A system image is an exact copy of your entire Windows system at a moment in time. Unlike all the other recovery options discussed, this preserves your installation including all customizations and installed programs. Of course, make sure the system is running perfectly before doing this.
A system image does not replace regular backups, but is a supplement to get you up and running quickly in the event of a hard drive failure or major malware infection.
System imaging tools are now built in to Windows 7, 8, and 10. To find the tool in Windows 7, click Start and type Backup and restore in the search box. In Windows 8 and 10, type File History in the search box. In either case, the left panel of the resulting window will have a link titled Create a system Image. When you click this link, the first question you’ll be asked is “Where do you want to save the backup?” You will not be able to choose the same drive Windows is on. I recommend you save to an external hard drive. You can also save to DVDs, although you’ll need several of them, and you’ll need to change them periodically.
Next, you’ll be asked what you want to back up. The system drive is checked already; this should be all you need. You will then get a confirmation screen telling you how much space the image will need. Start the process. It will take some time, probably 30 minutes or more, depending on your system.
When the process completes, you’ll be asked if you want to create a system repair disc. Do so. This will require one CD or DVD. This disc is what you’ll use to boot the computer if it won’t boot from the hard drive. You would use the “System Image Recovery” when you use the system repair disc. This will return the computer to the exact condition it was in when you made the image.
You can make as many images as you have drive space for. Some folks do it once a week or month, keeping several and deleting the oldest. I recommend keeping the initial image for as long as you own the computer, and making new ones as often as you think you need to. Remember, though, this is an all-or-nothing deal; You still need to have some kind of system for backing up your files, as well.
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