By Lily / Last update January 20, 2022

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Why to create a system image on a USB drive?

A system image is a file which contains the system settings, programs, files as well as all the drivers required by Windows. With a system image at hand, you can restore system to a normal state if the system has been damaged.

You may know the importance of creating a system image, and want to save it on a safe place, USB flash drive, for example. Below are the common reasons:

  • Cost-effective: Compared to other external drives such as HDDs or SSDs, USB drives are more affordable and can be connected to your computer directly.

  • Safe: Backing up system to USB flash drive can avoid data loss due to computer failure, such as, black screen of death, virus attack,disk corruption, etc.

Can I create a system image on a USB drive in Windows 10?

You may be familiar with Backup and Restore (Windows 7) if you use it to create system image in Windows 7, but there is an outstanding issue- it does not allows you to can’t create a system image on a USB drive in Windows 7/8/10/11, only throwing you a warning “The drive is not a valid backup location”.

The Drive is not a Valid Backup Location

According to the discussion in the forum, it requires a USB drive formatted as NTFS and big enough to hold the system image. But even if all these requirements are met, some users report that the problem still exists. Actually, the error is caused by the limitation of Backup and Restore: it does not recognize USB flash drives or thumb drives as a hard drive.

 Then, how to fix “can’t create a system image on a USB drive”? There are three workarounds and I'll show you the last one in detail. It's flexible, effective and feature-rich.

How to automatically create a system image on a USB drive in Windows 10?

If you are looking for a reliable third-party backup utility, AOMEI Backupper Professional can be the best choice.

All-around backup solutions: System/Disk/Partition/File Backup.
 USB plug in: It's new feature in the Schedule Backup, which allows you to run the task automatically once it detects the USB drive is connected. 
Various backup locations: You can backup system to USB drive or other storage devices  including local disks, external hard drives, network location and NAS devices.

Just download AOMEI Backupper and follow the instructions below to create a system image for Windows 10/11/8/7 on a USB drive effortlessly. For server users, please try AOMEI Backupper Server.

Download Free TrialWin 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
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1. Connect the USB flash drive to your computer and make sure it is detected.

Tip: It is recommended to permanently assign drive letter for the USB drive. Thus, the program can recognize your USB drive easily every time you connect it to the same computer.

2. Install and run AOMEI Backupper. Click Backup on the left pane and select System Backup.

System Backup

3. The required system partition(s) is (are) selected by default. Choose the USB drive as the destination path to store the system image.

Select Path

4. Click Schedule Backup in the bottom. In the pop-up window, select USB plug in from the drop-down list. You can choose to run the task one time every day or not and click OK.

USB Plug in

Other useful features you will benefit from

  • Daily/Weekly/Monthly Schedule Backup: You can create system image on USB flash drive with one of backup frequency, depending on how often you will change your files on the system partition.
  • Options: you can encrypt, compress or split the image files, etc.
  • Backup Scheme: With it, you can set Full/Incremental/Differential backup method to make a full copy of your system or backup only changed files. Also, it allows you to delete old backup image with By quantity, By time, or By daily/weekly/monthly cleanup methods, which ensure your backup disk always have enough space for new backup. 

Backup Scheme

5. Confirm the operation and click Start Backup > Add the schedule and start backup now to run your first backup. Safely disconnect your USB drive after the backup process is finished.

Start Backup

Wrapping things up

You can easily create a system image on a usb drive in Windows 10 or other systems with 3 workarounds in this software. Among them, using third-party backup software is the easiest and most effective method. 

With it, you can create system image in Windows 10 on USB automatically with USB plug in or different backup frequencies, from daily to weekly. Also, you can set backup retention policy to free up disk space for new backup, thereby keeping all the changes made later. And you don't need to worry about data loss! 

And you may be more pleased to find out it has more advanced features, such as, Disk Clone. Thus, you can use it to copy data from one hard drive to another easily. For server users, please try AOMEI Backupper Server.