How to Image a Laptop

By M.L. Browne

Updated September 28, 2017

Items you will need

  • Drive-imaging program

  • External USB hard drive

  • CD-RW drive

  • Blank, unformatted CD-R disc

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The sad fact is that hard drives, whether mechanical disk or solid state, can and do fail. You can keep your data loss and downtime to a minimum if you create a disk image before the laptop drive fails. The disk image is an exact duplicate of every byte on your entire hard drive that you use in the event of a catastrophic failure or the inability to boot your system because of malware or corrupted drivers. There are several relatively low-cost and free programs that you can use to create a disk image and its recovery CD for your laptop.

Select a drive-imaging program that works with your laptop and its components. You can confirm that the minimum requirements for the imaging program match your setup on the developer's website.

Install the drive-imaging program on your laptop while logged in to the laptop with full administrative privileges.

Attach the external USB hard drive to your laptop.

Run a full scan for any malware, viruses or rootkit infections and remove them.

Run the drive-imaging program, and follow the program prompts for creating the laptop image on the external drive.

Follow the imaging program prompts for creating the image-recovery bootable CD. You will keep the recovery CD with the imaged hard drive and use it in the event that you cannot boot the laptop to its operating system.

Follow the imaging program instructions to verify your imaged drive.

Disconnect the external imaged drive from your laptop, and store it with the recovery CD in a safe, dry place.


It's a good idea to periodially create a new laptop image, especially if you have upgraded applications you regularly use or if your operating system is upgraded.


If malware is on your system, every time you use the laptop image you will restore the infection too.