What is a system image?
A system image is a backup of the partitions required for computer to run. Usually, a system image backup is a compressed file that contains operating system, boot sectors, custom settings and all programs installed & files saved on those partitions. Therefore, you can restore computer from a system image backup if Windows failed to boot or hard drive died. Normally, a system image is equal to a backup of C drive, but not all. In most situations, it also includes a backup of System Reserved Partition or EFI System Partition (ESP).
Sometimes a system image is equal to a disk image, but sometimes is not. For example, let’s assume there is only one internal disk in your computer and the partition layout is [C: drive][D: drive][E: drive]. In such case, a system image will backup only C: drive, however, a disk image will backup C: drive, D: drive and E: drive. If there is only C: drive on the disk, then the system image is equal to disk image.
When should you create a system image backup?
A system image is very useful for OS development, data backup and hardware upgrade, etc.
- You just finished a clean install of Windows and most commonly used software on your computer. It’s probably the best time point to create a system image when everything is clean and runs smoothly on your system. Once something bad happens later, you will be able to bring computer to its original state.
- You want to replace your slower mechanical hard drive with a speedy SSD. You can create a system image, swap hard drive out for SSD and restore the system image to the SSD. If hard drive and SSD can be plugged into computer simultaneously, you can migrate OS from HDD to SSD which will save time.
- When receiving some error warnings, such as "SMART failure predicted on hard disk", "Hard disk failure is imminent", "Windows detected a hard disk problem", etc. You need to create a system image or disk image. Although your hard disk will not fail at once, it is failing.
How to create a system image?
A system image utility named Backup and Restore was first introduced by Microsoft in Windows 7. In Windows 10 and Windows 8.1, they have moved the function under File History. However, either of them has some limitations. For example, you cannot set up multiple schedules; you cannot save a system image to a flash drive; the disk saving system image must be formatted as NTFS, etc. Some third-party free backup software like AOMEI Backupper can break those limits and make system image backup easy.
1: Download, install and launch AOMEI Backupper. Move your mouse pointer to "Backup" and click on it. Then, choose "System Backup" from the right list.
2: First, you are able to edit the default "Task Name". At "Step1", you will find the program has automatically chosen the partitions required for a system image. This is good for green hands who don't know which drives need to be backed up when creating a system image.
At "Step2", the program also has automatically selected a location where to save system image backup. You can click on it to choose another location. To save a system image to a local disk, an external hard drive, a USB flash drive or CD/DVD, please click "This PC" (or "Computer") and choose the destination. You can also save a system image to NAS devices or network share by clicking "Share/NAS".
3: You have almost finished. However, to ensure your system image is up-to-date, you'd better to create a scheduled system image backup by ticking the checkbox before "Schedule". Here you can create multiple schedules at the same time, such as daily, weekly and monthly. After clicking "Advanced", you can choose how to schedule the system image from full backup, incremental backup or differential backup.
Besides, you can configure backup settings by clicking "Backup Options". For example, write a comment, and compress the system image with a higher level, etc.
4: The "Schedule" or "Backup Options" is optional according to your requirements. You can skip the Step 3 and directly click "Start Backup" after choosing the location where to save system image.
How to do system image recovery?
AOMEI Backupper provides fast and flexible system image recovery solutions:
- If your system crashes or disk fails, you can use Create Bootable Media to make a Windows PE bootable USB or CD to start up computer and then perform system image recovery.
- If you only want to choose individual files but not entire system image to restore, you can use Explore Image to mount system image as a virtual partition and copy data.
- If you want to deploy a system image to multiple computers instead of one by one manual restoration, you can use AOMEI Image Deploy to perform system deployment.