Has your Windows 10 environment ever become so corrupted or unstable that it was virtually unusable? A special backup feature from Microsoft could come to the rescue if you ever find yourself in that predicament.
Known as System Image Backup, the feature creates an entire image file of Windows 10 rather than just select folders and files, like with File History. This way if Windows ever gets corrupted, crashes, or simply stops working, you can get it back on its feet by restoring the entire image. It is a better option than a Recovery Drive, which won’t save your personal files, and a Restore Point, which can sometimes fail.
The only drawback is that you can’t restore individual files via System Image Backup, only the entire image. So you’ll want to create the image on a fairly regular basis to house the latest version of your Windows 10 environment. Before you get started, you’ll need to set up an external source on which to save your image file. You can create the image on DVDs, but the easiest option is to use an external drive, a network drive, or a network-attached storage (NAS) drive. Let’s get started.
Set Up Backup
In Windows 10, go to Settings > Update & Security > Backup > Backup and Restore (Windows 7). Yes, it says Windows 7, but don’t worry—the backup part of this feature works just fine in Windows 10.
In the window called Backup and Restore (Windows 7), click the link in the upper-left corner that reads Create a system image.
Windows looks for a backup destination on a hard drive or USB drive, DVD, or network location. Choose the backup locale you wish to use. If you wish to use an external drive, make sure it’s formatted using NTFS in order to store the image. Click Next.
Confirm which areas or partitions of your hard drive will be included in the image file, then click the Start Backup button. Windows now creates the image file.
Create a System Repair Disc
You will then want to create a system repair disc to use if Windows is ever incapable of booting up on its own. You’ll need a CD or DVD drive for this. If your computer doesn’t have one, you can always buy and connect an external DVD drive.
Insert a CD or DVD into your drive. At the Backup and Restore (Windows 7) window, click the link at the upper left that reads Create a system repair disc. Confirm that your DVD drive appears and then click the Create disc button.
System Image Recovery
Okay, now let’s say you’re in a jam one day because Windows is misbehaving. Restoring it from the image file may be your only option.
Make sure your backup media is available. Boot up your PC, assuming it’s still bootable. In Windows 10, go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery. In the Advanced startup section on the right, click the Restart now button.
At the Choose an option window, go to Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > System Image Recovery. From there, follow the prompts in Windows to restore your image file.
If Windows won’t boot, start up your PC with the system repair disc. You should be taken to the Choose an option window, where you can follow the same steps to restore Windows 10 to a previous and (hopefully) healthy state.