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Windows 8.1: The Missing Manual by David Pogue

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System Images

When your hard disk crashes, you lose more than just your personal files. You also lose your operating system—and all the programs you’ve installed, and all their updates and patches, and all your settings and options and tweaks. It can take you a very long time to restore your PC to that state.

A system image solves the problem easily. This feature (called Complete PC Backup in the Windows Vista days), creates a perfect snapshot of your entire hard drive at this moment: documents, email, pictures, and so on, plus Windows, and all your programs and settings. Someone could steal your entire hard drive, or your drive could die, and you’d be able to install a new, empty one and be back in business inside of an hour.

It’s a good idea to make a fresh system image every few months, because you’ll probably have installed new programs and changed your settings in the interim.

Note

For the techies scoring at home, a system image is a .vhd file, the same kind that’s created by Microsoft’s Virtual PC software—and, therefore, you can mount it using Virtual PC, if you like.

Make the Image

To make a system image, open the Control Panel. Under the System and Security heading (in Category view), click “Save backup copies of your files with File History.” When the corresponding screen appears, click System Image Backup. Continue as shown in Figure 22-1.

No matter where you store the image, you’ll need a lot of empty disk space. Not as much as your entire PC drive, because you won’t be backing ...

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