How to Create a Full Backup on a Windows 10 Computer

Use system image backup to back up and restore your PC

What to Know

  • Press the Windows Key+I > Update and Security > Backup > Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7) > Create a system image.
  • Microsoft no longer maintains System Image Backup, but it's still one of the best ways to create a Windows 10 image backup.

This article explains how create a backup by taking a Windows 10 system image and how to restore a backup.

How to Use Windows 10's System Image Backup

Windows 10's System Image Backup is an intuitive and versatile tool for creating a Windows 10 backup and is ready to use right away if you're running Windows 10. It's somewhat of a legacy feature and is no longer maintained by Microsoft, but it still functions as it ever did and for now at least, remains one of the best ways to create a Windows 10 image backup.

If you want to save your backup to an external drive, make sure it is connected before beginning this process.

  1. Press the Windows Key+I to open the Settings menu.

    If it doesn't work, take a look at this guide to fix it.

  2. Select Update and Security.

    Windows Settings screen on Windows 10 with the Update & Security section highlighted.
  3. In the resulting Settings window, select Backup from the left-hand menu.

    The Backup button highlighted in the Update & Security pane of Windows Settings in Windows 10.
  4. Under the heading Looking for an older backup? Select Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

    This is an original Windows 7 feature, it is not something that you can only use if running Windows 7.

  5. A new Control Panel window will appear. On the left-hand side, select Create a system image.

  6. In the new window, under Where do you want to save the backup, use the various toggles and drop-down menus to select whether you want to store your image on a hard drive (be it internal or external), a series of DVDs, or on a network connected drive somewhere on your LAN. Then select Next.

    Back up and Restore
  7. Select which drives you want to include with the backup using their relevant check boxes. Then select Next.

    Selecting which drives to backup under Windows 10.
  8. Look over your selections, then when you're happy and ready, select Start backup to begin the process.

  9. You will also be given the chance to create a system repair disk. If your system has an optical drive and you want that option, choose Yes. Otherwise, select No, then Close.

The backup will then begin and can take some time depending on how big the installations are that you're backing up and the speed of your drives. You can, however, continue to use the drives while it's happening, so feel free to continue to use your system as before.

If you did backup the drive to an external drive, make sure to disconnect it once the backup is complete and store it somewhere safely.

How to Restore a Backup on Windows 10

Hopefully you never need to restore a backup because your data remains safe and secure, but if you have a data failure or need access to data you've accidentally deleted, restoring the backup is no more complicated than making the backup in the first place.

  1. Connect your internal or external drive containing the system backup to your computer.

  2. Boot your computer and repeatedly press the F8 key to access the troubleshooting menu. For more information, look at our guide to accessing advanced startup options.

  3. Select Troubleshoot.

    Troubleshooting menu
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  4. Select Advanced options.

  5. Select System Image Recovery.

  6. Select Windows 10.

  7. In the Select a system image backup Window, select Use the latest available system image option. Alternatively, if you have multiple backups, you can manually select a system image instead.

  8. Select Next.

    If you're restoring to a new drive, you should use the Format and repartition disks option before continuing further. Just be sure to Exclude disks to prevent your other disks from also being formatted in the process.

  9. Select Next followed by Finish.

The backup will begin and can take some time depending on the size of your backup and speed of the drives involved. Once complete, however, you should be able to boot to your newly restored system as it was before. If you run into problems, make sure to use the system boot menu to confirm you're booting to the correct drive.