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How to Create Full Windows 10 System Image Backup

System image backup lets you restore the entire Windows 10 OS when you are unable to boot. Here’re the steps to create a Windows 10 system image backup.

Windows 10 has multiple built-in backup systems to help you back up the entire system or individual files. For example, to backup files in a specific drive, you can use the File History feature. Alternatively, you can backup the OS itself with Windows 10 system image. When something goes wrong and you are unable to boot into the OS or if it is acting out of order, you can simply restore the system image to revert it back to a known good state.

For example, I always do an image backup after fully setting up the system. That way, even if I or the Windows update messes something, I just restore the image backup. Compared to reinstalling Windows and setting up everything, the backup and restore process is painless and user friendly. 

Without any delay, let me share with you the full steps to create a system image backup in Windows 10.

A quick tip: Before creating the system image backup, I recommend you set up Windows the way you want. i.e, install all the software you use and configure all the settings. That way, after restoring the system it will be ready to go without any extra configuration.

Things you need:

  • An external hard disk or USB drive that is at least as big as your C drive.
  • The drive should be in NTFS format.
  • (Optional) A USB drive of at least 4GB to create a system rescue disk.

Steps to Create Windows 10 System Image Backup

Follow the steps below to properly create the system image backup in Windows 10.

  1. Open the Windows 10 Settings with the “Win + I” key shortcut.
  2. After opening the Settings, go to “Update & Security“.
  3. Select “Backup” on the left panel.
  4. Click on the “Go to backup and restore” link on the right panel.
  5. Now, click on the “Create system image backup” link. You can find it on the left pane of the control panel.
  6. Select the “On a hard disk” radio option.
  7. Select the hard drive or USB drive from the dropdown menu.
  8. Click “Next” to continue further.
  9. In the confirm window, click on the “Start” button.

As soon as you click the start button, Windows will start the system image creation process. Depending on your Windows installation size, the whole process can take a while to complete. So, sit back and wait until the backup is complete.


Once the backup has been completed, you will see a prompt asking you to create a system repair disc. The system repair disc will enable you to restore the system image when Windows is unbootable. If you don’t have a system repair disc, insert an empty USB drive that is at least 4GB and click on the “Yes” button. Follow the wizard to complete the repair disc. 


That is all. It is that simple to create a system repair disc in Windows 10.

Restore Windows System Image

To restore the system, insert both the external drive and system repair disc. Boot into the repair disk, go to the advanced options page and select “System image recovery” and follow the wizard.

I hope that helps. If you are stuck or need some help, comment below and I will try to help as much as possible.

If you like this article, check out how to create Windows 10 backup to network storage.

4 thoughts on “How to Create Full Windows 10 System Image Backup”

  1. Avatar for Jeff Mowery

    I followed the steps and when I chose USB it gave an error message:
    “This drive is not a valid backup location”

    I am selecting an 1TB USB flash drive called drive I:
    No idea what to do now.

  2. Avatar for Jonas

    Hello. Thank you for the helpful article. I have also been notified by Windows 10 that the drive is not suitable. It is an SD card of 64 megabyte size and indeed formatted to NTFS.

  3. Avatar for Morley1944

    Running WIN10 Pro (initial layout on a new laptop with 2 separate drives; C: and D:). How can I generate a “recovery disk” on to a USB adapter holding a 32gb SD, if I am using the traditional Win7 backup?

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