How to create a system image backup in Windows 8.1

After you set up your Windows 8.1 system the way you like it, it’s important to create a system image. A system image is essentially a clone of the hard drive on your system. All of your settings, apps, and data will be dutifully backed up for you if disaster strikes (or if you want to do a fresh install of the OS).

Create a Windows 8.1 system image

Creating a system image has been part of Windows since Vista, and it’s still available in the latest Windows version. There’re a couple of ways to get to it. The first option is to open the desktop version of Control Panel and select File History.

Image credit: Brian Burgess

Image credit: Brian Burgess

Alternately, use the keyboard shortcut Windows Key + W to bring up Settings search and type: file history and select it under the results.

Image credit: Brian Burgess

Image credit: Brian Burgess

Either way you get there, File History opens. Click the System Image Backup link in the left pane.

Image credit: Brian Burgess

Image credit: Brian Burgess

Next, select the location where you want to store the backup image. You can use an external drive, optical disc, or a network location.

Image credit: Brian Burgess

Image credit: Brian Burgess

After selecting the location to store the image, select the drives and/or partitions you want to include.

Image credit: Brian Burgess

Image credit: Brian Burgess

Make sure to verify everything looks good before you start the backup of the system image.

Image credit: Brian Burgess

Image credit: Brian Burgess

The image will be created and you can monitor its progress. The amount of time it takes will vary depending on the size of the image and where you’re storing it.

Image credit: Brian Burgess

Image credit: Brian Burgess

I recommend creating a system image after you do a clean installation of Windows or have your system set up with the programs, files, and settings that you prefer. Then you can revert back to the system image if your drive fails or the system becomes unstable and needs a reinstall.

Windows 8 includes new features called PC Reset or PC Refresh that allows you to recover your system if things go awry. But you might prefer to have an image backed up in case neither of those features work.

Also, while you’re at it, I recommend creating a USB recovery drive. That will allow you to boot from the USB drive to advanced options and restore to the system image you created.

Image credit: Brian Burgess

Image credit: Brian Burgess

Brian Burgess
Brian Burgess resides in Minnesota. A technology enthusiast his entire life, he worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. In addition to contributing to Tech Page One, he’s the Editor in Chief at groovyPost.com, a contributor to Gizmag, and has written for other notable tech sites Byte, InformationWeek, and How-To Geek.
Brian Burgess
Tags: Software,Technology
  • Bolan Oluwa

    Nice one Brian Burgess!
    This is a lot clearer than on MS Forums….

  • Kathy

    This is very clear but when I inserted an 8.5 gb dvd it said it was not formatted properly, what do I need to do to “format” the dvd