How to Create a System Image Backup in Windows 7, 8, or 10

Normal backup programs, like CrashPlan or Windows’ built-in File History feature, essentially copy your files to another location. A system image backup, on the other hand, is like a full snapshot of an entire hard drive. The advantage of a system image is that if a hard drive crashes, you can replace it, restore the image, and have your system right back to where it was when the image was captured. No need to reinstall Windows or your apps.

The biggest disadvantage with system image backups—other than taking a bit longer—is that you can’t restore the backup to a different PC. You’re creating an image of your full Windows installation and, since Windows is set up specifically for your hardware, it just won’t work as-is in another PC. It would be like trying to plug your hard drive into another PC and expecting everything to load well. With that in mind, though, image backups can still be really handy.

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