By Ivy / Last update April 6, 2022

What is ISO image?

ISO image (also called optical disc image, based on a bootable CD/DVD or Blue-ray, from the ISO 9660 file system used with CD-ROM media), is a disk image that contains an exact, sector by sector copy of an optical media, such as, CD/DVD or Blue-ray disc. 

And it can be created from optical discs by disk imaging software, or from a collection of files by optical disc authoring software, or from a different disk image file by means of conversion. 

As time goes by, there is a growing emphasis on creating an exact copy of important files, not only limited to optical disc, but also hard drive (HDD or SSD) and USB drive. No matter what you want to do, you can find a method in this article.

Common ways to create an ISO image of my hard drive

As mentioned earlier, there are two types when we say "create an ISO image of my hard drive", namely create image for optical disc, create disk image. Then, how to make it? Please check the following situation and choose a proper method: 

Situation 1: You want to create an ISO image for optical disc

If you are in this situation, there are two ways you can try, including using DISM (Deployment Image Servicing and Management) and Media Creation Tool.

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The first one is command line utility to capture Windows image under recovery environment or create ISO image (.wim) of hard drive in Windows 10/11 for deployment. It requires a Windows 10 recovery media or installation disk. While for the second one,  it's a way recommended by Microsoft, and you can use it to install or upgrade Windows.

Situation 2: You want to create disk image or clone hard drive to ISO

For this situation, disk imaging software will be a better choice, and you can customize the backup task, for example, create disk image weekly, compress disk image if it's really big, etc. Also, it requires a system restore in case of system or boot failure.

 In addition, cloning is worth trying, it's a simplified version of backup and restore and you can directly use it to boot a failing computer by replacing hard drive and setting boot priority for it. 

AOMEI Backupper Professional

Situation 3: You want to create a bootable USB

This is mostly done as a precautionary measure, so you can boot your computer when it fails and perform disk or system recovery. You have 3 different ways, namely using installation disc, create one with Recovery Drive in Windows 10 or third-party media creator tool, such as, AOMEI Backupper Standard. Note recovery drive only works on the same computer you created it. 

How to create an ISO image for optical disc

In this part, you will learn 2 ways to create an ISO image for optical disc. Method 1 is recommended. By comparison, it's much easier than capture image with DISM. And the DISM tool is more suitable for professional or IT technician.

Method 1: create windows 10 ISO image using Media Creation Tool

1. Go to Windows 10 download page, and click Download tool now to download the Media Creation Tool. 

2. After downloding, open this tool and select Create installation media (USB flash drive, DVD, or ISO) for another PC. Click Next.

Create Installation Media

3. In the current window, select the language, architecture, and edition of Windows you want. Click Next.

4. Select ISO file > Next, and the tool will create your ISO file for you. To use the ISO file as a backup for your PC or on another PC, you can choose to burn it onto a CD/DVD or USB drive.

Select Media

Method 2: create an ISO image of my hard drive with DISM 

Here you will use the second method to create hard drive to ISO image in Windows 10/11 with DISM. Before starting, you need to determine which partitions to capture. Note you do not have to capture Microsoft Reserved partition and extended partition because they are managed automatically.

Then, you need to assign a drive letter to this partition if it doesn't have one. Boot your computer from the recovery media or installation media.

At the Windows PE command prompt, type “diskpart” to open diskpart tool. And type the following commands in order and hit Enter after each command. 

  • list disk
  • select disk 0 (0 is the disk number including partition you want to capture)
  • list partition
  • select partition=2 (the partition you want to capture is partition 2)
  • assign letter=S (assign the drive letter for partition to S)
  • exit

Assign Letter

After determining the partition you want to capture and assigning drive letter for it, you can start to capture image offically with the following command. You need to boot into WinPE environment.

Dism /Capture-Image /ImageFile:s:\my-system-partition.wim /CaptureDir:S:\ /Name:"My system partition"

DISM Capture

Tip on how to create an ISO image from your operating system:

To make it as bootable ISO image, open Windows 10 installation disc in File Explorer. Copy its contents and paste to a folder on your external hard drive or Network. Copy the image install.win create before to the source folder and replace the original one.

Then download and install the latest Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit and install Deployment Tools. Then run the following command:

oscdimg.exe -m -o -u2 -udfver102 -bootdata:2#p0,e,b[path of the iso files]\boot\etfsboot.com#pE F,e,b[path of the iso-files]\efi\microsoft\boot\efisys.bin [path of the iso-files][new location to save the iso image of the current windows]

How to create bootable ISO from hard drive effectively

To create bootable ISO from hard drive, you need a reliable disk imaging or cloning software. AOMEI Backupper Standard is a great choice, which integrates all the backup, restore, clone, sync features and other useful tools. Thus, you can easily create bootable ISO from hard drive and ensure you can boot from the restored or cloned disk successfully.

Below are some useful features you can enjoy in this process, especially for long-term tasks. 

Backup or clone HDD, SSD, MBR, GPT disk: You can backup or clone all brands of disks, such as, Samsung, WD, SanDisk, HP, Seagate, etc.
Backup disk continuously: You can backup disk with 3 different backup frequencies, daily, weekly, monthly, thus you don't need to worry about any data loss due to forgetting to make a disk backup.
Backup only changed files on the disk: By default, this software uses Incremental Backup as backup method, which backup only changed files since last backup, whether it's full backup or incremental backup.

In addition, you still can use this software to create bootable CD/DVD, USB or ISO file. It helps you to boot your computer when it fails and perform disk or system recovery.

Method 1: Create an ISO image of my hard drive with Disk Backup 

Before creating bootable ISO from hard drive, you need to download AOMEI Backupper Standard and install it on your computer. Note this version only supports Windows 11/10/8/7/XP/Vista. For server users, try AOMEI Backupper Server.

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
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Step 1. Launch AOMEI Backupper Standard. At the main interface, select Disk Backup under Backup tab.

Disk Backup

Step 2. You can name it for "Task Name" box to help you distinguish it from other backups. Select source disks that you want to back up and then destination path to store image file.

Select Destination

Note: You can add several disks to be backed up each time, but need to restore these disks one by one. Moreover, it is impossible to restore several disks included in an image file to one larger disk.

Step 3. Click the Start Backup button after confirming the source and destination disk. 

But if you want to make this task hassle-free, especially for continuous protection, try the following features:

Backup Options: You can enable Windows 10 backup notification to confirm if your task is ran normally, compress backup image to smaller with High compression level, set Microsoft VSS or AOMEI backup service, etc.

General

Schedule Backup: This feature includes 5 options, Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Event trigger, and USB plug in ( to backup disk to USB flash drive automatically when it's plugged in). The last two features are available on the professional version at least. 

Schedule Settings

Backup Scheme: It allows you change the default incremental backup to differential backup, which does not require all the backups during the disk recovery process. It's supported on the professional version.

If you upgrade, you can still enjoy automatic backup cleanup method (By quantity, By time, By daily/weekly/monthly) to delete old backup images. It resolves the backup disk full issue completely. 

Scheme

Tip on how to clone hard drive to ISO easily:

  • Launch this software, go to Clone and select Disk Clone this time.

Disk Clone

  • Then, you will be asked to select source disk and destination disk, just do as prompted. 
  • Set cloning option if needed, for example, tick SSD Alignment to accelerate SSD disk performance, and then click Start Clone. For details steps with screenshot, please refers to disk clone in Windows 10.

Method 2: Create bootable ISO from hard drive with Create Bootable Media

If you just want to ensure you always have a way to boot your computer and perform recovery operation, try "Create Bootable Media" in AOMEI Backupper Standard. It supports not only creating Legacy BIOS/UEFI boot drive, but also applying both 32 and 64 bit of Windows 11/10/8/7/XP/Vista. Please follow the steps below to create one:

Step 1. Launch AOMEI Backupper Standard. Click Tools and then Create Bootable Media.

Create Bootable Media

Step 2. Select the bootable disk type (Linux or WinPE). Here would take creating WinPE ISO for example.

Windows Bootable Disc

Tip: By default, this software is compatible with Legacy BIOS and UEFI boot mode. But if your computer uses Legacy BIOS and is too old, the created media may only supports computer with Legacy BISO mode. To make it work for UEFI computer as well, please check the option "Download WinPE creating environment from Internet". It ensures you can boot from USB in both modes.

Step 3. Select bootable media: CD/DVD or USB drive is recommended, because it's convenient. Also, you can use ISO File option, and you still need to burn it to CD/DVD or USB if you want to boot computer from it.  Confirm and click Next to start the process.

Export ISO File

Except for Create Bootable Media, you can still create a recovery environment in Windows 10 if you don't want to burn it to ISO file or have USB or CD/DVD. It allows you to access this software in the recovery environment and perform any operation.

Recovery Environment

Conclusion

Now you have learned how to create ISO image of hard drive with 4 methods provided in this article. Choose one of them according to your situation - want to create an ISO image of optical disc, hard drive (HDD or SSD), or bootable drive. All in all, it's important to protect your data no matter where it is and always keep a way to boot your computer, even when it fails.

For this purpose, I strongly recommended you use a free backup software to do this and it has a broader range of uses. For example, you can still use it to backup only system, specific partition or individual files. And all backup options in Disk Backup are available for them. For unlimited PCs or servers, try AOMEI Backupper Technician or TechPlus.