Windows 8

Pro tip: Track down the Create a System Image tool in Windows 8.1

Learn where to find and launch the Create a System Image tool in Microsoft Windows 8.1, because it is not where it used to be.

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If you read my article Step-by-step: Update to Windows 8.1 through the Windows Store, then you know that I began that article by telling you to first create a System Image using the Windows 7 File Recovery tool, so that if anything went wrong as you performed the upgrade, you would be able to return to your current configuration using the System Image Recovery procedure. To launch the Windows 7 File Recovery tool in Windows 8, use the [Windows] + W keystroke to access the Search Settings pane. Then, you type Windows 7 File in the text box and click Windows 7 File Recovery in the results panel.

Soon after I upgraded to Windows 8.1, I thought that I would create a new system image of my new Windows 8.1 configuration and went the launch the Windows 7 File Recovery tool as I described above. To my surprise, the new results panel was blank, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Fig A 11-22.png

Attempting to access the Windows 7 File Recovery tool displays a blank search results page.

I then dug around a little bit and discovered that Microsoft had removed Windows 7 File Recovery tool from Windows 8.1. A little more digging and I discovered that you can still create a System Image in Windows 8.1; however, you now launch the tool from File History.

In this article, I'll briefly discuss the Windows 7 File Recovery tool. Then I'll show you where to find and launch the Create a System Image tool in Windows 8.1.


Windows 7 tip: Use Windows 7 System Image Recovery to restore a hard disk


Windows 7 File Recovery

As you may know, Windows 7 File Recovery used to be called Backup and Restore in Windows 7. Why they didn't leave the name the same in Windows 8 is beyond me. After all they only left the old Backup and Restore capability in Windows 8 so that upgraders could access the files contained in backups previously made in Windows 7.

In any case, in addition to allowing you to create and restore old fashioned backups, just like in Backup and Restore, Windows 8's Windows 7 File Recovery tool provided you with a way to create a System Image of your entire hard disk. Selecting the Create a System Image command from the left panel, immediately launched the Create a System Image tool.

Windows 8.1 File History

When putting together Windows 8.1, Microsoft decided to do away with compatibility for backups created in Windows 7's Backup and Restore tool and completely removed the Windows 7 File Recovery tool from the newest version of Windows. In reality, the File History tool is a fine way to make sure that you have backup copies of all your important data files and the other tools, Refresh your PC, Reset your PC, and System Restore, allow you to easily revive your operating system files. So I can see how removing Windows 7 File Recovery, would make sense. However, why did they make it so hard to find and access the Create a System Image tool?

Going back to what I was describing in the introduction, after I realized that Microsoft had removed Windows 7 File Recovery tool from Windows 8.1, I immediately used [Windows] + W keystroke to access the Search Settings pane and began a search for the Create a System Image tool. However, after typing Create a, I realized that I wasn't going to find the tool using Search, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Fig B 11-22.png

Attempting to search for the Create a System Image tool is a fruitless effort.

Then when I finally did go to File History, I almost missed it. Not only is the system image tool on the bottom of the left panel instead of on the top, where it used to be on Windows 7 File Recovery screen, the command is now called System Image Backup instead of Create a System Image, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

Fig C 11-22.png

To create a system image, select the System Image Backup command in File History.

Once you launch the tool, you'll see that it is still called Create a System Image as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Fig D 11-22.png

Even though the command to launch the tool has changed, the tool is still called Create a System Image.

What's your take?

Have you looked for Windows 7 File Recovery tool in Windows 8.1 and discovered that it was missing? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

Also read:

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

29 comments
troubled241
troubled241

1.) Windows 7 created a backup image for me.

2.) Then I switched with a blank drive thinking I could install it on the blank drive.

3.) Then I used a Windows 7 CD to arrive at system image recovery.

4.) It knew where the backup image was and what drive to put it on, then it started reinstalling it on the drive, then quit and write:

 "The system restore image failed.

No disk that can be used for recovering the system can be found"



dondarkes
dondarkes

I have been using MS Windows from DOS days and have hated each "upgrade" more than the last. Windows XP and I came to a Mexican standoff and tolerated each other. Vista convinced me to Use Ubuntu and I have never looked back except to run some windows XP apps - using Virtual box on Ubuntu. I have never looked back. Unfortunately friends remain married to Windows and woe is me, the worst of them all -Windows 8.1. I have just spent two hours on this excellent resource finding out how to create a system image and restore disk on Windows 8.1 and decipher how do do the simplest things which have been hidden "for our own good". When I go to hell I expect to see the fiends who created this abomination  in hellfire with me.

bikercaz
bikercaz

bikercaz

Hi, well I don't know what operating system you are working on but I definitely had Windows 8.1 on my tablet a Surface Pro 2.   I do have Control Panel but inside there is no System and Security.   So let's go to System, our old favourite.   Hooray, I have Control Panel Home at the top, followed by Device Manager, then Remote Settings, System Protection, Adfvanced System Settings and at the bottom Action Center and finally Windows Update.   Do we now have MS giving up two versions of 8.1 and if so what the XXll are they playing at?.   I have faithfully backed MS for many years but they are getting a little bit ridiculous and no wonder they are losing out to the likes of Google (whom I hate) and Apple (whom I would never buy another thing from.   What a mess they are in.   They should have taken on a real outsider instead of promoting from within!

chuckbowers
chuckbowers

I managed to create a system image (8/1) but cant find it on the inserted flash drive.   The pc tellls me that I was successful, but I cant see how.    How would I ever go about restoring if I cant find it?   It isnt listed on the flash drive inventory, but the capacity seems to have been filled appropriately (i e, Many MBs used)

jes1831
jes1831

This was a great article, but how does one restore? Assume I just lost my system  HD, I need to restore how does one do it? In Win 7 you could create a DVD to boot from, in Win 8.1 there is no option to create a DVD.  

Vanerl
Vanerl

Will a system image tool help recover lost Windows 8.1 password without data loss? when I forgot my password, I got Windows Password Recovery Tool Ultimate from http://www.windowspasswordsrecovery.com to create a password recover disk by burning an iSO image file. It worked well!

Gisabun
Gisabun

Outside of the fact that there are better options for an image backup, I do agree that Microsoft is driving IT people nuts by changing names even though very little changed. From Add and Remove Programs in Windows XP to Programs and Features. Features isn't used as often compared to the programs part.

To go further, there was Passport ID, Live ID and now Microsoft ID. Windows Live Essentials was renamed. Don't get me started with Messenger. Messenger, MSN Messenger, Live Messenger, .... SharePoint Server didn't start off as that. Metro interface became Modern interface. :-)

fiosdave
fiosdave

Why not just touch the Windows Logo key and type System Image.

lbim
lbim

Windows 8.1 Create System Image is located in C:\Windows\System32\sdclt.exe

Have to run it as Admin. Paragon 12 do better job.


amj2010
amj2010

The only way to get a proper image of your  Windows 8.1 is to get True  Image 2014 from Acronis.....period.

callharve
callharve

Did anyone read this article that Gree wrote?

Get the ISO you need to create your own Windows 8.1 DVD

By Greg Shultz in Windows and Office, November 6, 2013, 12:35 PM PST

wrice
wrice

A question: I do not have a Systems and Security section in my Control Panel. I cannot find File History using any search. Lots of articles but nothing else. All articles seem to be for WIN8, not 8.1. How do I find File History?? (I did my back-up based on the command line suggestions here at TR earlier).

Gnuggs
Gnuggs

So you have an image backup for 8.1. Now how do you reinstall it if all you have is a Win 8 install disk? In my case, a USB recovery is impossible because the PC will not boot from a USB recovery drive and the C: drive wont boot (which is why I want to reinstall). Am I missing something here? Seems like all everybody is concerned about is how to produce the image but very little is said about the limitations about using it to reinstall. Since so many people have been motivated by MS to upgrade, this is a pretty obvious issue that needs addressing. Anybody have a suggestion?

wrice
wrice

WARNING: I made a system image and needed to restore. It went fine until it started to restore and then it told me that I could only restore to identical hardware. It said the back-up was made on a BIOS system and my hardware was a UEFI system! It was the identical system, no hardware or software changes. I had to re-install the OS, install True Image and then use my TI image to restore.  Should not be so time consuming for a simple restore. (TI 13 does not work from a Recovery Disk in 8.1). 

deICERAY
deICERAY

"Why they didn't leave the name the same in Windows 8 is beyond me"-

It's for the same reason my "live" account is suddenly referred to as a "Microsoft account" - the same reason they can't do anything right, because they don't know what they're doing, can't make a good decision and can no longer deliver a viable, user-friendly, easy to use OS! Just LOOK at this huge article trying to explain the SIMPLEST OF TASKS!

OLDer OSs: click-click-click done

W 8.1 ooops doesn't exist and takes a 1000 words to explain! They are lost in their own code with no way out.

When I tried this, it said put in a USB stick! I have 2 TB of blank external drives, a blank 1TB internal drive, and I'm told I must use a STICK!

Then, because you lose ALL your APPS, and ALL you personalized settings (blankscreen included), when you upgrade to 8.1, when I tried to unblank the screen for a update on the process, I briefly saw the progress bar at 99% and a message saying:

               "CANCELLING"

I couldn't be more unimpressed with an OS responsible for most all of the PC activity on the planet. It's also unique in that no other product anywhere could get away with the bad behavior of M$. We're stuck now with dumbed down ideas like 'stores' for our 'apps' and big blank screens with dumb logos that do nothing and ctrol functions such as 'grabbing' the screen top - try that on a laptop - I cannot perform that maneuver and have had to add a mouse to gain even an infinitesimal amount of control over this out-of-control OS. I'm keeping a W7 box alive as long as possible, and plan to use a laptop to grind through the swamp that is 8.1, as it obviously isn't going away. If Bill really wants to help the planet, he'll buy back the company and liquidate it.

Sorry for the rant; I am appalled at my own inability to shut up about just how insulting infuriating and just plain bad 8/8.1 is, but so it goes. You have my sympathy, as you have to try to figure out a way to help users through the miasma that is W8. It makes me crazy.

andrew.glenda
andrew.glenda

Thank you Greg I had resorted to a command line in Powershell as admin.

"wbAdmin start backup -backupTarget:E: -include:C: -allCritical -quiet"

This is a lot easier! Please come up with a way of using a CD to create a to get to /recover from the image as wasting a 4GB stick for 500 mb of info is silly!

macgvr
macgvr

On my laptop running Windows 8.1, was upgraded from 8, the File history option is listed separately in Control Panel and there is no System and Security icon. Not sure why but others may have the same configuration. It is definitely easy to overlook  the System Image Backup option down there on the lower left. Odd that they didn't make it more obvious. Thanks for the info on where to find this.

TuesdayNews
TuesdayNews

you might want to mention that you have to create a System Recovery flash drive. You can't use a CD to restore the image.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin moderator

Have you been looking for a way to create a system image in Windows 8.1?

akshaykr
akshaykr

@amj2010 I would be grateful to you if you could provide the serial for Acronis as donation t me.

TuesdayNews
TuesdayNews

@amj2010

Interesting comment, and I'd be interested in your rationale. Myself, I am accustomed to/spoiled by the simple and trouble-free Win XP/Norton Ghost images. Here, when I restore an image, it is like my PC was simply turned off from the moment the image was made until it was restored.


Not so with Win 8/8.1 built-in facility. Following an image restoration, My PC is definitely not the same as when the image was made.


For example, Intel Management Engine Inteface driver is broken and must be uninstalled/reinstalled. Windows update seems to forget which updates I have hidden. A look at Event Viewer shows events that occurred between image creation and restoration. Why? Clearly, the image does not capture the entire system and system reserved partitions.



wrice
wrice

Sorry, my Control Panel actually has a File History entry by itself that works just fine.

TuesdayNews
TuesdayNews

@Gnuggs did you try hitting F8 during boot and choosing the BIOS option for your USB drive?

TuesdayNews
TuesdayNews

@wrice Mine does the same thing. Solution is to invoke your boot menu (generally via the F8 key) in UEFI and choose the BIOS option for booting from your flash drive.

n2add
n2add

@Mark W. Kaelin  

I use a third-party program (Acronis True Image Home) to create an image file.

wrice
wrice

@TuesdayNews @wrice Thanks. Seems we need a third party solution that works more simply. I have used True Image for a long time, but it doesn't function with 8.1. I had to buy a corded mouse to even find out that it could not restore my back ups in 8.1 from a recovery disk since it doesn't even see my wireless mouse. We need a newer review of Back up and Restore programs. The current ones are not up to date anymore for 8.1.  Thanks again.

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