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How to Make a Windows Image Backup

One option is to use Windows’ built-in tool.

While it's not the best tool, it's a tool you already have. Here's how to use the Windows 7 backup tool to create a Windows image backup.
Windows Backup Saving Image
Windows backup program saving an image backup. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

When it comes to protecting yourself from almost anything that could go wrong, nothing is more effective than to periodically make an image backup of your system — a Windows image backup. An image, by definition, includes absolutely everything on the hard disk, and can be used to restore your system after replacing a broken hard disk.

There are many different ways to do this. I have other articles discussing some of the other tools available. However, Windows includes a built-in image backup tool. I’m not a huge fan of it, it is better than nothing, and you don’t need to install anything to use it.

We’ll make an image backup using the Windows 7 backup tool in Windows 11. Let me show you how that works.

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TL;DR:

Making a Windows image backup

  • Search for Control Panel
  • Select ‘Backup and Restore (Windows 7)’
  • Choose ‘Create a system image’
  • Select an external hard drive as the destination

The time it takes varies based on the amount of data you have to back up and the speed of your drives.

Finding it

Click on Start and search for “control panel”. Click on that when it shows.

Start -> Search for control panel.
Start -> Search for Control Panel. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

In Control Panel, search for “backup”.

Control Panel searching for Backup.
Searching for Backup from within the Control Panel. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

Click on Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

Backup and Restore (Windows 7)
Arriving at the Backup and Restore (Windows 7) program. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

Creating the  Windows backup image

Click on Create a system image on the left. This will open a dialog asking where you want to save the backup.

Where to put the backup image.
Where to put the backup image. (Image: askleo.com)

I recommend using an external hard drive. The “On a hard disk” drop-down will list all the available disks connected to your computer on which the backup can be stored. Select your external drive and click Next. A confirmation window is displayed.

Confirm your backup settings.
Confirming your backup settings. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

This lists the selections we’ve made along the way with some additional information. In the example above:

  • We’re placing the backup on my “Faux” USB drive, D:.
  • It could take up to 24GB of space (depending on the amount of data stored on your system).
  • The three partitions on the hard disk are selected to be backed up.

Click on Start backup.

Backing up

Exactly how long this backup takes depends on several factors.

  • How much is stored on the drive
  • The speed of the drive
  • The speed of your backup drive
  • The speed of the interface to the backup drive

Eventually, the backup is complete.

You may be asked if you want to create a Repair disc.

Create a system repair disc?
Create a system repair disc? (Image: askleo.com)

This is the disc (or USB stick) you would reboot from in order to restore the image we’ve created. You don’t need to do this now. I have an article on creating one later.

The Windows backup image has been created.

Backup image done.
The backup image is complete. (Image: askleo.com)

Do this

Having made an image backup, you now know that if you ever run into a problem, you can revert your entire machine to the state it was in at the time you took this image backup.

There are other tools to do this that I prefer because they give you more flexibility and visibility into exactly what’s happening when you back things up.

But again, this is better than no backup at all and doesn’t require any third-party download.

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7 comments on “How to Make a Windows Image Backup”

  1. We had been using the free version of Macrium Reflect so was interested to read this article, timely as always.

    I noted your link to other tools took us to your article on EaseUS Todo free, which you appear to like.

    If we decide to change our back up choice to either Ease US Todo or to use the Windows Image tool is it safe to keep the Macrium Reflect app on our computer, or would that be insecure now that security updates have come to an end for the free version?

    I guess I am asking if it would be insecure to either continue using Macrium Reflect Free, or even just leaving it on the computer, but no longer using it?

    Reply
  2. Thanks Leo.

    I guess I thought I would need to leave the app on the computer for if I ever needed to use the saved back up after some issue occurred and I needed to get back to a good spot.

    Your comment makes me think I don’t? It will just work without the app?

    Reply
    • If you want to use a Macrium Reflect image later, then you’ll either need Macrium Reflect installed, or a Macrium Reflect emergency/rescue boot disk. You can leave it installed, or install it again later when you need it, or create an emergency disk for use later.

      Reply
  3. Macrium Reflect is not particularly prone to security risk issues, but the best approach is to use the ‘Create the Rescue Media’ option [that is, build a bootable copy of Reflect on a USB stick – it only needs 8GB].

    You’ve now got the security risk free version of the Software [difficult to attack, if it’s in your drawer] that you can recover images [fully, or selected files therein] for as long as you need to …

    Reply
  4. Hello! One caveat…

    I just did this procedure and the first backup drive I tried to use was formatted with exFAT. Windows got an error and said the drive has to be formatted with NTFS. Changed to a NTFS formatted backup disk and all worked well.

    Also the repair disk had to be burned to a CD/DVD… no option to make a bootable thumb drive repair disk, which is what I would have preferred.

    Reply
  5. After years of using Acronis True Image to create a weekly backup image of our “C” drives, we switched a few months ago to Macrium Reflect and will likely never return to Acronis. I tested at least 6 back up applications and landed on Macrium Reflect.

    Sure, Acronis and many of the others are easier to use than Macrium, but our motivation to switch was (1) Acronis changed to a subscription model and no longer offered a perpetual license) and (2) all the kinks in Acronis including its fussiness which often resulted in backup images being unable to be restored. While Macrium too is a subscription, it’s less expensive and, by golly, it works a whole lot better than Acronis. Macrium not only makes backups much more quickly than Acronis, but they are easily restored and Macrium isn’t so fussy about them. As a bonus, Macrium enables us to schedule a daily back up of our Thunderbird email profiles which keeps them safe and sound in case we have a rare corruption to the profile. All in all, I’m happy so far with Macrium, although nobody else in our small office would have a clue how to set it up.

    Reply

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