Restore a Windows 8 or Windows 7 image backup to an unbootable PC

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Sam McCurry wisely created an image backup of his internal drive. Now he wants to know how that backup can help him should Windows fail to boot.

An image backup copies the complete contents of your drive, including the partition table and the boot sector, to a single file—usually stored on an external drive. Other forms of backup are fine for protecting documents and photos, but only an image backup can restore your personal Windows environment.

I’ll tell you to create an image backup, and how to restore it to an unbootable drive, in both Windows 7 and 8.

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Windows 8

To create the backup, plug in an external drive with plenty of free room, and make sure Windows can access it.

Use the Search charm to bring up and load the file history program. When the program comes up, click System Image Backup in the lower-left corner.

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Be patient; it may take a few seconds for the wizard to come up. But once up, it’s self-explanatory.

When you’re done, safely remove the external hard drive and plug in a flash drive. Go back to File History and click Recovery, just above System Image Backup link you clicked previously. Then select Create a recovery drive and follow the prompts.

When disaster strikes, boot from the Recovery drive. When asked to pick a keyboard layout, plug the external hard drive into another USB port. You should also pick your keyboard layout.

At the resulting Choose an option screen, select Troubleshoot>Advanced options>System Image Recovery>Re-image your computer.

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It’s all pretty clear from there.

Windows 7

To create an image backup, go to the Start menu’s search field, type backup, and select Backup and Restore. Click Create a system image in the left pane.

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When the backup is complete, you’ll be asked if you want to create a system repair disc. If you haven’t already done so, you do.

By the way, if you have a Windows 7 installation DVD, that will also work as a system repair disc.

When Windows won’t boot and it’s time to restore your image, boot with the system restore disc in your optical drive. Press any key when prompted to do so. At this point, you can also plug in the external hard drive containing the image.

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After you select your keyboard input method, select Restore your computer using a system image that you created earlier.

Everything from there should be self-explanatory.

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