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Windows 8.1 – How to Create and Restore a Disk Image

written by: •edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 5/22/2014

Windows 8.1 makes it easy for you to back up your hard drive as an image. If you later run into issues and are unable to use your machine, you can use your image to restore your machine back to an earlier state.

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    Creating a System Image

    A system image is just that: a snapshot in time. Images aren’t meant to replace regular backups of your important files, but are good for taking a point in time snapshot. For example, once you get a new computer and install the applications you like and customize it just the way you want, it’s a good idea to take a system image. If your hard drive dies or operating system becomes unusable, you’ll be able to restore from your image.

    1. In the Windows Modern interface, open the Charms bar and click on Search.
    2. Type “File History" in the search bar and click on the File History icon. In Windows 8.0, you need to search for the Recovery application.
    3. In the File History window that opens, click the System Image Backup link on the lower left side of the window (Figure 1).
    4. In the System Image wizard, select a location to which you want to back up your image. In Figure 2, you can see I’ve selected my external hard drive labeled (D:). Click Next.
    5. On the Confirm Settings page, make sure all of the drives that you want backed up are included. Click Start Backup to begin the process.

    Depending on how big your hard drive is and the speed of the drive, the backup could take anywhere from an hour to a few hours to complete. You can easily keep working on your computer while performing the backup.

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    Figure 1: System Image BackupFigure 2: Backup Location
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    Restoring a System Image

    If you run into issues with your operating system or wish to restore to a previous image, you can easily do so following these instructions.

    1. Make sure your recovery media (hard drive, USB, etc.) is plugged into your computer.
    2. If your computer is still able to run Windows, open the Charms bar and select PC Settings. If you can’t boot into Windows you will need to create a System Recovery USB stick.
    3. Click Update and Recovery.
    4. Click Recovery.
    5. Under Advanced Startup, select Restart Now. This will start an advanced startup menu that will let you run an image recovery.
    6. Once the Advanced Startup screen shows up, click Troubleshoot.
    7. Click Advanced Options.
    8. Click System Image Recovery.
    9. Your computer will now reboot into the System Image Recovery wizard. Click on your user account and enter your password.
    10. The re-image wizard will begin and will automatically detect your system image.
    11. Follow the prompts to recover your computer.

    After the image has been recovered you will reboot your computer and be able to pick up from where you last took your image. All applications and data will be present. You will still need to copy down any files or data that was changed or created after you took your system image.

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