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OTT Guide to Backups, System Images and Recovery in Windows 10

Almost all new versions of Windows contain many components taken from previous versions of the OS. In most cases, this is the best version of the old software. Sometimes, like Windows 8, multiple versions of the same feature are included, which can make things worse.

Finally, some features from older versions of Windows are good enough to be left as they are in the new version. One example of this is backup options. In this article, I’ll walk you through the built-in backup features in Windows 10 and how they combine the new Windows 10 features with the old Windows 7 backup options.

In a way, it’s good that you still have all the capabilities you had before, but it’s also confusing, as if IE 11 and Edge were installed at the same time.

Windows 7 backup options in Windows 10

In Windows 10, you can still do everything that you could do in Windows 7 in terms of backups and restores. If you go to Control Panel, you will see the option “Backup and Restore” (Windows 7).

The pop-up dialog box is almost the same as in Windows 7. You can create a system image, create a system recovery disc, set up a backup, or restore a backup if available.

If you click “Create System Image”, you will be able to choose a location to save the image. Only Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise can save the system image to a network folder.

Please note that you cannot save the system image to any disk that is included in the system image. Creating a system image in this way is a manual process. If you want this to happen automatically, you need to select the Configure Backup option.

This is the same as Windows 7 Backup and Restore. Typically, you choose where you want to save the backup and then choose a schedule. The only thing you should note is that you cannot create a system image if you back up to DVD. You need to back up to your hard drive or network to use this option, otherwise it will not be available.

By default, system images are saved in the following format, where X is the drive of your choice.

X: WindowsImageBackup PC_Name Backup YYYY-MM-DD HHMMSS

For example, if I decide to save the system image to an external hard drive (E :), then I will store the backup as follows:

E: WindowsImageBackup AseemPC Backup 2018-10-04 083421 pre >

Windows 10 backup restore options

There are two ways to restore data from backups in Windows 10. If you have created a system image, you need to load the system recovery options in Windows 10 to restore the image. If you backed up using the Schedule feature and selected files and folders, you can restore the files / folders in the Backup and Restore dialog box (Windows 7).

Click the Recover My Files button, then you can selectively select which files you want to recover from the backup.

To restore a system image, this is a different procedure. Please note that System Image Restore is a full restore, which means that you cannot choose what you want to restore; everything will be erased and replaced with an image. Restoring from a regular Windows backup allows you to restore individual files and folders.

To restore the system image, you need to boot into System Recovery Options in Windows 10. Once there, you need to click on “Troubleshoot”.

Then click on Advanced Options.

Then click “System Image Recovery”.

Then you will need to select an account and enter a password for that account. You will then have the option to restore from the latest system image, or select a specific image, which you would do if the system image were saved to, for example, an external USB hard drive, network location, or DVD.

Once you have selected an image, you will have several options for recovering the image on your computer. Please note that recovery is only possible to a disk that is the same size or larger than the disks included in the backup image.

Reset this PC in Windows 10

In addition to the above options, you can also use a new feature in Windows 10 called Reset This PC. It’s basically like doing a recovery installation on Windows XP or Windows 7. All system files are replaced and you essentially lose all your programs and settings, but your data remains intact.

This is exactly what Reset this PC does, but it’s much easier and really only takes a couple of clicks. It also gives you the option to completely erase everything and start from scratch. This is a click to perform a full clean install of Windows 10.

File history

In addition to all the Windows 7 backup and restore options, the Reset this PC option, you also have another new feature in Windows 10 called File History.

File history is disabled by default. Also note that if you are using scheduled Windows 7 file backup, File History cannot be enabled! You will see this message:

You must turn off the schedule to use the file history. This is a bit annoying as it means you have to manually create system images if you want to have system images for backups. By turning off Windows 7 Scheduled Backups, you will see that you can now turn on File History.

It is recommended to use an external or secondary hard drive to save file history instead of a local hard drive or partition. You can also use a network location if you like. In fact, you can’t even choose a location on the same physical disk for file history. This is one of the advantages of File History over shadow copying, which is the same technology in the older version of Windows. If the drive fails, you can reinstall Windows 10, give it the same name as the dead system, and then choose the same file history location as the dead computer.

Once you have selected a location, the “Enable” button will become active and you can click on it. That’s it, file history is now enabled! What does this mean and why?

Well, it basically saves versions of files stored in your Libraries, Favorites, Contacts, and some other places like Music, Videos, Pictures, and Desktop. If you go back to your file history after creating multiple copies, you can select the Recover Personal Files option.

You can now navigate to a specific file or folder and move forward and backward in time using the green blue keys at the bottom of the screen. Here is an example of a word processing document that I created and edited with some text.

If I press the left arrow key, I see version 2 of 3, which has slightly less text than version 3 of 3.

Clicking the green round arrow button will allow you to restore this version of the file:

You can replace the file, skip it, or view comparative information about the files. Unfortunately it won’t actually compare the contents of the files, only the date and other information like size, etc. obvious.

1. If you rename a file, the history of that file will be lost. Essentially, it starts from scratch again. So renaming a file is almost the same as deleting the file and starting over. The old story still exists, only with the old name.

2. Following point 1, if you create another file with the name of the original file, the stories will be merged! Therefore, if you delete the history file and then create a new file with the same name, you will also get the history of the previously deleted file.

3. Each time you back up, the entire file is copied. Thus, if you have a 500 MB file that has been slightly modified three times, you will have three 500 MB copies of that file.

4. You cannot back up anything but files and folders. You will still have to rely on Backup and Restore (Windows 7) to actually back up your Windows 10 system.

5. You cannot include additional folders other than those predefined by Microsoft. This means that if you want to use the file history, you will have to move the data to one of the specified folders.

Overall, this is a complex system of backup options in Windows 10 that is likely to confuse new users. Hopefully this article sheds some light on the various options, their advantages and disadvantages, and how you can use them in combination to create a reliable backup plan for your Windows 10 PC.

Finally, you can skip all the built-in options if they’re not good enough and just use a third-party tool to clone and imaging your system. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to leave comments. Enjoy!

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