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My quick question is if I create a Windows system image on a Dynamic Disk (Microsoft recommends against it, but it's my only option right now) and then move the backup files to a network share, will I still be able to restore from it when I need it?


As to why I came up with that question, here's a longer description:

I spent too much time trying to create a system image of my Windows 10 disk drive on a network share and after reading through a lot of forum posts I still can't figure how to do it.

There are several issues. First, it seems that Windows 10 does not support system image backup, but provides it for backward compatibility with Windows 7. I can access it in Control Panel through Control Panel\System and Security\Backup and Restore (Windows 7)

I have a secondary HDD that is dynamic disk and when I try to backup to that, Windows gives me a warning that I might not be able to restore from that location. The information dialog reads:

When restoring a system image from this volume, the disks on your computer cannot be formatted to match the layout of the disks in the backup. To have full restore functionality, select a volume on basic disk as your backup location.

The only description I found about this was on this old Microsoft blog post, saying:

Do not store the image on a dynamic disk – a system image stored on a dynamic disk will provide limited functionality during restore. Specifically, the restore will be supported only if the partitioning on the source disk has not been changed. Therefore if your hard disk failed and is replaced with new hardware, you will not be able to restore the image.

I don't understand why that is. Isn't the image backup just a bunch of files that can be stored anywhere?

I can't change my Dynamic Disk to a Basic Disk now because I have to reformat it, so I tried to store the image on my NAS. Now when specifying the network share to save the image, it fails with this error: "the specified backup disk cannot be found." There are lengthy threads on Microsoft forums about this issue with no working answer. This StackExchange post suggests to use a folder without network access restrictions, but that still didn't work for me.

So back to my initial question, can I make the backup on the Dynamic Disk and then move to the NAS? Or can you give me a better way to make a successful system image backup?

Thanks!

  • 1
    Windows 10/7 Backup is deprecated - do not use it. Microsoft is so far behind third-party products that it has just abandoned this sector. I recommend AOMEI Backupper Freeware with which you will not have such gotchas. – harrymc Feb 2 at 9:15
  • Acronis True Image – Rich M Feb 2 at 12:27
  • I did some more research and ended up buying CloudBerry Backup. It lets you make backups, including system image, to local disks or to popular cloud storage providers. – orad Feb 3 at 0:05
  • Even thought CloudBerry Backup is good for more advanced needs, Windows system image remains to be the best free solution for me that is available out of box. See my answer below for how to use it in Windows 10. – orad Feb 6 at 8:49
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This worked for me. TL;DR: Attach to a VHD on the network share and backup to that.

Create a System Image Backup

This is based on Windows 10 Pro (version 1803). To create a virtual hard disk file (.vhdx) you need to have the following Windows feature installed: Hyper-V Module for Windows PowerShell

Replace \\BACKUP-LOCATION with your location on the network or on local disk.

From PowerShell run:

$vhdpath = "\\BACKUP-LOCATION\system-image.vhdx"
$vhdsize = 127GB

New-VHD -Path $vhdpath -Dynamic -SizeBytes $vhdsize |
Mount-VHD -Passthru |
Initialize-Disk -Passthru |
New-Partition -AssignDriveLetter -UseMaximumSize |
Format-Volume -NewFileSystemLabel "System Image" -FileSystem NTFS -Confirm:$false

The new drive will open in File Explorer and in Disk Management (diskmgmt.msc) you will see a new disk attached.

Next, open Backup and Restore with one of these ways:

  • Press Windows Key + R, and run control /name Microsoft.BackupAndRestore
  • or: Windows Settings > Update & Security > Backup > Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7)
  • or: Control Panel\System and Security\Backup and Restore (Windows 7)

On the left, select Create a system image or for Schedule select Change settings.

Select the drive labeled "System Image" and follow the steps to create a system image.

Note that if you want to backup also files and folders, in Windows 10 the File History app is recommended over the old Backup and Restore. But for creating system images as of now (version 1803) there is no new solution available by Microsoft.

If you backed up system image, you'll see a "WindowsImageBackup" folder in your backup drive. If you also chose to backup files, you will also have a "MediaID.bin" file and a folder with the name of your computer that you can open to restore your files.

Restoring System Image

To restore the system image you will need a System Repair Disc that you can create from Backup and Restore (Windows 7) window by clicking on "Create a system repair disc" on the left. But don't do that because you need a ISO. Go to Windows download page and download the Media Creation Tool. Run it and create the installation media to a ISO file (Windows.iso).

Now the question is, how to restore from the VHD file using system repair disc? I haven't tried it yet, but my plan is to use Hyper-V and attach a physical hard disk plus the system image VHD, and Windows.iso as DVD drive. Boot from the DVD and follow System Image Recovery to restore from the attached VHD into the physical HDD.

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