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Published on 08.28.09 by Brent Trahan

Manually Create a System Image

Learn how to manually create a system image of Windows 7 and save it on a second internal hard drive, external hard drive, flash drive, DVD, or network location.

Think of a system image as snap shot of your entire computer that can be saved on many different types of media (hard drive, DVD, across a network). If your hard drive crashes or a virus screws up your computer you can restore your computer to the state it was in when you created the system image.

A system image includes everything: your files, settings, programs, and Windows itself.

When you set up Backup and Restore to automatically backup your computer on a schedule a system image is created if space is available and you didn’t set it to not create system images.

A creative way to keep a system image at a different location is to burn it on DVD and mail it to your parent’s house for safe keeping.

Manually Create a System Image

  1. Open the Control Panel in the Start Menu.
  2. Open Backup and Restore in the Control Panel.

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    Note: If Backup and Restore is not available, change View by to Large icons at the top right of the Control Panel.

  3. Select Create a system image in the left column of the Backup and Restore window.

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The rest of this guide will show you how to:


Save the System Image on an Internal/External Hard Drive

This section will show you how to save the system image on a separate partition on the main hard drive (not recommended), a second internal hard drive, or USB/FireWire/Flash external hard drive.

  1. Select On a hard disk.

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  2. If you have more than one available hard disk, select it in the drop down list under On a hard disk and then click Next.
  3. Review what you are backing up and then click Start backup.

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  4. The system image will be saved on the hard drive.

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  5. When it is finished it will ask you if you want to create a system repair disc. If you haven’t, you should. If you don’t create a system repair disc and you don’t have a Windows 7 installation disc, you won’t be able to restore the computer using the system image.

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Burn the System Image to a DVD

This section shows you how to burn a system image on DVD. The system image will be spanned over multiple DVDs if needed.

  1. Insert a blank DVD in your computer’s DVD burner.
  2. Select On one or more DVDs and then click Next.

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  3. Check off what drives you want backed up and then click Next.

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  4. Review what will be backed up and then click Start backup.

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  5. Click OK.

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  6. Check off Don’t ask again for this backup and then click Format.

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  7. The system image will now be backed up and burned to DVD.

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    Note: You will probably be asked to insert more blank DVDs during the backup process.

  8. When it is finished it will ask you if you want to create a system repair disc. If you haven’t, you should. If you don’t create a system repair disc and you don’t have a Windows 7 installation disc, you won’t be able to restore the computer using the system image.

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  9. Eject the DVD, but be patient, the disk will need to be closed (finalized) before it can be ejected.


Save the System Image on a Network Location

This section shows how to save a system image on a network location.

Saving a system image on a network location is only available on Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions.

  1. Select On a network location and then click Select.

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  2. Browse to or type the network location, give it a user name and password of a user who has read and write access to the network location, and then click OK.

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  3. Click Next.

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  4. Check off what drives you want backed up and then click Next.

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  5. Review what will be backed up and then click Start backup.

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  6. The system image will now be saved on the network drive.

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  7. When it is finished it will ask you if you want to create a system repair disc. If you haven’t, you should. If you don’t create a system repair disc and you don’t have a Windows 7 installation disc, you won’t be able to restore the computer using the system image.

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Still need help? Ask your computer question now.

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9 Responses to “Manually Create a System Image”

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  1. Huy says:

    Hello,

    Just to verify, if I understand correctly, wouldn’t creating a system repair disk be unnecessary when you already have the Windows 7 disk?

    And also, the advantage of having a system image is that you wouldn’t have to reinstall all the program files if a crash, or virus infected your system, correct? If I were to create a system image using Windows 7, does that necessitate creating a system repair disk (or is this similar to the above, where you don’t need to when you already have the OS install disk)? Thank you for your resources here, and your time.

    Sincerely,
    Huy

  2. Murko says:

    I am not sure if the whole imaging system presented by Microsoft makes sense at all. Even when I have backup on second physical disk, during the restore, all my partitions on the first disc will be deleted. Even those, which I don’t need to restore, by other words, partitions (from my first disk) which I did not include in backup (old archived files, pictures, movies etc.). Using a simple external application like Ghost (even 4-5 years old version of it) provides much better imaging, also seems to be much more practical and sophisticated. You choose the image of particular drive from backup, and also the destination (partition) for it on the disk.

  3. wguru says:

    This article is all weel and fine even though it merely says exactly what Windows 7 tell us (for how to burn a system image dvd), but for me, despite any of the ‘backup settings I’ve tried, no matter what dvd types I try, and no matter what burners I use, the danred process stalls at formatting the dvd’s (dvd-r and dvd-rw).

    Maybe if I first cretae the system image onto an external hard drive, then try burning that as an iso mage onto one of my dvd’s will work, but if not then looks like I’m off to the store for more dvd’s (dvd+r & dvd+rw).

    Too little about this what should be a simple process is afforded) and this article should do more than just about mirror what the user’s system already tells us.

    I think it’s entirely possible that MS has stuck some bug in it just to force users into giving up on backing up a systems image, just to force us into buying their cd’s.

  4. links charms says:

    Hi, Neat post. There’s a problem with your web site in web explorer, might check this? IE nonetheless is the market leader and a large portion of people will miss your magnificent writing because of this problem.

  5. cma says:

    You left out how to save a system image to a thumbnail flash drive.

  6. Shrike says:

    Hi All
    I have to agree with “wguru” But then I have noticed 2 very important fact when trying to create a System image to DVD. 1) The file format has to be in “NTFS”, maybe thats why the FORMAT Dialog comes up when using a DVD… I din’t hink that was possible and on Win 7 Pro 64 Bit (My System) anyway the format fails every time whether I use DVD + or – R. Microsoft mentioned DVD +R, But No Go!
    2) My Impression of a System Image BackUp was that you could BOOT from the DVD and restore your system, But obviously NOT if you have to create a “Repair Disc” as well to boot up you system.
    From my Experience Create the System Image to a External BackUp Drive and then also Create a “Repair Disk” – FORGET ABOUT Backing up a system image to DVD!!!

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