Windows 7 – System image
The function in Windows 7 for the creation of system images creates backup copies of the operating system and all programs and files. You thus avoid data loss in the event of a hard disk defect and can quickly restore your usual work environment with all its content.
In addition to the backup service for individual folders and partitions (parts of a memory space), Windows 7 also offers the creation of a complete system image. If you have to reinstall your computer due, for instance, to a defective hard disk or due to a virus infection, you can thus quickly restore your system.
However, the storage media available for the backup of the Windows 7 system image are limited: A direct backup to a storage location on the Internet, for example, is not supported. An alternative that offers the possibility can be found, for instance, with the program Paragon System Backup 2010, which also offers additional aids such as a function to check the backup.
Creating a system image
You can reach the service to create a Windows 7 system image by clicking on the start button and then the entries "Control panel" > "System and security" > "Backup and restore". Alternatively, the task bar shows the entry "Backup and restore" after clicking on the start button and entering the word "backup".
The first entry shown in the left-hand column of the backup window is the function "Create system image". A click on the menu item opens the respective window in which you select the required storage location for the system backup. You have the choice of backup on hard disk, DVD or in the connected network. Confirm the required destination by clicking on the button "Continue".
In the next screen, you can define which partitions the image includes. By checkmarking the required drive, the respective drive is included. Windows also indicates the memory space available for the backup data.
After clicking on "Continue" you will be shown an overview of the backup that is about to take place; after clicking on the button "Start backup", Windows starts with the creation of the system image.
Note: External data media such as DVDs or hard disks above all are useful for system images. This ensures that the image is available later for recovery and is not lost due to a damaged system or defective system data medium.
Windows acknowledges images that are created on a partition of the system hard disk with a message that they will also be lost if there is a fault in the hard disk.
Rescue disk: now or later
Windows announces the successful completion of the backup with a short message. Afterwards, the system offers to create a rescue disk. This rescue disk helps in the recovery of the system. To create it right away, click the "Yes" button, insert a blank CD or DVD, and start the burning process by clicking "Create disk".
You can also create the disk at a later time. In that case, answer "No" to the question about the rescue disk and exit the "Create system image" window by clicking "Close". The Virtual Hard Drive file (VHD) that was created is located in the previously defined storage location and is ready for a system recovery. It can also be found quickly again by searching manually for .vhd files using the Windows search function.
More information on creating and using the repair disk can be found in the "Creating a Windows 7 rescue disk" article.
Initiating the recovery
To recover the computer using a system image, type "Recovery" in the input box after clicking the Windows Start button, and select the entry of the same name in the list that opens up. In the "Recovery" window that opens now, click the blue writing that says "Advanced recovery methods". In the next window, click "Use a system image you created earlier to recover your computer".
In the next screen, Windows offers a complete recovery of the system with "Format and repartition disk". The alternative entry simply recovers system drive "C:".
If the system does not offer you any choice regarding the recovery method, then just click "Next" to install the image. In the last window, confirm the selected image and drives to be recovered once again and start the recovery by clicking the "Finish" button.
Note: If Windows doesn't start at all, then start your computer with the inserted rescue disk and follow the instruction to press any key to start. The rest of the procedure is identical to that which was described earlier.