What is a system image?

A Windows system image is an exact copy of the system partition or entire hard drive(if the disk only has one partition with Windows installed on), including operating system(OS), System Reserved Partition/EFI System Partition (ESP), recovery partition, boot sectors, custom settings and all programs installed & files saved on those partitions. 

Then, you can restore your computer easily and quickly when it fail to boot. And you don't need to reinstall Windows and programs. This is the greatest advantage of system image. 

When should I create a system image backup?

A system image is very useful for OS development, hard drive upgrade, performance optimization, etc, so it is necessary to create a system image backup in Windows 11/10/8/7. Here are some situations:

Create an initial backup after clean installation OS and commonly used programs. This is probably the best time point to image system, because everything is clean and your computer runs smoothly. Once something bad happens later, you will be able to bring computer to its original state.

You want to replace your slower mechanical hard drive with a speedy SSD. You can create a system image, swap hard drive out for SSD and restore system image to SSD. If hard drive and SSD can be connected to your computer simultaneously, you can migrate OS from HDD to SSD by system clone (in AOMEI Backupper Professional), saving much time and effort.  

Backup system before you disk fails. When receiving some error warnings, such as "SMART failure predicted on hard disk", "Hard disk failure is imminent", and "Windows detected a hard disk problem", you need to create a system image or disk image at once. That’s because those messages indicate your hard disk is failing.

Built-in backup tool or third-party backup software 

You need the help of a free backup software to help you if you want to create a system image in Windows 11, 10, 8, 7,Vista, XP. Your priority choice is the built-in Backup and Restore (Windows 7), but sometimes you may feel frustrated with the weak compatibility of it, especially you want to create system image in Windows 11/10/8/7 for another computer.

It only works for the same computer or at least computer with similar hardware. Thus, even if you create a system image successfully, you still cannot use it to restore image to a different computer with dissimilar hardware. And it still has some other limitations:

If you don't mind or just want to use the backup image on the same computer, you can use the built-in tool Backup and Restore (Windows 7) to create Windows 10 System Image Backup. Conversely, you could consider using third-party Windows backup software like AOMEI Backupper Standard. It supports more advanced features, such as, schedule backup, incremental backups, intelligent sector backup, etc.

How to create a Windows 10 system image for full backup and restoration

Before creating Windows10 system image with AOMEI Backupper Standard or in other systems, learn what you will use during the backup process. 

System Backup: It is able to backup everything on the system partition, including OS, drivers, programs, data, etc.
Schedule Backup: It allows you to set daily/weekly/monthly backup to backup any changes made since previous backup. Also, you can enable "Wake the computer to run scheduled task" to start backup task automatically, without human intervention.
Incremental Backup: By default, this software backup system with Incremental Backup, which only backup changed files every time.

In addition, the created system image can be used to restore computer with different hardware, only when you check the  "Universal Restore" feature checked during the restore process. And it's only available on the professional version of this software.

Then, download AOMEI Backupper Standard and install it on your computer. Then, prepare an external hard drive and be sure it can be detected by Windows, so you can use it to store system image. 

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Step 1. Move your mouse pointer to "Backup" after opening this software and click on it. Then, choose "System Backup" from the right list.

System Backup

Step 2. You are able to edit the default "Task Name". And the system partition and boot-related partitions will be selected by default, thus you easily avoid computer failure after restoring.  This is especially useful for green hands.

Name the Task

Step 3. Click the second column to choose a destination location. You can create system image in Windows 10 on USB drive or other devices, such as, external disk, network drive, NAS, etc.

Select Destination


Step 4. (Optional) Choose Daily/Weekly/Monthly backup in the "Schedule Backup" option to make sure the system image is up-to-date. The last two backup settings are available on the Professional version

Schedule System Image

Also, choose backup method in the Backup Scheme section. The Incremental Backup is the default option, which backup only changes since the last backup. Thus, it takes less backup time and use less disk backup.

While for the Differential Backup, it backup changes since last full backup. By comparison, it will use more backup time and disk space than Incremental Backup. Note this feature is available on Professional version.

Backup Method

Besides, you can configure backup settings by clicking "Options" next to "Schedule Backup". For example, write a comment, and compress the system image with normal or high compression level, etc.

Backup Options

Step 5. After finishing all your settings, just click "Start Backup" to begin creating Windows 11/10/8/7 system image. Please wait patiently until the backup task completes. The backup speed depends on how much data you have and the writing & reading speed of source disk and target disk.

Start System Image

After creating Windows 10 system image, you can restore system image to the current computer easily when something bad happens. Also, you can restore to computer with different hardware as long as you check the "Universal Restore" (supported by the professional version) feature. Follow the steps below: 

If your computer is still bootable, you can click "Restore" -> tap on "Select Task" -> select backup image you want to restore -> select "Restore this system backup" and "Restore system to other location"-> select the new hard drive or SSD and finally click "Start Restore". 

That's it. If you cannot see any backup image using "Select Task" option, please go back and use "Select Image File" to manually choose the system backup image.

Restore Windows from System Image Backup

If your system crashes or disk fails, you can use “Create Bootable Media” to make a Windows PE bootable USB or CD. It allows you to start up your computer and then perform system image recovery. The steps are exactly the same as when your computer is bootable. 

If you don't have USB or CD/DVD, you can choose to create a recovery environment in Windows 10 or other systems with "Recovery Environment" feature. You can easliy select it at the next system startup.

Create Bootable Media

If you only want to restore individual files from the system image rather than the entire system, you can use “Explore Image” to mount system image as a virtual partition and copy data.

Restore Individual Files

If you want to deploy a system image to multiple computers simultaneously instead of performing manual restoration one by one, you can use AOMEI Image Deploy (supported by AOMEI Backupper Tech or TechPlus edition) to perform system deployment.

Aomei Image Deploy

Backup and restore your computer OS with a more efficient way:

 AOMEI OneKey Recovery is an excellent one key backup and restore software, which enables you to create a hidden recovery partition and save system image on it. And you can easily launch this software by pressing F11 or A or use boot menu at the system startup and then perform system restore from Windows PE, even when your computer is slightly damaged. As you see, no bootable media are needed to boot a corrupted computer.

OneKey System Backup

Wrapping things up

Creating a system image in Windows 11/10/8/7 is essential for computer users to protect system and data on it, which can greatly reduce the risk of data loss. More so, its schedule backup settings make this task simple and efficient, including daily backup, weekly backup, monthly backup, incremental backup, etc.

Also, you can use this software to create disk image in Windows 11/10/8/7 with its "Disk Backup" feature, backup specific partition(s) you want with "Partition Backup", or directly backup files with "file backup". Its features are much more than these and trust me, it's one of the most powerful software to protect your computer. Please download it to explore yourself.