What is a system image?

A Windows 10/8/7 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 faills to boot. And you don't need to reinstall Windows and reinstalled programs. This is the greatest advantages of system image. Built-in system image backup software and 3rd party software are the same.

File History System Image Bakcup

But sometimes you may feel frustrated with the weak compatibility of the built-in backup and restore software, it only allows you to backup and restore Windows 10/8/7 system image the same computer (for detailed steps, go to Create Windows 10 System Image Backup with 2 Free Ways) or at least computer with similar hardware and you cannot use it to restore image to a different computer with dissimilar hardware. 

Therfore, if you want to create system image Windows 10/8/7 for another computer, you could consider using third-party Windows backup and restore software like AOMEI Backupper. In addition, it usually has more advanced features, such as, daily/weekly/monthly backup, wake the compuert to run scheduled task, full/incremental backup/differential backup, normal and high compression level, email notification, etc.

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 10/8/7. Here are some situations:

▶ You just finished a clean install of Windows and most commonly used software on your computer. It’s probably the best time point to image system when everything is clean and 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.  

▶ 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.

How do I create a system image in Windows 10/8/7?

As mentioned earlier, Windows has a built-in backup and restore software, it only works properly on the same computer or computer with similar hardware. And it still has some other limitations, for example, you cannot set up multiple schedules; the function “Create a system image” is not working for USB drive; the disk saving system image must be formatted as NTFS, etc. In addition, it's not suitable for normal backup, which will include files you don't need. 

Therefore, It's suggested to use a complete third-party Windows backup software to create a system image in Windows 10/8/7 or backup specific files and folders. Here you will use AOMEI Backupper Standard to make system image in simple steps. It breaks those limits in backup process and allows you to restore computer to different hardware with "Universal Restore" feature in AOMEI Backupper Professional. If needed, please upgrade the freeware at first. 

In the first of place, 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 Windows 10/8/7 system image. 

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

Well then, follow the detailed steps below to create a system image backup with AOMEI Backupper Standard.

Step 1. Move your mouse pointer to "Backup" 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". You will find the program has automatically chosen the partitions required for a system image. Thus, you don't need to worry about missing any boot-related partition(s), especially useful for green hands.

Name the Task

Step 3. Click the second column to choose a destination location

Select Destination

In the pop-up window, you can choose from:

  • "This PC" (or "Computer"): to save a system image to a local disk, an external hard drive, a USB flash drive or CD/DVD. Among them, creating a system image for Windows 10/8/7 on USB is not possible with built-in tool.

  • "Share/NAS": to save a system image to NAS devices or network share. 

Backup Location

Step 4. (Optional) Choose daily/weekly/monthly backup plus full/incremental backup/differential backup in the "Schedule" option, so you can make sure the system image is up-to-date. Please note that the scheduled differential backup is available on AOMEI Backupper Professional or advanced version. 

Scheduled System Image

Besides, you can configure backup settings by clicking "Options" next to "Schedule". 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 10/8/7 system image. Please wait patiently until the backup task completes, the backup speed depends on how many data you have and the writting & reading speed of source disk and target disk.

Start System Image

How do I restore Windows from a system image?

AOMEI Backupper Standard still provides fast and flexible system image recovery solutions to help you get computer back in a very short time. Please check them in the following.

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 Backup". 

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 to start up computer and then perform system image recovery.

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 TechPlus) to perform system deployment.

Aomei Image Deploy

Note: If the system image is used on another computer with dissimilar hardware, please check "Universal Restore" at the final confirmation page.

Further reading: onekey system backup and recovery solution

If you want a more efficient way to backup and restore your computer OS, you can turn to AOMEI OneKey Recovery. It enables you to create a factory recovery partition to save system image. When your computer fails to boot, you can launch the program by pressing F11 or A and then perform system restore from Windows PE. 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 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, its schedule backup settings make this task simple and efficient, including daily backup, weekly backup, monthly backup, incremental backup, differential backup, even triggers, etc. 

Also, you can use this software to create disk image in Windows 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 truste me, it's one of the most powerful software to protect your computer. Please download it to explore yourself.