Create a System Image on Windows 8.1 Update 1 or Later

Discussion in 'Tutorials & Guides' started by Spawn, May 5, 2014.

  1. Spawn

    Spawn Administrator
    Staff Member Content Creator

    Jan 8, 2011

    Creating a system image in Windows 8.1 wasn't as simple as it was in previous version. It is still possible by visiting the File History window. I have included some screenshots to help with creating a System Image Backup on Windows 8.1 Update 1.

    Open the Search by pressing Win+S, search for "file history" (without quotes), and click on "File History".


    Wait for File History to initialize, so if you see this screen just be patient and wait.


    Once loaded, click on "System Image Backup", from the bottom left of the window.


    If there is space available, you can choose to create a system image backup to your hard disk drive.
    It also displays your last backup time and date.


    Depending on amount of space taken, the backup varies in size. If you have used System Image Backup before, it will replace your last backup.

    I recommend moving your system backup to an external hard drive.


    (This last backup took no more than 10-15 minutes).

  2. King Mellow

    King Mellow Level 25

    Jun 21, 2013
    Manila, Philippines
    Windows 10
    Just did this yesterday. And yeap doing a backup is very fast.
    MrXidus likes this.
  3. trainbus120

    trainbus120 New Member

    Sep 12, 2013
    New Delhi
    wow... intense and exhaustive !!!
  4. MrExplorer

    MrExplorer Level 28

    Nov 15, 2012
    Want to become an Cyber Security Expert
    Windows 10
    Thanks, Nice Guide.
  5. Oxygen

    Oxygen Level 42

    Feb 23, 2014
    United States
    Windows 10
    Great, thank you!
  6. MrXidus

    MrXidus Super Moderator (Leave of absence)

    Apr 17, 2011
    I've been using this feature since I had Windows 8 and I still use it to this day on Windows 8.1 Update 1.

    When making the backup to an external HDD with USB 3.0 speeds it performs the backup quickly.

    The restore process is also quick, I'd rather use this over having to freshly install Windows from a CD as that takes 4 times as long to do not to mention all the time having to re-install drivers and everyday software once installed.

    I make a new System Image every month hasn't ever let me down and with Windows 8/8.1 (with a UEFI enabled PC/Laptop) you can boot into UEFI click the Troubleshooting option > System Image Restore and go from there. or you can boot up from your Windows 8 CD if you have one and do the same if you don't have UEFI.

    Relating to fast and easy backups, a product called AX64 Time Machine might be worth trying.

  7. Jemino.x

    Jemino.x Level 1

    Jul 7, 2012
    Network Security Administrator
    Simple as & useful! No third-party application required... Thanks for sharing!
  8. Umbra

    Umbra From Emsisoft

    May 16, 2011
    Community manager
    Vietnam & France
    Windows 10
    Same here, no need bloated useless Acronis, paragon and other macrium.


    yep, it is my "weekly backup" snapshot tool
  9. idletester

    idletester Level 1

    Aug 6, 2014
    Nice wee article I'm sure it will be of use to more than one of our members.
    Thanks for your time and the post! :)
  10. shemp

    shemp Level 1

    Jul 19, 2014
    Actually I believe the windows imager does make "changes only" backups after the initial first backup.You don't see these restore points until you're in the recovery environment and choose the advanced tab.
  11. idletester

    idletester Level 1

    Aug 6, 2014
    Here is a wee bit of an update to this problem: How to find the system image tool in Windows 8.1
    The system image tool in Windows is one way to back up your system, but if you upgraded to Windows 8.1, it's not where you last saw it. So I thought I would post this as it may be a help to some members. :)
  12. TIA

    TIA New Member

    Aug 21, 2014
    North Wales
    This is just what i needed to do next, so thanks for the tutorial.
    I wanted to get and image file of both 8 and 8.1 (don't ask me why)

    I have ordered myself a new 2TB external and two more 64gb flash drives as I intend to back up big time in preparation for asking you lovely people to help me in rid my laptop of that rotton rootkit.
    I have already made a bootable flash drive and a isystem image of windows 8 but it may be infected too much to use.
    I did wonder how I did this image disk on windows 8.1?
    Thanks again :rolleyes:
  13. Razor555

    Razor555 New Member

    Sep 15, 2014
    #13 Razor555, Sep 15, 2014
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2014
    Not sure if this works but last time i tried to restore the image it was asking for an 8.1 disk which i have "windows 8 disk" so it didn't work for some reason. Not to mention the broken refresh and reset functions when you update to 8.1. Simple and fast solution to all this mess is that i use Macrium Reflect. So screw MS, they can shove their broken functions where they know best.
  14. bjm_

    bjm_ Level 3

    May 17, 2015
    Zestafoni, Georgia
    Windows 10
    #14 bjm_, May 24, 2015
    Last edited: May 24, 2015
    Um, just found Thread
    Is there a way to create bootable media to use with native W8.1 image backup. Or, do I even need bootable. Do I simply change boot order and plug in my external and reboot to a recovery environment. Not in the know if Image itself is bootable.
    Um, how do I boot into UEFI click the Troubleshooting option (System Image Restore and go from there).
    I have OEM bootable thumbdrive.
    W8.1 OEM
    Edit: Is this what I need to know
    What about a bootable ...?
    What if I can't get the Charms bar or keyboard shortcut Winkey+C
  15. MrXidus

    MrXidus Super Moderator (Leave of absence)

    Apr 17, 2011
    You can create a bootable recovery media below.

    I personally have my System Image (WindowsImageBackup) saved on an external USB 3.0 portable HDD and when I need to restore to it I boot into UEFI and go from there via Troubleshooting option. I've done it this way since the beginning and haven't a need for an actual bootable recovery media.

    You can also boot directly to UEFI/Recovery from inside of Windows 8.1 itself assuming you have a GPT UEFI install and not Legacy BIOS.

    Via PC Settings:



    Then click Advanced Startup and from there you can go straight to the UEFI and click System Image Restore /Troubleshooting options plug in the external USB 3.0 HDD with your WindowsImageBackup system image saved and restore for example.
    jamescv7, Cats-4_Owners-2 and bjm_ like this.
  16. bjm_

    bjm_ Level 3

    May 17, 2015
    Zestafoni, Georgia
    Windows 10
    #16 bjm_, May 24, 2015
    Last edited: May 24, 2015
    Great ~ Super
    Found content of Spoilers. Now I just have to remember. ;)
    I've been using DiskWizard (Acronis limited functions)
    Now, decision. Which way to go. Wonder if I can use belt and suspenders. eg: W8.1 native image to internal. DiskWizard to external.
    Like before M$ bork Tuesday. Do an external just in case and otherwise do an internal. May be overkill. :confused:
    DiskWizard bootable gets by with DVD
    Windows bootable wants 32gb...with checkbox for recovery partition. Wonder how DiskWizard gets by with DVD and Windows Recovery Drive needs recovery partition and why...?
    and DiskWizard media has UEFI loader
  17. mister_monkeyman

    mister_monkeyman New Member

    Jun 2, 2015

    To reproduce the problem:

    1>Connect the HDD containing the system image to a USB3 port, connect a bootable USB flash drive containing Windows 8.1 installer to a USB2 (or USB3) port. (Hard disk must be USB3, I have not tried with a USB2 hard disk, as I don't have one).

    2>Restart the laptop and select the option to boot from USB drive, Windows 8.1 boots up from the installer and asks you to select an option. (the external hard disk seems to be working at this point, the LED indicator on the external hard disk is lit up).

    3>Go to "troubleshoot" and trigger a "system image recovery".

    4>A message pops up saying no system images were found, and asking you to plug in the external hard drive or insert a DVD containing the image.

    5>Unplug the external hard disk, and plug it back into the same USB3 port, or another USB3 port, click "Retry", the same message (mentioned in step4) pops up again. The hard disk is working though, the LED is lit up, it's as if Windows is unable to see the Hard Disk even though it's plugged in.

    6>Unplug the hard disk and plug it into a USB2 port this time, click "retry", Windows sees the hard disk and shows you the recommended system image to restore from.

    Conclusion: It appears that Windows 8.1 system image recovery, when started from the Installation disk, does not load USB3 drivers. The external hard disk is perfectly healthy, and the USB3 ports work fine when accessed from inside Windows 8.1, but fails to see the hard drive when booted up from the installation disk.

    If your Windows 8.1 installer is present in a USB2 flash drive, and if you plug this flash drive in your USB3 port, Windows is able to see this flash drive and boot from it though.

    QUESTION> Is there a workaround? I can restore properly using USB2 port, but USB3 fails. USB3 works ONLY if I start the restore from inside Windows, ie, i boot to Windows, click on "Change PC settings" in settings charm, select the "recovery" option, and select system image recovery. But if I try this from the Installer disk, it fails. I have ordered an Asus ROG laptop which has ALL USB3 ports and NO USB2 port. How will I restore from the installation disk on this laptop? I cannot just connect the HDD to a USB2 port like I'm doing on my current laptop.
  18. John Burns

    John Burns Level 1

    Jan 20, 2017
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Windows 10
    Thank you for posting this - it's a little known tip that is really helpful. Appreciate your sharing.
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