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 07 - How To Capture a Custom Windows 7 System Image Using Sysprep, Windows-PE and ImageX Tools

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Tutorial Overview
A system image is an exact copy of a drive. By default, a system image includes the drives required for Windows to run. It also includes Windows and your system settings, programs, and files. You can use a system image to restore the contents of your computer if your hard disk or computer ever stops working. When you restore your computer from a system image, it's a complete restoration—you can't choose individual items to restore, and all of your current programs, system settings, and files are replaced with the contents of the system image.

Although this type of backup includes your personal files, it's recommended that you back up your files regularly using Windows Backup so that you can restore individual files and folders as needed. When you set up Windows Backup, you can let Windows choose what to back up, which will include a system image, or you can select the items that you want to back up and whether you want to include a system image.

Windows Vista and Windows 7 are delivered by a file-based WIM image and image-based setup. That DVD you might have or the ISO file you downloaded contains a 2+ GB file called install.wim in the Sources directory. The amazing thing about this WIM is that it actually can contain multiple operating system captures. In fact, the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise image contains eight operating system variants and the 32-bit edition of Windows 7 Ultimate contains five variants.