Microsoft

Restore Windows 8 with System Image Recovery

Greg Shultz shows you how to use System Image Recovery tool from the Recovery Drive to restore your hard disk.

In a recent series of blog posts, I've shown you how to use two of Windows 8's new recovery tools, Refresh your PC and Reset your PC. While the Reset your PC tool will allow you to essentially start from scratch and the Refresh your PC tool will allow you to install a new copy of the operating system while retaining your data, you may also want to have a backup of your full system - data and applications - on hand, just in case you encounter a catastrophic hard disk failure.

If so, you'll be glad to know that the tried and true System Image tool still exists in Windows 8 and as long as you have created a system image of your hard disk, you can use the System Image Recovery tool to recover your entire system in the event of a hard disk failure. In other words, if your hard disk goes south, you can purchase a new hard disk and use the System Image Recovery tool to restore your system to the state it was in at the time that you created the image.

Now, keep in mind that for this type of backup to be truly effective, you need to regularly create new System Images so that in the event of a recovery, you will have a recent version of your system.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how to use System Image Recovery tool from the Recovery Drive to restore your hard disk. As I do, I'll also show you how to create a System Image on a set of optical discs.

This post is also available as a Slideshow Image Gallery.

What you need

In order to run the System Image Recovery tool as I'll describe in this article, you'll need to have created a Recovery Drive as I showed you in the article Create a Recovery Drive in Windows 8. You'll also need a set of optical discs or on an external drive on which to create a system image of your hard disk.

Creating a System Image

As I mentioned, in order to use the System Image Recovery tool you must have created a system image of your hard disk. As such, I'll begin by walking you through the steps required to create a system image.

To create a system image in Windows 8, you'll start by accessing the oddly named Windows 7 File Recovery window. (Why not just call it File Recovery or Windows Backup and leave it at that?) To do so, use the [Windows] + W keystroke to access the Search Settings page. Then, type Windows 7 File in the text box and click Windows 7 File Recovery, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Accessing the Windows 7 File Recovery tool from the Start screen is easy.
In a moment, you see the Windows 7 File Recovery user interface and you should select the Create a system image command on the left side of the screen to launch the creation tool. On the first screen you will need to choose where you are going to create a system image. For my example, I am going to create the system image on a set of DVD+R discs in the DVD RW drive, as illustrated in Figure B.

Figure B

On my test system, I'll create the system image on a set of DVD+R discs.
When you click Next, you will be prompted to confirm your backup settings, as shown in Figure C. As you can see, in addition to the main partition, the System Reserved partition is also selected to be backed up. On my test system, which is pretty bare bones at this point, the system is indicating that the image will take up 36GB of space. (When the operation was complete, the system image, with compression, only required three 4.7GB DVD+R discs.) When you are ready, just click the Start backup button.

Figure C

On the Confirm your backup setting page take a look at the information presented and then click the Start backup button.
As Windows begins preparing for the operation, it will prompt you to label and then insert the first DVD disc This process is illustrated in Figure D.

Figure D

To get started, insert the first disc and click OK.
Once you insert the blank disc, you'll be prompted to format it. Make sure that you select the Don't ask me again for this backup check box before you click the Format button. The operation will then format the optical media, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Make sure that you select the Don't ask me again for this backup check box.
As the backup operation gets under way, you'll see progress indicators letting you know the status of the operation, which includes verification of the media once the backup portion is complete. After each disc is verified, you'll be prompted to insert a new disc. This process is illustrated in Figure F.

Figure F

Creating a System Image on DVDs includes a verification operation.
When the System Image creation procedure is complete, you'll be prompted to create a System Repair disc, as shown in Figure G. However, as you may remember, a System Repair disc is the same as the Recovery Drive and if you have already created a Recovery Drive, you can just click No and you will be notified that the backup completed successfully.

Figure G

In Windows 8, the System Repair disc is the same as the Recovery Drive.

Now that you have a System Image backup, you are ready for an emergency situation.

Launching System Image Recovery

In the case of a hard drive failure, you can restore Windows 8 by running the System Image Recovery tool from the Recovery Drive. While I am booting from a USB Recovery Drive, you can just as easily boot the Recovery Drive from the optical disc. (As a part of my research for this article, I ran the System Image Recovery tool after booting from an optical disc and the procedure is basically identical.)

After your system boots from the Recovery Drive and you are prompted to choose an option, select the Troubleshoot tile as shown in Figure H.

Figure H

When you are prompted to choose and option, select the Troubleshoot tile.
When you see the Troubleshoot screen, as shown in Figure I, select the Advanced options tile.

Figure I

From the Troubleshoot screen, select the Advanced options tile.
When you see the Advanced options screen, as shown in Figure J, select the System Image Recovery tile.

Figure J

From the Advanced options screen, select the System Image Recovery tile.
You'll then be prompted to choose the operating system that you want to recover, as shown in Figure K. Now, when performing a system image recovery operation, it seems redundant to have to select the operating system, but you must click the Windows 8 tile to get started.

Figure K

Choose Windows 8

The recovery process

As soon as you click the Windows 8 tile, you'll see the Re-image your computer wizard and the tool will immediately begin looking for media containing the system image, as shown in Figure L.

Figure L

The Re-image your computer wizard will immediately begin looking for media containing the system image.
When it can't find the system image, it will prompt you to insert a disc. Take note that when restoring from DVD, you must first insert the final disc in the set, as shown in Figure M. The reason being is that when you create a system image, information required by the restore operation is saved on the final disc.

Figure M

Information required by the restore operation is saved on the final disc.
When you insert the final disc, the Re-image your computer wizard will read the information on the final disc and then display the details of the system image, as shown in Figure N. As you can see, my system image is on drive F, it was created on 2/25 at 11:28 PM, and it is the image for the computer named Jovian-8. When you are ready, just click Next.

Figure N

When Re-image your computer wizard is ready to begin, it will display the system image details.
You'll then see the second screen of the Re-Image Your Computer wizard, as shown in Figure O. As you can see, this screen provides you with several options. If you are restoring to the same hard disk, you don't need to select the Format and repartition disks check box. (For my example, I selected the Format and repartition disks check box, just to see if that changed the process in any way. Other than possibly adding a little time to the process, the steps and the end result were the same.) If you are restoring to a new hard disk, chances are that the Format and repartition disks check box will be selected by default and will be unavailable. If that is the case, there is nothing to worry about as long as the new hard disk is of the same capacity or greater than the old one.

Figure O

The second screen in the Re-Image Your Computer wizard provides you with a number of options to choose from.

If you have multiple drives you can click the Exclude Disks button and choose the drive(s) you want to leave untouched. If you click the Advanced button, you'll see a dialog box that will present you with two additional options. An Automatically Restart check box will be selected by default and you'll have the option to enable a disk check operation as a part of the procedure. (Now, if none of the options are available on this dialog box, you may have to install drivers for the disks you are restoring by clicking the Install Drivers button.)

When you click Next, you'll see the confirmation screen of the Re-Image Your Computer wizard, as shown in Figure P. To continue, just click Finish.

Figure P

To complete the Re-Image Your Computer wizard, just click Finish.
Of course, there is one more confirmation to work through, as shown in Figure Q. Just click Yes to get started.

Figure Q

Just click Yes in the final confirmation dialog box.
You'll then be prompted to insert the first DVD in the set, as shown in Figure R. Once you do so, just click OK.

Figure R

Once the operation is set to begin, you'll be prompted to insert the first disk in the set.

In a moment, the restore operation will begin and you'll see a progress bar that keeps you apprised of the status of the restore operation. Depending on how big your hard disk is, the restore operation can take a few hours. As each DVD in the set is restored, you'll be prompted to insert the next one.

When the restore operation is complete, you'll be prompted to click the Restart now button. If you happen to be away from your desk when this occurs, your system will restart on its own, as shown in Figure S.

Figure S

If you happen to be away from your desk when the restore operation is complete, your system will restart on its own.

When, your system restarts, you'll see the familiar logon screen.

What's your take?

Now that you know how a System Image Recovery procedure works in Windows 8, you will be prepared if the time comes when you are forced to restore your computer. Have you performed a System Image Recovery procedure before? If so, what was your experience? 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.

30 comments
vpagl
vpagl

hey just 1 thing..if i would not create image for drives other than c: (lets say i have 3 partitons- c: d: e: ) and I created image for c: only. On time of restoring will my d: and e: would be wiped off ?

or the data would be there without any interruption ?  just curious to know before screwing my system.plz
vpagl
vpagl

hey just 1 thing..if i would not create image for drives other than c: (lets say i have 3 partitons- c: d: e: ) and I created image for c: only. On time of restoring will my d: and e: would be wiped off ?

or the data would be there without any interruption ?  just curious to know before screwing my system.
hja
hja

Does this procedure work with Win 8.1?

JimVidaao
JimVidaao

 (Now, if none of the options are available on this dialog box, you may have to install drivers for the disks you are restoring by clicking the Install Drivers button.)

What drivers are these? Does anyone have a filename I should use? Been searching everywhere.

shubhanshu shukla
shubhanshu shukla

SIR PLZ help:

if i format my recovery drive as i have made 5 dvd's of recovery using HP recovery creation then will i be able to use system recovery so that it can only format my c: drive not the others plz reply soon

smjack813
smjack813

Rather going for re-imaging. I have a simple solution. A centralized system restore software. You just need to add it on your network. No need to re-image your network computers. It will take care of it. I know one software, Deep Freeze. You will get more information about it on Faronics site. We are using it in our school labs for managing more than 2000 computers. I have also recommended it several times. Its worth..

John94903
John94903

Here's the way to find "Windows 7 File Recovery" which allows you to make and restore a system image of your Windows 8 computer. 1. Open the "X" menu: Press and hold the Windows key and click X. (You can also right click in the lower left corner of the screen to open this menu.) 2. On the menu, click on "Control Panel" 3. In the Control Panel window, on the upper, right side, set "View by" to small icons. 4. With the icons showing, look for the "Windows 7 File Recovery" icon and click it. 5 In the Windows 7 File Recovery window, on the upper, left side, click on "Create a system image." Now, wasn't that intuitively obvious? Didn't Microsoft make that easy? There are some things to be annoyed about in Windows 8, and this might just be one of them. Good luck. It's a good way to backup, but I prefer the free Macrium Reflect program personally. (Google free Macrium Reflect to find it.) John

jonc2011
jonc2011

Greg: I was not brave enough to change the drive letters so did not follow up your advice. However, I have finally found a system image program that works for me on my Asus S400CA - Macrium Reflect Free - which has an excellent interface and backed up my 100 GB system drive in 25GB. I will edit this post if I have a problem restoring from the image. Strangely I did succeed in using W7FR on another machine, an HP upgraded to Windows 8, requiring 55GB for the 62GB OS, Macrium Reflect failed to back up this drive, not showing the partitions to back up in the backup window, It seems that you may need a paid version in this situation. The whole question of system imaging needs to be looked at by Microsoft and the computer manufacturers. Hopefully Windows Blue will address the W7FR problems that some machines experience.

robsodav
robsodav

This program does not seem to be present on my PC. Do you need Windows 8 Pro to have it available?

John94903
John94903

It's hard to get people to actually make system images. Having this tutorial to follow may just be what many need to get the job done and save themselves a lot of pain and time if they get a bad virus, lose a hard drive or just end up with a corrupted system because the stars are wrong when they do a program installation. Thanks

IGermainExplain
IGermainExplain

I recently had to completely reinstall my OS because I didn't have a backup. I call it my second Easter, because I ended up crucifying the HD and then raising the system from the dead. I had installed Symantec Endpont Protection 12 and the OS failed to reboot. None of the new Win 8 Recovery options worked. Reset and Refresh both said the HD was locked and could be accessed. Restore gives an error message that it needs a restore point without ever asking for one in the first place. There was no Start Options button. Going into DOS commands wouldn't work either. Neither would Shift + F8 while rebooting. There is simply no way to get into Safe Mode once normal boot fails. I run an Ivy bridge I7 on a Z68 MB with Intel's Smart Response using a 30 GB SSD for caching. This requires a partition on the HD to be set up in a RAID configuration. This is relevant because the HD can't be recognized as drive on another computer that isn't set up as RAID. Luckily, I have a bro who has the same setup. So putting the HD in an external USB enclosure, I was able to access files and copy them before I actually zeroed out the HD. My system has 2.5" hot swap port. So I'm looking to plug another SSD into that store backups and I read this article to find out how many GBs would be needed. I only need to store one backup at a time. I'd appreciate an answer to that and also whether I can store other things on a drive with a backup image, such as music or movies. I installed 2011 Turbo Tax and then downloaded the addition for my state. When I restarted, the OS crashed again and had the same problems. There is no way to restore or access Safe Mode. My analysis is same as most people. This OS sucks. I tell people it makes Vista look awesome. That gives them a pretty good understanding. I'm really not a conspiracy nut but it is real obvious that Microsoft is trying to make money, not provide the best product here. The book, "Windows 8 for Idiots," even states that Microsoft felt they were getting too many support calls for Safe Mode. Now, they want to charge $150 for someone in India to take remote access to your system and fix it because the most experienced MS wizard on your block has no clue any more. Any suggestions that could improve my Win 8 experience is much appreciated. As I tell my friends, I'm already half way through my semester of pledging. Too late to quit the fraternity and go back to Win 7.

ndgreen
ndgreen

You posted just a little too late for me. My SSD with Windows and programs went belly up and I have just had to recover to a spare HD while waiting for the SSD manufacturer to replace the failed drive under warranty. I made the mistake of preparing a partition on the spare drive for the system restore. Win 8 does not like that. The drive you restore to needs to be empty and selected as the boot drive in BIOS. Once I figured all that out (took a few evenings) the restore worked perfectly.

jonc2011
jonc2011

However in disk management - change drive letter is greyed out on the EFI drive, while on the Recovery partition only "Help" appears. It thus does not seem possible to change drive letters in Windows. However, I do have Partition Wizard Professional and could assign drive letters to the two drives using this. Curiously, in disk management, each of the drives appears not to contain data, but PWP states otherwise - though seemingly there is enough space (>50MB) for the back up to occur. Also PWP finds another drive that is hidden in disk management (a reserved drive of 128 MB). The drives reported by PWP and size/usage are as follows: Capacity Used Unused System Type Status Y: SYSTEM 300MB 34MB 265MB FAT32 EFI System partition Active & Boot Z:Recovery 600MB 392MB 207MB NTFS Recovery PartitioIn None ?? 128MB 128MB 0MB Other Reserved Partition None C: OS 186GB 89GB 96GB NTFS Data Partition System While I renamed the top two in PWP, I have not applied the changes yet as I thought I would seek your advice first. If you think it is safe, I will rename them and carry out the rest of your recommendation. BTW, the 128 MB reserved drive does not even appear on Disk Management. Seems to me that the manufacturer has been making things difficult for us. I had planned to add space to the top two drives using PWP, but cannot shift space out of C to Y and Z since the reserved partition will not allow size to be changed, and I therefore cannot move the space to Z and Y.

jonc2011
jonc2011

Repy button not working at present, sorry If you try to take an image using Windows 7 File Recovery, and get a message that there is not enough space to create the image, it turns out that there needs to be space on all the drives you want to back up. Windows 8 wants to backup the O/S, EFI and Recovery partitions, and each must have enough space - in principle 50 MB but in practice more. See for example http://www.sevenforums.com/backup-restore/181573-not-enough-room-create-system-image-but-there.html or a number of other pages. I bought a new 1TB external drive thinking initially that W7FR might think the 400GB on my other external drive wasn't enough. However it did not help. Hope you can think of a solution.

John94903
John94903

HI Greg, I do regular image backups but use Macrium Reflect Free because it allows more control than the Windows built-in imaging. I just prefer it to the Windows software, but it does the same job and both are good. I calculated that your ~36GB backup example would take 9 standard DVDs. If one is bad, there is no backup. The time is awful, and you have to stand-by to swap disks both in creating and restoring. For $50-$75 you can buy a 500GB USB 2.0/3.0 portable hard drive for backups. Start the backup or restore and just walk away. It's much faster than optical media, there's no disk swapping, and there's less chance of a corrupted disk. You could store 10 or more backups on one drive for convenience and the ability to restore to various times if needed. Keep up the great articles. You write so well that it's a pleasure to read them. John

henry
henry

Hello Greg Firstly I appreciate your efforts and the skill with which you present your takes to us here Greg I have just done a job in W7 which I still like and particularly because of the image file creation ability it has for the OS to be backed up and restored. The same thing is still in W8 thank goodness. I do it a bit differently Greg and my take goes like this. Put in a 1 terabyte hard disk preferably of Raid Quality and partition it thus using PWHE free version 7. Make OS say 150 gigs, Data partition 730 gigs and W7_Bkup partition say 120 gigs. I know these sizes add up AOK but in reality they are all slightly less???!! The real trick I do is to open two windows and drag and drop all the user folders from the OS Users place into the DATA partition. Actually moving them all directly out of the OS and things like Word etc. write automatically to the My Documents folder in the DATA partition as an example. Some accounting packages need to have their updated database files also sent to the DATA partition for one easy backup of this whole partition to a USB3 external disk using Syncback Pro or SE versions. Then I can make the OS image backup folder/files plural into the 3rd partition and using the restore disk I can then revamp the OS from this image and leave the DATA totally untouched. I can easily make the image file this way, say before loading some new programme and it simply overwrites the old image file. I like this aspect of the Image file creation method. Optical disks are really slow and a large OS of say 50 gigs in W8 for instance would be hellish slow onto optical disks, let alone having to be around to make the disk changes. The top fight AMD machine I just made up made the image file in a very short time I noted as I finished her off for my client. Works a treat in W7 and thankfully in W8 as well. PS Running on my own machine Syncback Pro wakes up my computer at 3am every morning, does the backup fully automatically and then the machine goes back to sleep when done. Great programme it is and I have multiple jobs all done automatically (in the right order) off a big server in Auckland City working just fine. I also have a piece of software that was made in central USA by “The Shadow” that allows me to make a one huge recoverable file of a whole computer with minimal data or all DATA content. I can store these massive files (20gigs or more) onto a hard disk for revamping client’s machines at a later date. Does anyone on here have an email address for The Shadow by the way? Henry 72

davidmathiraj
davidmathiraj

Hi, Greg !! Thanks for the step by step information. Although I have done the same work through, Control panel options. So far, I am not given a chance for recovery. Thanks for the valuable info.

jonc2011
jonc2011

The problem seems to be that Create Image needs space on every drive it seeks to backup, defaulting in my case to the C:, EFI and Recovery partitions (on an Asus notebook) which cannot be changed. It is not possible to add space to the Recovery partition, since there is a small reserved partition between it and C:, meaning that you cannot transfer space from C: to Recovery. There is no way round this that I can see apart from using a third party imager like Acronis. Pity. Maybe this is only a problem with Asus notebooks, or maybe it is wider.

ttx19
ttx19

windows 8 is crap you can not back or restore in it the tec at microsoft could not tell me or show how and to the cloud it is crap all so you are fools to put your info on some one else computer and when you go to windows 8 you are giving your computer to microsoft that is the truth they see what you run and what you install and what your email is and what pics on your computer go read the license at the time of install you will find you can not sue microsoft and you are giving they the right to log in to your computer at any time and you will not know it stay with windows xp or 7 only

Slayer_
Slayer_

Haven't you heard? That upgrade Windows 8 is getting, Windows blue, the latest leaks say that this feature has been removed. http://www.neowin .net/news/windows-blue-has-removed-system-image-recovery-leaves-us-a-bit-perplexed

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you create a System Image of your organization's systems? How often do you update those images? How often do you have to use those images to recover a system?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...that Macrium is working for you. Will have to wait and see what, if any, changes MS made to W7FR in 8.1.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...I found what appears to be the solution. Since I have not encountered this problem, I can not say first hand that this is the solution, but I did find a number of cases where people were reporting the same problem and this solution worked. As you may know, in order to keep track of changes to files, the NTFS file system maintains an update sequence number (USN) change journal. When any change is made to a file or directory, the USN change journal is updated with a description of the change and the name of the file or directory. This is how features like restore points and Previous Versions work. Well it turns out that certain file or disk operations cause USN change journal entries to be created on the System Reserved partition but they either shouldn't be or they should be automatically deleted. Whatever the situation, the build up of entries in the System Reserved partition uses up the space that the System Image creation process needs to store data when it is running. When that happens, you receive the Error Message: There is not enough disk space to create the volume shadow copy of the storage location 0x80780119 Fortunately, there is a command line tool called FSUTIL that you can use to clean up/remove USN change journal entries from a drive. However, since the System Reserved partition isn't assigned a drive letter you will have to temporarily do so using Disk Management console. Here's how: - Press [Windows]+R to launch the Run dialog box - Type diskmgmt.msc and click OK - Right click on the System Reserved partition and select the Change drive letter and paths command - When the dialog box appears, click the Add button - Use the Assign drive letter drop down to select a letter like Q and click OK Once you have a drive letter assigned to the System Reserved partition, you'll access an Administrative Commnand Prompt and you can use FSUTIL to remove USN change journal entries from a drive Here's how: - Press [Windows]+X to launch the Tools menu - Select Command Prompt (Admin) - In the command prompt, type fsutil usn deletejournal /N /D Q: - Now, close the Administrative Command Prompt window - Return to Disk Management, right click on the System Reserved partition and select the Change drive letter and paths command - When the dialog box appears, click the Remove button You should now be able to create a system image. Let me know.

vrakeshis
vrakeshis

Hi, Your suggestion against DVDs is very reasonable. Could you please tell me if my personal data can co-exist with multiple versions of system image on my adequately sized portable hard drive?? If yes, Can I start off the process on my portable hard drive with my personal data already in place ?? I intend to use the windows 8 tool to create the system image. Also when you say that I can store multiple system images(or versions) then during restoration from the system image, will there be provision to actually browse/select the image/version that I want ??? Thanks, Rakesh

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...why you think that the Image Creation procedure needs space on the drive it is trying to backup? Where were you creating/saving the image? To DVD discs or to an external hard disk?

IGermainExplain
IGermainExplain

You're preaching to choir but you might want to ease up on the coffee. Or put a little less crank in it. Once your kick that ADHD, you could focus on sentence structure and add a little punctuation.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...about what will and will not be in the followup to Windows 8. Just because System Image Recovery doesn't appear on the recovery drive menu on such an early build, isn't a reason to go all [b]chicken little.[b] ;-)

Slayer_
Slayer_

That should make it valid :)

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