Create a Windows 8 Backup Image

Windows 8 has some cool new tools for fixing your PC without having to go through all kinds of crazy boot screens and command prompts like in older versions of Windows. The two main features you may have heard of are Refresh PC and Reset PC. Refresh PC is kind of like doing a repair install of Windows, but now you just press one button instead of the long process it was in Windows XP and Windows 7. Resetting your PC is basically performing a full reinstall of the OS, again with just one click of a button.

In addition to those options, there is also another very easy recovery option that is better than refresh and reset, in my opinion. You can create an image backup of your Windows 8 PC with all your settings, data, and apps the way you want them to be restored. The only downside to Refresh PC is that it will preserve your data and Metro apps, but it will remove any desktop apps that you install. With an image, you can configure Windows 8 with all the Metro and desktop apps you want, plus any other settings and then create the image.

What’s really nice is that when you go to refresh your PC again after creating the image, it will refresh the PC from the image backup automatically! And again, the Refresh PC and Reset PC options are available through Windows and they are also available in Windows RE, which is the Windows Recovery Environment that you can load in case Windows 8 won’t boot up.

In this article, I’ll walk you through the steps to create a image backup of Windows 8 and also show you how easy it is to restore the entire image. So now when your computer is infected with malware and viruses your kids downloaded onto your computer, you can restore it to it’s original state with ease.

Create Windows 8 Backup Image

To get started, you need to open an elevated command prompt in Windows 8. To do this, go to the start screen and right-click anywhere to see All apps.

all apps

Next, right-click on the the Command Prompt and you’ll see a couple of options show up on the bottom. Go ahead and click on Run as Administrator.

run as administrator

Now at the command prompt, you have to type two simple commands. One to create the folder that will hold the image and one to actually create the image.

mkdir C:\RefreshImage
recimg -CreateImage C:\RefreshImage

The process to create the image takes about 10 to 15 minutes and could take longer depending on the amount of data you have on your system. Overall, though, the process is fairly fast for a backup image.

backup image windows 8

It will first initialize, then create the snapshot, then write the image and then register the image so that it is used automatically when you refresh the PC. That’s it! You now have a complete backup image of your Windows 8 machine. If you go to the directory you created, you’ll see a .WIM file there, which is a Windows Image file.

wim file

I suggest copying this backup file to an external drive also, just so you have a backup of the file in case the entire hard drive crashes with some kind of hardware error. In that type of case, no recovery option will help if the hard drive is physically damaged. You’ll have to get another hard drive and then restore the image using the Windows Recovery Environment. Anyway, assuming your hard drive is OK and something went wrong with Windows, you can restore the image by going to Refresh PC.

Open the Charms bar and then click on Settings and then click on Change PC Settings.

change pc settings

Click on General and then click on Get Started under Refresh Your PC.

refresh pc

You’ll see a dialog pop up telling you what will happen in the process and then click Next. Refreshing the PC from an image will take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, possibly longer depending on your hardware specs and the size of the image.

pc refresh

Once the refresh is done, you can login and you’ll be good to go with all your settings and apps! Pretty sweet eh! You can also update the image at any time by simply creating another one using the commands above and the latest image will be set as the currently registered image for the PC refresh to use. Enjoy!

Comments [7]

  1. I am speechless. I just want to say thank you. Three times I install a driver that crashed my Windows 8 OS. If I have your Great Tip on creating an image, I will not have had to format an reinstall the OS three times. Windows 8 is excellent, fast and robust. The only thing is that it seems that there are still a lot of applications and drivers that are not compatible with the OS and that will crash it .

    Thanks again at 2:16 AM.

    Atanace Bien-Aime

  2. Have made an image and done a refresh, but some of my stuff was missing. It would be really nice to be able to get a full recovery, but maybe this is as good as it gets.

  3. The procedure described above does not fully put everything back when you do a refresh. Your e-mails and accounts will be lost unless you make an extra backup of these items. Programs and data are saved though of course.

    Frank Gijsen,
    Standby Computer support.

  4. Windows Defender is blocking the “recimg” program after the “create snapshot” step, i.e. “writing image” step is blocked. I did not find yet any option in windows Defender to enable it.

  5. i want it to go back to the image I first made when i first got the computer new. someone mentions you don’t loose your program’s are saved. Does this mean say 2 years down the line if i wanted to sell the pc and do that refresh thingy it keeps all my crap on the harddisk?

  6. Well I backed up a windows 8 image to a USB drive and it took about 30 mins but trying to restore the image it is taking hours and looks like it has crashed much like happens when trying to import the windows registry. Windows junkware does not do what it says on the box.

    Anyone that builds a system that has 65,000 in the windows directory and needs 400,000 keys in the registry cannot be accused of writing good software and we can only guess why SvrHost wakes up at night when updates are turned off and connects to microsoft.

    Yes I am thinking about getting out of windows bloatware and just using tails

  7. The Refresh Option allows you to do a minor factory reset without affecting users accounts on the machine. You may lose programs, but the settings for those programs may be saved in each user account, so reinstalling the programs may work with your settings already in place.

    The Reset Option is a full factory reset. In other words, it will return your machine back to the state as though it was first installed on the machine. Everything, including all user accounts, will be gone. However, there are two options Windows gives when doing a reset similar to formatting a drive: Quick and Full. Quick simply writes the first bit in all user files to 1 and only takes a short time to complete, however, data recovery tools may be able to recover those files. Full is a more security oriented in that it actually writes zeros in all areas where the user files reside, making it near impossible to recover and gives you peace of mind that no one will recover those files if the machine is given to someone else.

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