How to create a Windows 7 system image

You can never have enough backups and I’ve always encouraged Daves Computer Tips readers to use Acronis True Image to backup their computer, and I still do. An image is the ultimate backup with the ability to restore your computer to the exact state it was in when the image was created. True Image has many features that make data backup and restore both efficient and reliable. There is, however, a feature in Windows 7 that allows a user to create a system image of their computer. It is fairly basic, but for those on a limited budget or with an emergency need it will do the job just fine (with a few caveats). Even if you have Acronis True Image, and I hope you do, you should have a look at this Windows 7 feature in case you need it in a pinch!

Windows 7 system image Pros

  • It is included in the OS.
  • It is reasonably easy to use.
  • It offers a recovery CD option so it offers an excellent recovery option.
  • It works.

Windows 7 system image Cons

  • Windows 7 creates a system image of the entire drive(s) selected so be sure you have lots of storage space available on the destination location.
  • If you choose to create the image on a hard drive it must be an external hard drive.
  • Windows does not offer any means to compress the images, so images will equal the total size of all internal drives.
  • There are no scheduling abilities so all images will need to be created manually.
  • There are no image management abilities so incremental and differential images are not possible, nor is there a method to automatically manage the images.
  • The On a network location option is NOT available on Home editions of Windows 7.
  • To benefit from an image you need a DVD burner to burn the System Repair disc.

Opening the System Image utility in Windows 7

  1. Click the Start Orb and type backup in the search box. Start the search by clicking the Enter key.
  2. You will see Backup and Restore in the results window. Click Backup and Restore to open the applet window.
  3. In the window that opens you will see two options in the left hand column – Create a system image and Create a system restore disc.

  4. Click Create a system image and a new window will open.
  5. The Create a system image will open and ask where you want to save the image, but there are a few points to remember:

    • The hard drive option only allows images to be made to external hard drives. Without an external hard drive the On a hard disc option will be unavailable.
    • If you do not have a DVD burner the On one or more DVDs option will be unavailable.
    • If you are using a Home edition of Windows 7 the On a network location option will unavailable.
    • Images created on an external hard drive will be the fastest.
    • Images created on DVDs will require many DVDs.

Creating the System Image

  1. Choose your backup location and click Next.
  2. A progress window will open. You have the option to stop the backup if needed.

Creating a System Repair Disc

    Once the image is created you will be asked if you want to create a System Repair Disc.

  1. Click Yes and a new window will open allowing you to choose which drive you want to use.
  2. Choose a CD/DVD burner (if you have more than one), insert a blank CD or DVD, and click Create disc.
  3. The window will show the progress as the repair disc is created.

    In a few moments the window will change to show the disc is completed.

    A new information window will open labeled Using the system repair disc.

  4. Use a marker to label the disc Windows 7 Repair Disc or something else that will remind you of the purpose of the disc.
  5. Store the disc in a location you will be able to find it when needed!

There you have it! A complete system image of your computer with the ability to restore a system that will not boot due to software problems.

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About the Author

David Hartsock

Executive Editor/Owner/Admin of Daves Computer Tips and all-around good guy - Dave's interest in computers began in the early 1980's during the Apple II era. In the early 1990's the PC began to replace proprietary and mainframe devices in Dave's industry so he began to learn and experiment with the PC. Through DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and now Windows 10. Dave became the "go to" guy for friends, family, and coworkers with computer problems. Daves Computer Tips was born in 2006 in an effort to share these experiences with others in an easy to understand, plain English, form.


  1. You don’t need a DVD burner to create a System Repair disk. The disk is only a few megabytes. A CD burner and a blank CD works great and is more reliable.

    You do NOT need to create the system image on an external drive. You can also create it on an internal drive (many desktops and even laptops have two drives), and you can even create it on the SAME laptop drive if you have divided that drive into more than one partition. Try it — I just did, and it works well. Much better than repeating what you’ve been told or have read.

  2. I am in the habit of frequently creating System Images and did create a System Repair Disc some time ago but not each time I have done an image since. Would there be a reason to create a System Repair Disc each time I create an Image?

    Is this System Repair Disc the same as the “(insert the) recovery CD/DVD you made earlier” mentioned in the article “Restoring a system image to a computer that won’t boot”?

    • Would there be a reason to create a System Repair Disc each time I create an Image?

      No, once you’ve created one system repair disc, that’s it, no need to create any more.

      Is this System Repair Disc the same as the “(insert the) recovery CD/DVD you made earlier” mentioned in the article “Restoring a system image to a computer that won’t boot”?

      Yes. The disc will boot to a menu with options to select a previously saved system image and restore it, specifically for when Windows will not boot.