Creating an Image in Windows 7
Click on Start. In the box "Search Programs and Files" type in Backup and Restore and then click in the list that pops up.
Next click on the Create a system image hyperlink.
Decide where you want to save the image. You can choose an external drive, burn to multiple DVD’s, or store it on a network location.
You can include other drives if you want as well but remember that will add to the size of the final image.
At the confirmation screen notice the amount of space the image may take. If something doesn’t look right you can still go back from this point and make adjustments.
A progress meter is displayed while the images is created and backed up. In this example a disk of about 15GB in size took under 20 minutes backed up to an external drive. Times will vary depending on your system and where you’re backing it up to.
After the process is complete you get the option to create a system repair disc which you should do and make sure to save it in a secure location.
When it comes time to restore the image, you will be able to use the System Recovery Options to get the system back.
Image in Windows Vista
Vista Ultimate, Business, and Enterprise allow you to create an image, but Vista Home and Home Premium users do not have the option. The process is similar in Vista, type backup into the search bar and click on Backup and Restore Center.
Then click on Back up computer and the wizard will guide you through the process.
This is a extremely handy feature and it actually works well. It is also nice that the feature will be available in each edition of Windows 7 instead of just the higher end versions. This will save you some money in not having to spend $50-80 on a third party utility. You should create an image when everything is fresh on your system so the image is not too large and the essentials of you machine can quickly be restored. For instance I created an image after a fresh install and putting Office 2007 and a few of my most commonly used programs. The entire image came in around 10 GB which is easily stored on an external drive or a few DVD’s.