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Need a quick and easy way to backup and restore Windows without relying on backup tools or the cloud for your personal data? While plenty of third party Windows backup and restore tools 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 6 Safest Ways to Backup & Restore Your Files in Windows 7 & 8 By now, we're sure you've read the advice over and over: Everyone needs to back up their files. But deciding to back up your files is only part of the process. There are so many... Read More are available, it’s time to learn how to make an ISO image of your Windows PC.

Images vs. Backups

We all know that backing up our data is important, especially when upgrading to a new version of Windows. But rather than fiddle around with partitions purely for personal data, or cloud storage, which might be slow to restore your vital files and folders, wouldn’t it be great to be able to simply take a backup of your entire Windows installation?

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Such a backup might be configured to include your personal folders, but omit apps and games, or you could opt to create an image of your entire system drive. Naturally, you would need a suitable volume of storage for such a backup.

Thanks to the ISO image format How To Make a Bootable USB, CD or DVD to Install Windows Using an ISO File How To Make a Bootable USB, CD or DVD to Install Windows Using an ISO File Need installation media to reinstall Windows? In this article we'll show you where to get Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10 installation files and how to create a bootable USB, CD, or DVD from scratch. Read More , it is possible to back up your data – essentially create an exact copy of your entire drive or selected directories – and restore it relatively quickly should disaster strike. ISO files can also be used to back up existing CDs and DVDs What Are ISO Files & How You Can Create, Use & Burn Them For Free In Windows 7 What Are ISO Files & How You Can Create, Use & Burn Them For Free In Windows 7 ISO files can be created from any CD or DVD you have lying around. They’re called "disc images" because they’re an exact image of a disc. An ISO file contains an exact representation of the... Read More , a useful means of reducing reliance on physical media.

Images and Disk Upgrade or Replacement

One popular use for disk images is creating a clone of your hard storage (hard disk drive or solid state drive), which might be on its last legs.

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DataNumen Disk Image is one such solution, runs on all versions of Windows and is available as freeware. Known as DDKI, this solution is straightforward. After downloading and installing the utility, use the Clone tab to select the drive you wish to make an image of; to clone multiple drives, use the Batch Clone tab.

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Select the destination location and assign a filename in the Output image file as box, where you should select the target disk drive – the device purchased to replace the old HDD.

Begin by clicking Start Cloning. When complete, your disc will be copied to its destination device, ready to use. Our look at HDD cloning How To Clone Your Hard Drive How To Clone Your Hard Drive Copy the entirety of one hard drive to another. It's called cloning, and it's an important process if you want to replace or upgrade the primary hard drive in your computer. Cloning isn't the same... Read More covers the topic in greater depth.

Create an ISO Before Upgrading to Windows 10

Creating an ISO image of your Windows installation is a great solution to any concerns you might have about upgrading to Windows 10.

Worried your PC may not boot after the upgrade? Heard horror stories from your friends at work? While issues with a Windows 10 upgrade are unusual, they can be utterly frustrating 5 Settings You Must Check After Windows 10 Fall Update 5 Settings You Must Check After Windows 10 Fall Update With every upgrade, Windows 10 introduces new options, changes user settings, and pushes its default apps. We show you how to revert the changes from the November Upgrade back to your own preferences. Read More , and often when upgrading from Windows 7 and 8, it isn’t possible to automatically roll back the installation.

This is where an ISO image comes in.

You might alternatively have already upgraded to Windows 10, and want to create an ISO image before you downgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 How to Downgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 7 or 8.1 How to Downgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 7 or 8.1 Windows 10 is here and maybe it's not what you expected. If you already upgraded, you can perform a rollback. And if you haven't yet, create a system backup first. We show you how. Read More .

Creating an ISO Disk Image in Windows 7

While Microsoft may recommend you backup your files rather than rely on complete system images, there’s no reason not to have an ISO disk image ready for a disaster recovery scenario. This might be an image of the system in its current state, or of a freshly installed Windows 7, complete with all of the apps How to Upgrade to Windows 10 & Take Settings and Apps with You How to Upgrade to Windows 10 & Take Settings and Apps with You Windows 10 is coming and you have a choice to make. Either you upgrade your existing Windows installation, or you can install Windows 10 from scratch. We show you how to migrate to Windows 10... Read More you regularly need (such as Microsoft Office, perhaps). Backing up to an ISO disk image is part of the Windows 7 backup and restore feature How To Set Up & Use Windows 7 Backup & Restore Feature How To Set Up & Use Windows 7 Backup & Restore Feature It's hardly a secret when I tell you that sooner or later you will need a backup of your personal data. Do you have one right now? What keeps most people from preparing regular backups... Read More .

To create a system image in Windows 7, open Start > Getting Started and then Back up your files. On the left-hand pane, click Create a system image, and select the destination.

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This might be an external hard disk drive or some other large volume. Multiple DVDs can be written to, if necessary, or if you have a Blu-ray writer, this should also be an option.

Do you have a home server, or some large storage on your network, perhaps in the shape of a purchased NAS (or a DIY device, perhaps using a Raspberry Pi)? If so, you can use the On a network location option. If you want to use a USB flash device, connect this to your computer in advance and select it as the destination – or use one of these bootable USB tools 10 Tools to Make a Bootable USB from an ISO File 10 Tools to Make a Bootable USB from an ISO File A bootable USB is the best way to install an operating system. Besides the ISO and a USB drive, you need a tool to set it all up. That's where we come in. Read More .

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With your selection made, it is time to select the drives to include in the backup. It is unusual for multiple drives to be required, but in most cases you will need to ensure that the System drive (by default the C: drive) is selected. The device you selected for the backup will not be listed here.

The confirmation screen will detail how much space will be taken up by the backup. Check this to ensure the figure matches the remaining space on the target device. Proceed with the backup, and wait while it completes; the duration will differ, based on the size of the backup and the speed of the drive.

Restoring the Windows 7 Disk Image

Once complete, Windows will suggest you create a system restore disc. This is a good idea, so find a blank disc and follow the instructions. You can then use this to boot your PC and select the System Image Recovery option to restore the ISO Disk Image of your Windows installation following a disaster scenario.

Note that other system restore discs are available 5 Best Rescue Disks For A Windows System Restore 5 Best Rescue Disks For A Windows System Restore Every Windows user should be aware of at least one bacon-saving, data-recovering system restore disk. It can help you access your computer to make repairs and backups, even when it won't boot. Read More , although conversely these may not have the disk image restore functionality.

Natively Create ISO Disk Images in Windows 8.1 and Windows 10

The same tool for creating a disk image is available in later versions of Windows. You ideally need to have upgraded Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 before proceeding here.

To find the system image creation tool, press Start and type “file history“. The automatic search will display the File History entry first, so click this to open the File History tool, then System Image Backup in the lower left corner.

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You can then proceed as detailed above. With the ISO backup created, use the steps for Windows 8.1, below, to restore the image in Windows 10. In a disaster recovery scenario, you will need to boot into the Windows 10 equivalent of Safe Mode How to Boot Into Windows 10 Safe Mode How to Boot Into Windows 10 Safe Mode Safe Mode is an inbuilt troubleshooting feature that allows you to fix issues at the root, without non-essential applications interfering. You can access Safe Mode in various ways, even if Windows 10 no longer boots. Read More to restore the image.

Restoring Your Windows 8.1 Disk Image

If a Windows 10 upgrade doesn’t work out for you (perhaps you’ll experience a reboot loop), having an ISO image to fall back on is a massive advantage. You can restore the Windows 8.1 disk image in Window’s Advanced options screen, which you will find by pressing F8 repeatedly when your PC boots up (or holding SHIFT as you click Restart).

In Advanced Startup Options, select Repair your Computer > System Image Recovery and follow the instructions, ensuring that Windows can find the ISO file.

Note that even if you have the Windows 8.1 installation media you can still restore the disk image. At the Install now screen, use the Repair your computer link and then Repair.

From here you’ll be redirected to the Advanced Startup menu, so select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > System Image Recovery, following instructions to restore your Windows ISO system image.

ISO Like this Solution!

As you can see, creating an ISO image backup of your entire Windows system is perfect for backing up in advance of a major system upgrade. Additionally, the speed with which the ISO can be created and subsequently restored should make it a far more attractive option than just backing up your data and hoping for the best.

Have you used ISO system images to backup and restore Windows? Did it help you avert a Windows 10 upgrade disaster scenario? Tell us all about it in the comments.

  1. John
    November 29, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Hey, your instructions are incorrect under Restoring the Windows 7 Disk Image
    You state "...You can then use this to boot your PC and select the System Image Recovery option to restore the ISO Disk Image of your Windows installation following a disaster scenario."
    This is wrong info. The image is NOT an ISO image!!! Hello!!!

  2. Amir
    October 27, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Will writing an ISO file to an external drive using DDKI erase the data from this drive?

  3. ARNK
    August 17, 2016 at 5:04 am

    A bit curios too as to why this process doesn't create an .ISO file, just folders - as others have mentioned. How do you turn this information into an .ISO?

  4. aronne
    May 21, 2016 at 11:39 am

    ... I didn't read the posts already made. Just refer to Teddy's comment, I have the same need!
    Cheers

  5. aronne
    May 21, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Hi, what u suggested for ISO backup on win7 is just a generation of several files and folders. How to convert them into .ISO file?

  6. Teddy Biesecker
    April 29, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    I followed the "Creating an ISO Disk Image in Windows 7" instructions above, and it created a backup folder at the target location, but it wasn't an .ISO file, which is what I need.

  7. Damian
    March 10, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Recommending the internal W10 iso imaging thorugh [File history] maybe
    helpful for users not really caring about this spy-OS only.

    I disabled all sneakers including system restore, error reportings
    and removed Cortana which is one of MS personal data snatcher
    clumped in a useful user tool.

    Got a nice and smoothe working W10 now.

    But you can't have one without the other - no internal iso,
    no recovery anymore.

    Trying to create a recovery drive leads to this:

    "We can't create a recovery drive anymore...some files are missing".

    "We can't...", MS arrogance means "We don't want".

    So I'll go walk with Acronis another decade.

    • Christian Cawley
      March 10, 2016 at 10:18 am

      Agreed that the MS recovery tool isn't perfect, but it is your choice to use Acronis. If Redmond don't have the resources to put into building a complete backup solution, then it is an opportunity for others. Let's celebrate that, rather than decrying Microsoft.

  8. dleippe
    December 13, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    Using Windows to make an image is challenging. Every version of Windows since Vista has had a feature to make system backups. But each version has a different process for creating and restoring the image.

    I recommend using a third party program like Acronis or Macrium. I can make the backup image using an old versions of Acronis using a bootable media such as a CD/DVD or USB device. I can restore the image using any other version of Acronis. I only need to learn how to use one product.

  9. Per Duun
    December 1, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    I use Macrium Reflect (free) for backup purposes and it does basicly the same as described in the article. You should also use it before an upgrade to win 10 or any other major changes to your system.

  10. fred
    December 1, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    This whole ISO image thing seems kind of "clunky" to me :-) I use Acronis True Image and I have ONE big file on my "backup server" of my systems running across the network, using a bootable CD with the Acronis program on it. Some of my systems (I have many) have usage of over 1-200 GB total on the hard disk. That's a LOT of DVD's or ISO image files to keep track of :-) hehe and 200 GB would be at least 8 Blue Ray's... crazy expensive...

    Acronis is a lot simpler :-)

  11. Mike
    December 1, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Making a clone prior to chancing your luck on a Windows 10 update is the most sensible thing anyone can do and I cant stress that enough. Microsoft may have tested the update process on new hardware like HP, Dell or Acer for example, but they have failed abysmally testing it on generic hard ware and their drivers for very capable PC's of circa 2012 or earlier. Even my new TV stick (2015) fails an upgrade from Win 8.1 to Win 10 so they obviously didn't bother to test the process on that.

    Play safe and create a clone then at least you can fall back.

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