Here’s how to create an image of your pc before upgrading to windows 10

Here's how to create an image of your pc before upgrading to windows 10

Windows 10 is the biggest and most aggressive Windows rollout to date. Before you take the plunge, you need to image your hard drive so that when you want to return to the familiarity of Windows 7 or Windows 8, you can do so with one click.

Tip: This guide details how to create a bit-by-bit backup (a disk image) of your current Windows system hard drive so that you can later restore your computer using that image. If you are not looking for it and want to copy your disk bit by bit to a brand new hard disk (a disk clone), we recommend you to read our detailed tutorial :

Why should I do this?

There’s nothing worse than making a major change to your PC and then finding out that the change affects your workflow (like a The old app you rely on no longer works) or breaks your PC because the jump to a new operating system leaves your hardware searching for new (and as yet unreleased) drivers.

Over the years, we’ve described many ways to use Windows’ built-in tools to run snapshots, create backups, and restore the computer to its previous state in the event of a hardware update or other failure. However, when it comes to jumping from Windows 7 or Windows 8 to Windows 10 as quickly as possible, don’t rely on snapshots and rollback features to restore the security of an earlier version of Windows. You want the clear and precise ability to clean up the entire drive and restore it bit-for-bit to the exact state it was in prior to the actual upgrade process.

To do this we need to map the drive . We want a perfect copy before the upgrade, which we can call to restore the system. This drive image remains clean and unchanged regardless of anything we do to the computer during the upgrade process. Even if we format the drives, even if we use Windows 10 for six months and decide we really don’t like it can turn right back around and use the image we created to reset the clock and restore our computer to how it was before the upgrade.

We can’t stress enough how important this step is. We complete it with free tools, it costs nothing (unless you need to buy an extra hard drive to store the image), and it takes hardly any time (especially if you compare it to the hassle of reinstalling your old version of Windows and reconfiguring everything.

What do I need?

As we highlighted in the introduction, this process is free (unless you need an additional internal or external hard drive to capture the drive image). To follow along with us today, here’s what you’ll need:

  • The PC you want to back up.
  • A copy of Macrium Reflect Free (download here).
  • An internal or external hard drive with enough capacity to store the contents of the drive you want to use.
  • A USB drive that will be converted into a recovery drive (minimum size 1 GB).

Before proceeding, there are a few points to keep in mind. We don’t clone your Windows drive to a new bootable drive, so we don’t need a new storage drive or a drive that we can erase. As long as you have enough disk space, you can use any available drive as long as it contains the drive image. For example, if you have an external 2TB drive where you have several hundred GB of photos backed up, you can also use it to back up your Windows hard disk image without risk to your photos or other data.

Although we advise you to have enough space for the whole drive, in reality the hard disk is not full and compression will give you some leeway. For example, on our test laptop we had a 100GB SSD, 75GB of it was full, and the compressed image ended up being only 50GB. Still pretend you need a 1: 1 space ratio and then be happy when you don’t.

Before proceeding, gather the materials you need and take a moment to download and install Macrium Reflect Free.

Creating the rescue media

Since we are manipulating the system drive, we need rescue media to properly restore the drive later we can’t use the system drive and reload the system image at the same time). In addition, good rescue media can be invaluable for troubleshooting down the road.

Fortunately, Macrium makes it incredibly easy to create a Windows PE-based rescue media tool that integrates pre-installed Macrium and even boot systems directly into the restore tool. It couldn’t be easier, and if you do things right on the setup and imaging side, the restoration side is a walk in the park.

Here's how to create an image of your pc before upgrading to windows 10

Once you are ready to create your restoration media, launch Macrum Reflect Select More Tasks> Create Rescue Media from the file list, as shown above.

The Rescue Wizard is very helpful and not only guides you through selecting the best rescue media, but automatically downloads the files from Microsoft and installs them on your behalf. The first step in the wizard process is to confirm that you have the correct version of Windows PE. It will automatically detect the version of Windows you are creating the rescue media on. Ideally, you want the rescue media to use the version of Windows PE that uses the same base kernel as the backup version.

Here's how to create an image of your pc before upgrading to windows 10

If you are backing up a Windows 7 computer before upgrading to Windows 10, you will need Windows PE 3.1 (which uses the Windows 7 kernel). If you are running from Windows 8 / 8.1 upgrade to Windows 10, you want Windows PE 5.0 (PE 4.0 is an option, but compared to PE 5.0 not feature-rich and the specific use case for Windows PE 4.0 is very limited and definitely not within the requirements of anything we do in this tutorial). If you need to change your PE version, click on the "Change PE version" button at the bottom of the wizard screen.

Click Next and confirm the driver list (by default, the required drivers are sorted out by the host Windows) installation, like USB 3.0 host driver). Click Next.

Confirm that the "PE architecture" Match your computer (the default setting should be correct). Newer machines (made recently or in the last few years) are almost universally 64 bit. If you are not sure, you can check our article HTG Explained: What is the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows?

click on the differences between 64 bit and 32 bit (and how to check what you have) Next you will be prompted to download from Microsoft (usually ca. 500 MB) to confirm.

Here's how to create an image of your pc before upgrading to windows 10

Once the files are downloaded from Microsoft, you will be at the final step of the Rescue Media Wizard. Carefully select your USB drive. While the recovery media creation process does not format your USB drive, it copies some files to the hard drive and makes minor changes that you just need to reverse and undo.

When the process is complete, it is safe to eject the recovery disk (you won’t need it again until you can restore the system at a later time).)

Clone the Windows hard disk

Now would be a good time Do some last minute tidying: delete things you don’t need, run CCleaner to delete old temporary files that don’t need to stay on your disk image forever, uninstall apps you no longer need or want, and so on.

If you are ready to create a perfect copy of the disk in a decent state before Windows 10, launch Macr I reflect. In the left navigation pane of the main window, select the option "Create an image of the partition(s) needed to back up and restore Windows" (see the figure below).

Here's how to create an image of your pc before upgrading to windows 10

This link will automatically open the Disk Image dialog box with only the critical Windows partitions selected, as seen in the following screenshot.

Here are a few important things to keep in mind. By default, the tool selects only the partitions on which you want to run Windows. In the figure above you can see that the system and operating system partitions have been selected. It did not select the recovery partition or other partitions on the primary hard drive. If you want to keep the recovery partition or other partitions, you can check them and add them to the disk image. If you don’t (we really don’t care about keeping the recovery partition), leave it disabled. When you do so, select them.

Next, select the location for the image file. A local non-OS hard disk or a removable USB drive of suitable size is good. We have ours on a removable USB 3.0 drive with plenty of space saved. Click Next and you will be prompted to create a backup plan for the hard drive. You can ignore all these options. Macrium Reflect, even in the free version, has a very good automated backup system, but that is completely overkill for our needs, since we are doing a one-time backup. Leave the template "None, do not set any schedule and leave everything disabled. Click Next to continue.

Confirm your settings on the last page (make sure the operations listed match the ones you selected earlier, z. B. copy the system and Windows drives). Click Finish. On the last screen, confirm "Run backup now" and click OK.

Sit back and relax while Macrium creates the disk image. Expect to wait at least 30-60 minutes at least. When the process is complete, you will have a perfect copy of your hard drive ready to restore and recover the previous version of Windows. Put it in a safe place!

How to restore the old version?

Maybe you love Windows 10 and everything works wonderfully. Of course, we never hope anyone is unhappy with an upgrade, and despite all the complaints about Windows 8, we (with a Windows 7 skin on things) have been happy with the improvements. But not every upgrade is a match made in heaven and you may find that instabilities, non-existent drivers or other issues hamper your enjoyment of Windows 10.

In such cases, you will need to rollback using Macrium Reflect and the disk image we just created. First things first: To avoid frustration, reboot your computer and enter the BIOS (this varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but usually you access it via F2 or F11 on the keyboard the first time you boot the system).

It’s not enough To have a computer that can boot from USB, you need to check the boot order. More times than we can count, we have had a boot disk fail because while the computer was more than capable of booting from a USB drive, the USB drive option was third in the list after the physical hard drive and the CDROM drive. Verify that the USB drive is at the top of the list! (Sometimes the physical USB drive actually needs to be inserted during the BIOS customization process or it is not properly recognized or ordered). Save the changes and run them on the recovery media.

The recovery media we created in the first part of the tutorial will automatically start with the Macrium Reflect recovery software, which is more than convenient. Once the system has booted up, look for the Restore and Recover Images tabs, as shown in the screenshot below.

When you boot the computer with the disk on which the image is installed (either internally or with the USB drive attached) the computer should automatically detect that the disk image is present and matches the disk you want to restore via the image. If it is not automatically detected, don’t worry, you can search for it

Here's how to create an image of your pc before upgrading to windows 10

Click on the "Search for an image file" entry. Search for the file and select the previously created .MRIMG file. After you load the backup image, additional information about the image file is displayed:

Here's how to create an image of your pc before upgrading to windows 10

Make sure it is the correct image file (the name matches the one you want, drive size and partitions match, etc.).). Once you have confirmed that this is the image you want, click on the "Restore image" link (see screenshot above).

You will be prompted to select a disk to restore the image to. Click on "Select a hard disk to restore to . "

Select carefully from the available hard drives. You do not want to overwrite your secondary data disk when your actual destination is your primary system disk. Once you have selected the image, click on "Copy selected partitions", to copy the partitions from the image file back to your hard drive.

Note Sharp-eyed readers will probably have noticed that the disk size and the partition distribution between our source disk and our destination disk do not match in the above picture. Since the computer we used to perform the steps for this tutorial (we personally test and confirm all the steps in all the articles we write here at How-To Geek) would not cooperate with our capture tool during startup in Windows PE, the sequence would be recreated in a virtual machine to take the screenshots for your reference. Please note that in the special application we use here (overwriting your existing hard disk with an old image), the image and the actual hard disk configuration should match.

Once the drive is selected (and double checked), click Next. Confirm that the recovery summary and operation list meet your expectations, and click Finish to start the operation.

When the recovery process is complete and you see the summary summary, you’re done! Click the shutdown button in the lower left corner of the recovery UI, remove the USB recovery drive and confirm that you want to restart. You will boot back into your Windows machine and everything will be as good as new and exactly as it was the day you created the image.

When it comes to foolproof recovery, you simply can’t beat a good disk image. Before you make the leap to Windows 10, take an hour and create a clean disk image to return to if you find the upgrade isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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