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How to create and restore an image backup in Windows 10

Creating your image backup

Start by plugging in your external hard drive. Make sure Windows can access it.
For some strange reason, Microsoft created a perfectly good image backup tool, then hid it. Here’s how you get to the image backup program:
1.   Right-click the Start button and select Control Panel.
2.   When the Control Panel window is up, select the Search field in the upper-right corner and type file history.
3.   Click the title File History.

image select file history
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You have to type file history, then click file history, to get to File History


4.   Click System Image Backup in the lower-left corner.
Congratulations. You found the secret image backup tool.
Click Create a system image in the left panel. This brings up a wizard for setting up the backup. On the first page, tell the wizard you want the backup on your plugged-in external drive.

image select target
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Select the drive where your backup will reside—preferably an external hard drive.

On the wizard’s second page, select the partitions you want in this image backup. Or don’t; the default will probably be right.

image select backup
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You can select the partitions to back up, although the default will probably be correct.

On the Wizard’s next and final page, check to make sure the settings are right, then click Start backup.

Restoring an image backup

What do you do when Windows breaks? Before you can restore your image backup, you must get to a special “Choose an option” screen, which exists outside of Windows. There are two ways to get there.
If Windows is still running, click Start and then the power icon. Hold down SHIFT while you click Restart. Windows will shut down and bring up the Choose an option screen.

image choose options
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This outside-of-Windows, tricky-to-get screen is your starting place for restoring an image.

If Windows won’t boot, you’ll have to boot from the Recovery Drive. Turn off your PC, plug the flash drive into a USB port, and boot. Your PC may need a little help booting from an external drive. If your PC still tries (and fails) to boot from your installed version of Windows, see my article on booting from a USB flash drive. Once you’ve successfully booted from the external drive, select a keyboard layout and the Choose an option screen will appear.
Once you’re at that screen, plug in the external hard drive with the backup. Then select Troubleshoot > Advanced options System Image Recovery.
It’s all pretty clear from there.
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