting up done.

Windows knows what it’s backing up and where to save the backups.

All we need to do now is to start the very first backup.

Click the SAVE SETTINGS & RUN BACKUP button.


The Windows System Backup will start.

It’s best to leave the machine alone for now, at least for this first one.

Just let it get on with the job in hand.

Be aware that it may take some time to complete.

It all depends on how much data you’re backing up and how fast your computer is.

Backup progress indicator.

The Windows 10 Backup Schedule – How To Backup Your PC.

Backing up your computer is a way of protecting your files. All your documents, pictures etc. How often you run a backup, really depends on how you use your computer.

Obviously, if you’ve only got 1 backup and it’s a year old, then you’re going to lose quite a lot of stuff. But if you’re taking backups weekly, then you’ll only lose a week’s worth of work.

You can run backups either manually, that is, as & when you think you need to. Or you can set a schedule to have backups run automatically, removing the need to remember to do them.

That’s all done in the Backup Schedule.

When your first backup finishes, you’ll be returned to the Backup & Restore page.

This page gives us some useful information.

It shows how much space the backup is taking on your external hard drive.

And also when the next scheduled backup is due.

Backup size and next scheduled backup

If you’ve decided you don’t want the backups to run on a schedule, click TURN OFF SCHEDULE in the top left corner.

When you turn off the schedule, Windows won’t automatically run backups for you (fairly obviously).

Which means you’ll need to run them manually.

Turn off schedule option in Windows Backup & restore.

To run a backup manually, return to this page and click the BACK UP NOW button on the right-hand side of the window.


Changing The Backup Schedule.

The default time for scheduled backups in Windows 10 System Backup is every Sunday at 7 pm.

But we can change both the time and frequency of the schedule.

Click CHANGE SETTINGS.

Change schedule option for Windows system image

The Select Destination Drive window will appear. It’s the same window that we saw earlier when first setting Windows System Backup up.

Your drive should still be selected, click the NEXT button.


We saw this page earlier as well.

This time, select the LET ME CHOOSE option by clicking on the radio button.

Then click the NEXT button.


On this page, we can add extra folders to the backup plan.

Generally, Windows will have you covered there. It backs up all your personal folders and Desktop folder by default.

Click the NEXT button.

Selecting what to backup in Windows system image.

Then you’ll arrive at the Review your Backup Settings page.

Click the CHANGE SCHEDULE option.


Now you can change the Windows Backup schedule to suit how you use your computer.

Left-click in any of the grey boxes and choose an option from the lists.

You can choose to backup Daily, Weekly, or Monthly.

On any day of the week and at any hour of the day.


As an example, here I’ve changed the backup schedule from every Sunday at 7 pm, to the first day of each month at 10 am.

So I’ve moved from weekly backups to monthly.

When you’re happy with your schedule, click the NEXT button, and then on the following page click SAVE SETTINGS AND EXIT.

And that’s pretty much it. Whether you’re backing up manually or automatically on a schedule, there’s nothing else to do. You’ve done it.


Pin Backup & Restore To Start Panel.

Getting to the Backup & Restore page is a bit of a palaver, so I think it’s a good idea to pin it to the Start Panel. It makes getting back here much easier and quicker.

Especially useful if you’re going with manual backups.

From the Backup or Restore page, click the back button to return to the Control Panel.


On the Control Panel, right-click on BACK & RESTORE (WINDOWS 7).

On the menu that opens, left-click PIN TO START.


Now whenever you need to run a backup, you can simply click BACKUP & RESTORE (WINDOWS 7) from the START panel.


What Drives Can You Use For Computer Backups?

External USB Hard Drive.

Perfect. Made for the job. External hard drives are readily available in huge capacities.

Large enough to cover most people’s backup needs.

A USB external hard drive.

Internal (Secondary) Hard Drive.

If you’ve got a second hard drive inside your computer, then you can use that.

It has the advantage that it’s never unplugged and is faster than external drives. Which makes them great for scheduled backups.

The downside is that it’s never unplugged, which does leave it open to ransomware & virus attacks.

Two internal hard drives shown in Windows File Explorer.

Spare Partition On Main Hard Drive

I’m gonna say no to this. You could possibly make it work, I haven’t tried it.

But look, these are your backups.

And I think if your smart enough to be able to partition your hard drive, your smart enough to know why it’s a bad idea.

Nuff said.

A single hard drive with 2 partitions in File Explorer.

USB Thumb Drive.

USB memory stick, USB stick call it what you will, although relatively cheap, these are not a good option.

The first problem is that Windows Backup won’t save a system image onto a memory stick.

I don’t know why, but I couldn’t get it to work.

You can use one to save your files onto without a system image if the drive is formatted as NTFS.

A USB thumb drive.

Computer Backups & Passwords.

On the whole, Windows Backup & Restore works well and will suit most people. It’s easy to use and already installed on your computer.

If you get hit with a virus or ransomware or some other disaster, you’ll be very pleased that you took the time to create a backup of your computer. But there is an issue.

Some of us will store private or confidential files on our computers. Maybe bank statements, financial reports, medical notes, anything you’d rather keep private.

And so, to keep our stuff from prying eyes, we’ll set a password for our account on the computer.

That way, all our files are protected by that password.

And yes I know it’s far from perfect, but it’ll stop your average nosey parker.


But if you use Windows Back & Restore, it’ll back up all the files on your computer, including the personal ones. The private stuff.

Which is what we want. Right?

But the backup itself isn’t protected by your password.

The files in the backup have no protection.

External hard drive in a woman's hand.

Anyone with access to your backup drive could get your private files without needing to know your password.

Now that’s not going to be a deal-breaker for most people, but it’s worth knowing.

Next Page

How To Restore Your Files From A Backup

Lost something? If you’ve been using Windows backup, you can restore it.

Last Page Of Chapter 5

  1. Restoring your files from backups

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