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Windows System Image Backup.

A Windows system image backup is complete copy of everything on your computer. It’s packed into a single file that’s stored on another drive, ready to be used whenever you need it.

System images contain everything on your PC, including your Windows installation, all the drive partitions and all your files and folders.

There are many excellent third party programs that you can use for free, but you don’t have to. Both Windows 10 and Windows 11 include a basic program for creating system backups.

You’ll need to have an external USB hard drive with enough capacity to hold your backup.

How To Create A System Image Backup In Windows 10 & Windows 11.

To get started creating a system image backup of your Windows 10 or Windows 11 computer, turn on your machine and plug in an external hard drive that has a capacity large enough to hold your backup.

Ignore any Autoplay pop-ups and close File Explorer if it opens.

Left-click the Start button and type “control panel“. Click Control Panel (App) in the search results.

Control Panel app is highlighted in Windows 10 search menu.
In u003cstrongu003eWindows 10u003c/strongu003e, click Start and type Control Panel. Click Control Panel (App) in the search results.
Control Panel app is marked in the Windows 11 search results
In u003cstrongu003eWindows 11u003c/strongu003e, click Start and type Control Panel. Click Control Panel (App) in the search results.

Back up and Restore.

When the Control Panel opens, you could be seeing it in one of two different views. You could be looking at it in Category view (which is the default view) or Icons view.

If your Control Panel has opened to Category view, then click “Back up and Restore (Windows 7)” which is in the System and Security category.

If, on the other hand, your Control Panel opens to the Icons view, then click Back up and Restore (Windows 7), which is right at the top of the screen.

Windows 11 Control Panel open in Large Icons view. Backup and Restore (Windows 7) is marked.
In the category view of the Control Panel, click Backup and Restore, which is in the System and Security category.
Windows 11 Control Panel open in Large Icons view. Backup and Restore is marked.
Or if you’re in the icons view of the Control Panel, simply click Backup and Restore, which is right at the top of the window.

Why Does It Say Windows 7 When You’re Using Windows 10 Or Windows 11?

You’ll notice that Backup and Restore references Windows 7. That’s simply because it was first introduced with that version of Windows. It works perfectly well with both Windows 10 and Windows 11.

Creating A System Image Using Backup & Restore.

In the left-hand panel, click “Create a system image”.

Windows will search for an external hard drive to use as the backup device.

When it finds your external hard drive, it’ll be listed.

Click the NEXT button to proceed.

Create a system image option is highlighted in Windows Backup u0026 Restore.
To begin creating your first system image, click “Create a system Image”.
Windows backup u0026 Restore is searching for a suitable backup device to use.
Windows searches your computer for an external hard drive to use as the backup drive.
The backup drive is selected.
When it’s found your external drive, click the NEXT button.

Confirm Your Backup Settings.

Windows will show you a confirmation of your chosen backup settings

  1. Backup location – This will be your external hard drive. It will also show an estimate of how much disk space will be used by the backup.
  2. The following drives will be backed up – Confirmation that your entire c: drive will be included in the system image.
  3. Click the Start Backup button.
Create system image confirmation page. Backup location, drives to be backed up and Start Backup button highlighted.
Confirm your backup settings and click Start Backup.

After a few moments, your system image backup will start.

How long it will take depends entirely on your individual computer.

My advice here is to try to leave your machine alone. Let it get on and do its thing. Trust me, there’s nothing to be gained from a backup that doesn’t work when you need it.

System image progress indicator.
The backup has begun.

The System Repair Disc.

After the backup has finished, Windows will ask you if you’d like to create a system repair disc.

Click the NO button to finish.

Create a system repair disc option in Windows Backup u0026 Restore. No is selected.
Click the No button to finish.

About The System Repair Disc.

The system repair disc is a bootable CD or DVD that you can use to recover your computer if it won’t start (if you can’t get into Windows).

However, you need a CD/DVD drive and most modern machines don’t have those anymore.

This is a throwback to Windows 7 computers, when everyone had a CD/DVD drive. On the next page, we’ll look at creating a USB recovery drive, which is a much better option.


Your Windows system image backup is a “snapshot” of how your computer is right now. It includes everything that’s installed on your system along with all your files/folders.

However, as time goes by, it’ll become more and more out of date. That’s not much of an issue for some of us, especially if you don’t store that many files on your PC. But for others, it’ll be an important consideration.

To keep your backups up to date, you can run them regularly, just like this, whenever you feel the need. Or you can run them on an automated schedule. We’ll look at automating your backups later in the course.

At Home Computer Course.

How to create a Windows USB recovery drive.
Next Page

About That Recovery Drive.

Let’s create that recovery drive.

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