Computer Tips & Advice - Backup Windows

Another very important thing you should be doing on a regular basis is backups. Backing up your data files and photos should be done frequently (daily or weekly), but it’s also a good idea to backup your entire operating system at least once per year. If you have Windows 7, then you already have a free utility to accomplish this task. It’s included as part of their “Backup and Restore” program. If you have Windows 8.1, then the utility is there just harder to find.

Click here for How-To Geek’s article on backing up Windows 8 systems

To create a full backup of your Windows 7 operating system, you will either need to have your hard drive partitioned into C: and D: drives or purchase an external hard drive to store the image. Obviously storing the backup image on another hard drive is the preferred and safer method, but if your drive is partitioned you can keep the image of C: on D: instead. If your drive is not partitioned, you can purchase fairly low-cost external drives on sale at the depots. Just make sure you purchase a good name-brand unit (Western Digital, Seagate, etc.), keeping in mind that even a 500Gb drive is plenty big enough for storing backups.

If you are going to store the image on D:, make sure you have enough free space to hold the backup. If you open Computer, then look for the C: and D: icons you can check each one to see what kind of space you will require vs what you have available. Right-click the C: icon (Windows) and select Properties, this will give you an idea of how much space is required for the backup image (usually 30Gb or more). You then right-click the D: icon and select properties, then make sure the free space is at least equal to the space used on C:.

Sample image of C: drive with space used

C: Drive Properties

Sample image of D: drive with space available

D: Drive Properties

Regardless of whether you store the backup image on D: or an external hard drive, the process is the same. If you are going to use an external hard drive for the backup, make sure you plug it in before opening this backup utility. If you look in Start / All Programs and Maintenance, you will see a program called “Backup and Restore”. Click the icon to open the program, then click “Create System Image” on the left-hand side.

Windows "Backup and Restore" main screen

The Windows backup utility will scan your drives first, then ask where you want to save your backup image. If you are using an external hard drive and it’s already connected, then it should select that drive automatically. Make sure the backup location is the correct drive (either D: or the external drive), then click “Next”.

Windows "Create a System Image" main screen

Your Windows 7 partition will be automatically selected, plus in most cases the small 100Mb - 400Mb boot partition for Windows 7 will also be selected (if it exists). My system doesn’t have that separate boot partition so it’s not showing in the sample image below. You don’t need to include any other drives in this backup, so just click “Next” to continue.

Windows "Create a System Image" drives screenshot

The program will ask you to confirm the details of your backup, plus it will show how much approximate space will be needed for this backup image. As long as you picked the correct location for the backup, all you have to do is click “Start Backup”. If not, click “Cancel” and go through the steps again.

Windows "Create a System Image" confirmation screen

Once the backup is complete (usually 15-20 minutes), you will be prompted to create a “Windows Repair Disk”. You will need one blank DVD+R disk for this step and if you have one available, it’s a good idea to create one. You only need to do this once and it can be done later, so if you don’t have any blank DVDs available just click “No” to skip this step.

Windows "Create System Image" Create a Repair Disk
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