System Image Recovery vs System Restore - Definition and Difference

Both system image recovery and system restore are designed to fix PC’s problems and errors. However, many users cannot figure out the difference between the two. This article gives a detailed introduction and comparison of the two. If you are interested, please continue reading.


by Yuka Updated on November 1, 2022

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System Image Recovery vs System Restore

System Image Recovery vs System Restore

Both System Image Recovery and System Restore are designed to fix your PC’s problems and errors. But many users don't know the difference between the two, and don't know which function to use when they need it. After all, both of them are related to the rollback of files from the hard disk, registry, system memory or other storage media. First of all, I will introduce both in detail.

What Is System Image Recovery

System Image Recovery is one of the options in System Recovery of Windows. System Recovery is a technique set by the manufacturer to help you can regain the default factory setting of Window OS. When your Windows is damaged, crashed, or stopped working, you can use System Image Recovery to restore the entire image to make it work again.

What Is System Restore

System Restore is a Windows tool designed to protect and repair computer software. It allows the user to revert their computer's state (including system files, installed applications, Windows Registry, and system settings) to that of a previous point in time, which can be used to recover from system malfunctions or other problems.

What Are the Differences: System Recovery vs System Restore

Although they can all help you fix computer problems and errors, they are different from each other.

1. Data erasure

System Restore only deletes data installed after the system restore point or date, except for My Documents Folder. Therefore, it is recommended that you backup important data to external hard drive or save them in the folder -"My Documents" for safety after system restore.
While System Recovery will delete all your data, whether it is personal data or installed software and will retain only those features installed by the manufacturer. Before using the system recovery option, you can save your important data on any external hard drive or other removable media.

2. Practicability

System restore is associated with computer system, which allows reverting the system to a previous state designated by the user. System restore affects only the registry and system files. System recovery is a set of useful utilities related to windows operating system, which can repair and troubleshoot windows operating system failures. Compared with system restore, system recovery is difficult to perform. But it can delete all bad files and viruses that are sometimes missed by system restore from the system.

3. Operation time

System restore is a simple and short process. System recovery is a very difficult and long process. It takes hours to perform system recovery, and sometimes even days to perform system recovery.

How to Perform System Restore and System Image Recovery 

System Restore vs System Image Recovery, which one is easier to perform? The detailed steps for doing both in Windows 10 are as follows.

Perform System Image Recovery in Windows 10

In order to perform system recovery, you need to create a Windows 10 recovery image backup. You can back up to external disk, USB drive or network location. Here is an example to create system image Windows 10 on a hard disk.

♦ Create system image backup

  1. Type Control Panel in the search box and click it. Select Backup and Restore (Windows 7) and open it.
  2. In the left panel, click Create a system image. Then, it will start to scan your storage device and list all of them.

Create a System Image

  1. In the pop-up window, select On a hard disk, choose a disk from drop-down menu, and click "Next".

On a Hard Disk

Note: The external hard drive should be formatted using NTFS in order to store the image.

  1. Confirm your backup settings and click "Start Backup".

After the backup task is 100% complete, you will be asked to create a system repair disc to use if Windows is ever incapable of booting up on its own. If you don’t have bootable media, please do so. A CD or DVD disc is needed. If you don’t have any of them, you can still use USB to create Windows 10 recovery drive.

♦ Restore from system image backup

If your computer still can boot:

  1. Go to Settings >Update & Security > Recovery > Advanced startup > Restart now.

Restart Now

  1. Then, your computer will restart to the Windows recovery environment, click Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > System image recovery in order.

System Image Recovery

  1. Then, you'll be prompted to choose the operating system that you want to recover.

Choose Operating System

  1. As soon as you click the Windows 10 tile, you'll see the Re-image Your Computer wizard. The tool will immediately locate the hard disk containing the system image. Click Next to continue.

Re-image Your Computer

  1. And then you can choose additional restore options.

Choose Additional Restore Options

◑ Format and repartition disks: If you're restoring to the same hard disk, you don't need to select this. If you are recovering to a new hard drive, this option may be selected by default and are not available.
◑ Exclude disks: If you have multiple drives, you can click this to choose the drive(s) you want to leave untouched.

  1. When all settings are complete, click Next and you will enter into the confirmation screen.
  2. Finally, click Finish to begin system image recovery

◉ If your computer cannot boot:

  1. Start up your PC with the system repair disc.
  2. Set boot priority for the bootable media first.
  3. And then, you will be taken to the Choose an option window, where you can follow the same steps to restore Windows 10 to a previous and healthy state.

Perform System Restore in Windows 10

System restore is disabled by default, so you must enable it before the system can automatically or manually save restore points.

♦ Enable System Restore

  1. Type Create a restore point in the search box and click the top result to open the System Properties page.
  2. Under the "System Protection" section, select the main "System" drive. Then click Configure button.

Configure Restore Settings

  1. Select the Turn on system protection option and click Apply and OK in order.

Turn on System Protection

♦ Create a System Restore point

When System Restore is enabled, it will create a checkpoint when system changes are automatically detected. However, if you plan to configure it manually, the steps are as follows.

  1. Type Create a restore point in the search box and click the top result to open the System Properties page.
  2. Under the "System Protection" section, click Create button.

Create a Restore Point

  1. Type a descriptive name for the restore point and click Create.

Type a Description

  1. Wait until you are told "The restore point was created successfully". Then, click Close.

♦ Recover using System Restore

If an accident occurs after installing or modifying system settings, you can use System Restore to apply a restore point to undo the changes and fix the problem.

If you have access to the Windows 10 desktop:

  1. Open System Properties page, under System Protection, click System Restore.

Perform System Restore

  1. Select the restore point to undo changes and fix problems on Windows 10 and click Next.

Restore Points

  1. Click the Scan for affected programs button to confirm the apps that will be removed because they were added after creating the restore point. And then click Close.
  2. Click Next button to confirm your restore point. After the confirmation, click Finish button.

Confirm Your Restore Point

If the computer does not start correctly:

  1. Start your device. As soon as the Windows logo appears on the screen, press the power button to interrupt the boot sequence. Repeat this operation twice or until the device boots into the recovery environment.
  2. Once you are in the recovery environment, click the Advanced options button.

Automatic Repair

  1. Click Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > System Restore in order.

System Restore

  1. Select your Windows 10 account and confirm the account password.
  2. Then, select the restore point to revert changes and fix problems with the computer. The remaining steps are the same as above step 2, 3, 4.

Easier Way to Protect Your OS and Data in Windows

It seems a bit cumbersome to perform system image recovery or system restore using Windows built-in utilities. I strongly recommend that you use AOMEI Backupper—the most reliable free backup software to protect your data and operating system. Each operation can be completed with just a few clicks. With its user- friendly interface, you can easily find the functions you need.

With its Backup feature, you can create system backup, partition backup, disk backup and file backup. You can use it to automatically backup folders to USB drive, NAS, cloud, network location, etc.
With its Restore feature, you can restore your files or system effortlessly when there is a problem with your computer. No matter where you save the data, this software will make the recovery operation handy, such as recovering files from Synology, restoring hard disk image file.

Download this free software and learn more about its features.

Download Freeware Win 10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

After you have installed this free software, launch it. In order to create a system image backup, you can go Backup->System Backup to backup Windows and create an image of system partition.

System Backup

In order to restore your system or files, go Restore->Select Task or Select Image File to complete this operation.

Select Task


After reading this article, you may have a complete knowledge and understanding of System Image Recovery and System Restore. But the operations of them are a bit troublesome. And when using these two tools, some problems often occur. Such as system image restore fails because of EFI/BIOS, system restore points missing in Windows 10.

AOMEI Backupper will be the best alternative to these two tools. Once you switch to this software, all the problems mentioned above will disappear. Why hesitate? Try it right now.

Yuka · Editor
Yuka, our dedicated editor at AOMEI Technology, is committed to bringing you valuable insights and guidance in data protection. Her mission is to empower everyone with her knowledge in computer backup and recovery, disk cloning, file synchronization, and more. Yuka's goal is to do her best to make complex tech tasks simple and ensure that your digital world remains safe and secure.