By Lily / Last update July 7, 2021

System image is important to computer users

A system image is an exact copy of a drive which including Windows and your system settings, programs, and files. A system image is important to computer users, because it is useful when your hard drive or computer failed -- you can use the system image to restore the entire contents of your computer. 

Create system image to an external hard drive and restore from it

Computer users know that it is necessary to create system image after install the Windows operating system, but where to image system on? There are many place you can choose, the local hard drive, external hard drive, or you can backup to NAS (network attached storage). Truthfully, create system image to an external hard drive is the best way for its security and its stability. Even the hard drive broken, you can ensure the security of your system image. And when the computer crashed, you can restore all data from the system image.

Easy way to restore system image from external hard drive 

“I cannot restore any system image which was created to external hard drive using Backup and Restore in Windows 10 v1709. I receive the following error:
“The system image restore failed. Error details: A Volume Shadow Copy Service component encountered an unexpected error. Check the Application event log for more information. (0x80042302)”
I just want to restore my computer from an image backup created before, why is it so difficult? How do I restore Windows 10 system image from external hard drive, or is there any easier way to do so?”

This question is borrowed from Answer Microsoft and it shows that restoring system image using Backup and Restore is a little tricky and does not work all the time. So, I’d like to recommend you a third-party freeware AOMEI Backupper Standard, which can restore Windows 7/8/10 system image from external hard drive in a few clicks. And this software is suitable for all users, even for beginners.

Before restoring system image from external hard drive, you need do something to prepare for it.

Download Freeware Win 10/8.1/8/7/XP
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  • Create bootable media (using CD/DVD, USB drive, etc.) or create a recovery environment for booting your computer with AOMEI Backupper. AOMEI Backupper Workstation also provides you with AOMEI PXE boot tool to help boot your computer if it cannot boot successfully.

Then, you can use this freeware to restore Windows 10/8/7 system image from external hard drive. You can follow the guide below:

1. If your computer cannot boot, you need to use the bootable media or AOMEI PXE tool to boot your computer -- insert the bootable media and the external hard drive with your Windows system image, press a special key (usually F8) to enter the BIOS mode to select where to boot from, and you will get into the interface of AOMEI Backupper.

Boot Order

2. Click Restore, and click “Select Task” to select the system image on external hard drive you created before and restore your computer from it (If your computer can still boot, launch the freeware, and click Restore directly).


3. Then, you need to select the backup image. Click Next to move on.

Select Backup Image

4. Choose “Restore this system backup” and click Next to continue.

Select Restore Location

Note: If you want to restore to a different location, you can tick Restore system to other location and select a partition.

5. Then, you can confirm all information about the operations. If there is no problem, click "Start Restore". And the operations will be executed automatically. Just click Finish to exit, when the progress reached 100%.

Start Restore


  • The Sector by sector restore will restore every byte on the hard drive and take more time and occupy more space. It’s not recommended unless your target disk is big enough.

  • The Enable Universal Restore is for users to restore system from one computer to another, but it only exists in the AOMEI Backupper Professional and other paid versions. If you would like to do a universal restore, you need to upgrade your Standard edition to the Professional edition.

✐ Easier way to restore system image from external hard drive: 

Instead of creating system image and bootable media one by one, you can use one key recovery software AOMEI OneKey Recovery to create them simultaneously. And it will add a boot men on the computer as well as a fast key to access it,  F11 or A, for example.

 Then, when your computer not working, you can press F11 or A to access this software via boot menu and then restore system image with OneKey System Recovery option. 

OKR Recovery

Except for backup solution, you still can choose to clone only system or entire drive with a disk cloning software (AOMEI Backupper) and use it to boot your computer directly when your system or disk damaged. And all you need to do is to change the cloned disk to the first boot option.

Restore system image from external hard drive with Windows built-in tool

There are still some users who want to use the inbuilt tool to restore computer from system image on external hard drive, so I’ll show you the detailed steps below. To restore image from external hard drive, you need create a system image to external hard drive before, and a system repair disc for starting the unbootable computer.

Then, see below and learn to restore from system image with Backup and Restore. If your computer can still boot normally, you can restore system image directly. Take an example of Windows 7.

1. Open the recovery tool in Windows. In Windows 7, open the Backup and Restore by clicking Start-> Control Panel-> System and Security. Then, select Recover system settings or your computer.

Recovery System Settings

 2. Go to the advanced recovery settings by clicking Advanced recovery methods.

Advanced Recovery Methods

 3. Then, in the Advanced options screen, click “Use a system image you created earlier to recover your computer” option and follow the wizard to select the system image and restore the system image from external hard drive.

Recovery Your Computer

However, if your computer cannot boot, you need use the system repair disc to boot your computer first, then restore from system image

1. Insert the system repair disc to restart your computer with its power button.

2. Press any key to start the computer from the system repair disc.

Notes: If your computer isn’t start from the CD/DVD, you need to check whether the first boot option is CD-ROM Drive in BIOS. If not, change it to the first option via “+”.

3. After choose the language settings, click Repair your computer, and select a recovery option, then, click Next.

The Windows built-in tool can recover system image, but it is difficult to people who do not know much about computer. Besides, some user still complaint that I can’t restore from system image on external hard drive and it says, “Windows could not find a backup for this computer”, “A Volume Shadow Copy Service component encountered an unexpected error” , etc.

Plus: Can’t restore system image from external hard drive

As mentioned above, some users may report that they cannot restore system on external hard drive, so I’ll show a different way for restoration. This method is to install Windows 10 from scratch via installation disc, then mount the image created by Backup and Restore (Windows 7) and capture the image on external hard drive via recovery mode.

It’s said that this method is applied to Windows 10 and you can try it if you are using Windows 10. If you are using Windows 7, 8, 8.1, there is no guarantee that it will work for you.

Detailed steps to restore system image from external hard drive in Windows.

1. Disconnect your computer from network.

2. Boot your computer with an installation disc, then click "Next" > "Install now"> "I don’t have a product key", select the operating system you want to install, tick "I accept the license code" and click "Custom" to continue. It will create an operating system and recovery partitions which is required to boot Windows.

Install Now

3. Log into your computer and create MountedVHDX and WindowsImage folder subsequently in C: drive, then copy the WindowsImage backup folder from external hard drive to C:\WindowsImage folder.

4. Insert an external hard drive with enough free space and create a folder named CaputuredWIM in the it (here is E:\CapturedWIM.)

5. Open command prompt with admin, then type the following commands and hit Enter.

  • Mount-WindowsImage -ImagePath fullpathofvhdxindoublequotes -Path C:\MountedVHDX -Index 1

  • New-WindowsImage -CapturePath C:\MountedVHDX -Name Win10Backup -ImagePath E:\CapturedWIM\sib.wim -Description "Windows 10 Backup" -Verify

  • Dismount-WindowsImage -Path C:\MountedVHDX –Discard

6. Restart your computer and then go to the recovery mode via “Power” option and “Shift” key.

7. At the Choose an option windows, select Troubleshoot > Advanced > Command Prompt, then type the commands below and press Enter to execute it.

  • Format C:

  • Dism /Apply-Image /ImageFile:E: \CapturedWIM\sib.wim /Index:1 /ApplyDir:C:\

8. Restart your computer and see if your Windows is activated.

Now, you may already restore system image from your external hard drive. If you think it’s too complicated, you can back to the above and learn the easier way. It allows you to restore your 

In the end

AOMEI Backupper Standard should be the best freeware for backup and restore, because it can not only help you create and restore system image from external hard drive in Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, but do many important things for you to secure your computer and data.

You can use it to only backup system, or backup files/folders, even a single partition, even sync file free and you can use it to clone the entire hard drive, partition, system. In a word, it is worth to use with its free payment.