Where did System Image Backup go, Windows 10?

Have you ever needed to send your Windows 10 system back to the manufacturer for a repair and they told you to back everything up because they were going to wipe it?  Or wanted to lend your laptop to a friend who wasn’t as careful about visiting “certain” websites as you are?  Or needed to install system software to take an online certification in the time of COVID and didn’t trust the uninstall?  If so, you want a quick and easy way to restore your system to the way it is today. 

In Windows 7, we used the System Image Backup to create an exact copy of your system drive including installed applications, files and folders, and settings.  Unfortunately, Windows 10 does not natively support System Images – they are only supported through legacy backup and restore.

These are the steps to create a system image backup in Windows 10, build 1909.  Go to Settings/Update & Security/Backup/More options/See advanced settings.  This takes you to the Control Panel.  From there select System Image Backup/Create a system image.  Alternatively, you can use the following command: 

wbadmin start backup -BackupTarget:<backup drive> -allCritical -include:c:

To restore your image backup, you will also need to create a system repair disc.  To create a system repair disc, you need to have a DVD writer – you still have one of those, don’t you?  Once you create the DVD, you can then copy the files onto a USB stick for booting into a system repair.  Or you can also do an advanced Startup via Settings/Update & Security/Recovery/Advanced Startup and click Restart now.  Then select Troubleshoot/Advanced options/See more recovery options/System Image Recovery.

Using Windows 10 native tools, you have a few options.  One is to create a recovery drive, but according to Microsoft, you also need to backup your files because “this is not a system image and doesn’t contain personal files, settings, or applications.”  Another option is to Reset your PC, but this option reinstalls Windows 10 and keeps your personal files, but removes apps and drivers you installed, removes changes you made to settings, and will (or will not depending on options) restore any apps your PC manufacturer installed if your PC came with Windows 10.  Next, you must reinstall your previously installed applications and change your settings. This article discusses your recovery options:  https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12415/windows-10-recovery-options.  Note that all these options require multiple steps to restore your system to the way it is today. 

So, why did Microsoft not include this extremely useful functionality in Windows 10 native backup?  I suspect that no one realized how useful this functionality is to the home user.  So, if you are listening, Microsoft, please add native Windows 10 support for System Image Backup!

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