Windows 10 restore - system image

Backing up your system in Windows 10


Backing up your system is a completely vital process that everyone should do. There are various bits of software that offer powerful back-up solutions but one of the simplest is within Windows itself. Other than being free one of the biggest advantages is that it works within Windows. It does not require booting off a different disk, CD or USB key and is also ideal if you use a wireless keyboard and mouse that might not be recognised by a piece of backup software that you have to boot into.

The Window backup system creates a single folder on another drive and stuffs all the data into it. You can then do further backups into the same place and Windows will add in the changes and create a date stamped version. It’s a good way of maintaining an up-to-date backup, but perhaps is not as good as being able to create individually named backups as you can with other software. So there are some pros and cons. In either case it’s a good thing to do regardless – why don’t you set it running right now?

Windows Backup

1. Right, here’s how you do it in a bunch of screen shots. First, right-click the Windows button and choose “Control Panel”. If your view is not set to “Small Icons” then do that. Select the item “Back up and Restore (Windows 7)”. Why they put the “Windows 7” on there is anyone’s guess – probably there to confuse us, but I imagine it’s because this was introduced in W7 and is known as the W7 way of backing up. There is a newer form of backup called “File History” in Windows 10 but this is not that – we’re talking about making an image of an entire drive or partition.

Windows backup - Control Panel
Windows backup – Control Panel


2. On the top left you should see “Create a system image” – choose that.

Windows backup - create a system image
Windows backup – create a system image


3. Choose where you want to put the backup. This needs to be a nice and large second hard drive. You can do it to optical disks but it takes forever. Make sure there’s plenty of room – it will compress the backup but I’d recommend having at least as much as the size of your Windows installation.

Windows backup - choose the destination drive
Windows backup – choose the destination drive


4. Specify what drives or partitions you want to include in the backup. All we are trying to do is create a backup of the System drive – your C: drive. I wouldn’t include other drives otherwise the backup can get huge – stick with just the system partitions that are included by default.

Windows backup - specify which partitions to backup - the defaults are good
Windows backup – specify which partitions to backup – the defaults are good


5. All ready to go – check that it says what you expect it to and hit “Start Backup”.

Windows backup - hit "Start Backup"
Windows backup – hit “Start Backup”


6. Let it do its thing. The time it takes depends on the size of your Windows installation. Give it half an hour or something. You can still work while the backup is being made but it’s probably a good idea not to start creating new things or making changes.

Windows backup - it's working
Windows backup – it’s working


7. All done – you can create a bootable CD to help you recover your system if you want. Always good to have one on a shelf somewhere.

Windows backup - all done
Windows backup – all done


And there you have it, all backed up.

Restoring Windows 10 from the system image

If you need to recover your system using the System Image we just created then there are a couple of ways to trigger that process. You can boot from the Windows installation CD. You can boot from a recovery disk you created when you made the backup. Both those methods are handy if Windows won’t boot but you do need an optical drive. You can also boot from a USB stick if you’ve put the Windows 10 install media onto one. If Windows is still working then you can also trigger it from there which is what I’ll concentrate on here.


1. Click on the Windows button and type “Advanced start-up” and select “Change Advanced Start-up Options” from the list that appears. This is also accessible from “All settings” that you can from the notification bar and then “Update and Security”.

2. Under Advanced start-up hit the “Restart now” button – this will of course restart your system so please exit all other programs before doing this because it does exactly what it says it will as soon as  you press it.

Windows 10 backup - restart now
Windows 10 backup – restart now

3. Your system will reboot into Advanced Options. Choose “Troubleshoot”.

Windows 10 restore - troubleshooting
Windows 10 restore – troubleshoot

4. Choose Advanced options

Windows 10 restore - advanced
Windows 10 restore – advanced

5. From Advanced Options choose “System Image Recovery”.

Windows 10 restore - system image
Windows 10 restore – system image recovery

6.  Next you have to choose the main Windows account – this should be your admin account (not my name obviously). And then you’ll be asked to enter your password.

Windows 10 restore - choose account
Windows 10 restore – choose account and enter your password

7. Choose the most recent or specify the location of the backup. You can choose earlier revisions of your backup here.

Windows 10 restore - choose location
Windows 10 restore – choose location

8. Hit “Next” and you may see a screen with additional options – you want to ignore them all. Please remember that at this point you are about to replace your entire Windows installation with an earlier backup. This will remove all of the files currently on that C: partition/drive. All your documents, videos, music, anything on the C drive will be replaced with whatever was in your last backup. If any of that is a problem then hit “Cancel”. Otherwise click “Finish” and wait for the recovery to delete and replace your C drive.

You should now have a functioning system – hooray! That’s it – all done. Remember to make regular backups so that if disaster happens you can get working again with the minimum of fuss and loss of data.

I hope that’s helpful.