Windows: back up and restore your pc

Ability lớn create System Images was buried in Windows 8, but not eliminated.

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Jon Brodkin - Dec 16, 2012 9:35 pm UTC


When it comes lớn backing up and restoring your PC, Windows 8 took a few steps forward và a few steps back.

Your settings & apps in the new tablet-y interface (yeah, we"re still calling it Metro) are automatically backed up if you use a Microsoft trương mục. That means when you restore your PC, all of the Metro stuff comes back exactly the way you rethành viên it. This has limitations—your desktop applications, anything that wasn"t downloaded from the Windows Store, are wiped when performing the most easily accessible type of restore in Windows 8. Beyond Metro, all you get is a tệp tin on your desktop listing the applications you"ve sầu lost.

There"s also a new backup tool on the desktop side of things, but this has its limits too. Called File History, it lets you automatically bachồng up files lớn a network drive sầu or cable-connected external hard drive every 10 minutes. As Peter Bright explained in an article last summer, File History"s arrival was paired with the exit of Shadow Copies. This was a useful tool that let users revert to previous versions of files without needing to lớn connect an external drive, và now it"s gone.

One problem is neither File History nor the Metro restore feature are complete backup tools. The ability to lớn clone và restore your whole PC, files, settings, & applications—by creating a System Image—is gone, or seemingly gone.

Oh, there it is

The System Image functionality seems hidden at first, & it will likely go unnoticed by the majority of Windows 8 users. Searching the operating system for "System Image" turns up zero results. Searching for "backup" or "tệp tin history" will bring you lớn the Windows 8 File History feature; from there you can get khổng lồ the old System Image tool.


Enlarge / How did I miss that?

On the bottom left you"ll see "Windows 7 File Recovery," & clicking that brings you lớn the page for creating System Images. The name sounds like it could refer lớn restoring files from a previous Windows 7 installation. But it actually refers khổng lồ the legacy backup tools that Windows 8 steers users away from but doesn"t kill outright. It"s the kind of thing that seems obvious once someone has pointed it out lớn you, but Windows 8 makes no attempt to lớn direct users to lớn the functionality.

Calling it "Windows 7 File Recovery" also suggests System Images don"t have sầu much of a future in the Windows world. They"re in Windows 8 if you can find them, but whether they"ll stay in Windows 9 or 10 is anyone"s guess.


Still, it works just like it did in Windows 7.

You start from here:



Choosing "Create a system image" on the top left lets you lớn clone your entire computer khổng lồ a USB-connected hard drive, DVDs, or a networked drive.


As you see above, Windows notifies you at this point that restoring from this System Image is an all-or-nothing proposition—there is no restoring individual files.

But if on the previous screen you had instead clicked "Set up backup," you"ll find the option khổng lồ both create a System Image và create regularly occurring backups of "data files saved in libraries, on the desktop, và in default Windows folders," much as you can in the new Windows 8 File History. This hedges your bets a little—you can have sầu a clone of your PC lớn restore the whole thing in case of failure, and backups of individual files if you"re, say, wanting to restore a document you"ve sầu accidentally deleted.

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An easy setup screen.

Enlarge / Regularly scheduled system images and file backup can only be done through Windows 7 File Recovery.

One disadvantage here is the tệp tin backup can only be mix to run once every 24 hours at most, whereas the Windows 8 File History can save once an hour or even every 10 minutes. File History also lets you specify how long lớn keep saved versions (e.g. one month, one year, forever), and lớn keep an offline cache. But the ability lớn have sầu both a system image và file backups may be worth the sacrifice. Another alternative is to simply use both backup tools, but your mileage may vary—it"s worked for me but one reader reports that Windows 8 is preventing use of both simultaneously.

If you go the System Image route, it literally covers everything. When restoring your PC from a System Image, you don"t even need lớn re-type your Windows license key. You can enter the restore screen from Metro by going to lớn PC Settings/General/Advanced Startup:


Enlarge / Clichồng "Restart Now" under Advanced Startup.

Once in Advanced Startup Options, choose Troubleshoot/Advanced Options/System Image Recovery. There are also various other ways lớn repair your computer here. The new-to-Windows 8 "Refresh your PC" keeps your files, personal settings, & Metro apps, but deletes all your desktop applications.


If your PC is in such bad shape that you can"t get lớn PC Settings, you should automatically boot into lớn Advanced Startup Options after a couple of restarts. Holding down one of the Shift keys during a restart also brings up Advanced Startup Options. If the easy methods don"t work, you might have sầu lớn boot from Windows 8 install truyền thông or a system repair disc.

If you want lớn stick with File History but bachồng up all of your desktop applications và settings, you could technically vị so by taking advantage of the fact that it automatically backs up everything in your libraries. To do this, you would go inlớn File Explorer where the music, documents, pictures, và đoạn phim libraries are, create a new library, và just put your whole disk in it.

There"s another workaround if you want lớn use File History without an external drive, which is useful for anyone with a máy vi tính. To vì chưng that, create a thư mục in Explorer (e.g. "History"), right-click it and then share it as if it were a network drive sầu. Then in File History, cliông chồng "Add network location," & select the shared thư mục. In other words, you triông chồng File History inkhổng lồ thinking it"s backing up files to a different device instead of to the local disk, which is what it"s actually doing. (Don"t use this method khổng lồ create a System Image—restoring a PC from a System Image must be done from an external source.)

The fact that these sorts of workarounds almost seem lượt thích good ideas illustrates the fundamental problem with Windows 8 backup: there are basically three separate backup systems, none of which provide everything you need.

Fragmentary backup

Microsoft"s approach lớn backup in Windows 8 is a missed opportunity. Early in the development of Windows 8 it became clear Microsoft was planning a more user-friendly backup system, for the very good reason that few people actually back up their computers. One logical approach would have been lớn build upon the System Image functionality lớn come up with something very much lượt thích Apple"s Time Machine—in other words, automatic, hourly backups of the entire system that can be used lớn restore either individual files or the whole damn computer.

In fact, that"s what I assumed Microsoft was working on when I first heard about its plans to make backup more user-friendly in Windows. A unified backup and restore system that can handle all backup scenarquả táo, from individual files khổng lồ the whole computer, seems like something the world"s most widely used desktop operating system should have in 2012. Instead, Windows 8 provides several backup tools for different purposes. There"s Metro backup, file backup, and traditional "Windows 7" System Images.

At the very least, most of the backup functionality Windows already had (minus those shadow copies we mentioned) is still there in Windows 8. And the use of cloud-connected Windows accounts khổng lồ bachồng up Metro settings và apps, & preserve sầu one"s Metro experience across different PCs is a user-friendly step in the right direction.

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But overall, backup in Windows 8 seems lượt thích a jumble of disconnected functionalities, resulting in the whole thing being less than the sum of its parts.

Chuyên mục: Tin Tức