How do I fix system image recovery failed?

If you are seeing an error message that system image recovery has failed, there are several things you can try to resolve the issue and successfully recover your system image. A system image is a snapshot of your entire hard drive, including the operating system, installed programs, settings, and files. System image recovery allows you to restore your computer back to the state it was in when you created the system image backup.

What causes system image recovery to fail?

There are a few common reasons why system image recovery may fail:

  • Corrupted system image file – If the system image backup file itself has become corrupted or damaged, it will fail to restore properly.
  • Insufficient storage space – There needs to be enough storage space on the drive you are recovering to for the system image to be written.
  • Incompatible hardware – If you are restoring to a computer with significantly different hardware, driver issues may cause the recovery to fail.
  • Damaged hard drive – Issues with bad sectors or other hard drive problems can lead to failure when trying to write the system image.
  • Secure boot enabled – Secure boot prevents unsigned drivers from loading, which can interfere with system image recovery.

Steps to fix system image recovery failed

If you encounter a failed system image recovery, try the following troubleshooting steps:

1. Check image file integrity

First, verify the system image file itself is not corrupted. This can happen if the backup storage device has bad sectors. Try copying the system image (.vhd or .vhdx file) to another location on your computer and attempt the recovery again with the new copy. If the copied image file works, then the original was likely corrupted.

2. Make sure you have enough disk space

Recovery failures often occur because of insufficient free space on the drive you are recovering to. The drive needs enough space for the full system image to expand into.

Windows Version Typical System Image Size
Windows 7 15-30GB
Windows 8 15-40GB
Windows 10 20-50GB

Check that the destination drive has at least the above amount of free space for the version of Windows you are recovering. If not, try clearing space on the drive by deleting unnecessary files and programs.

3. Use compatible hardware

Recovering to significantly different hardware than the system image was created on can cause issues due to missing or incompatible drivers. For best results, recover to the same or very similar hardware as the original system.

If the hardware must be different, try running the system image recovery first without any external devices or additional hardware attached besides the primary hard drive. Once the basic recovery is complete, shutdown and then attached other hardware one component at a time.

4. Disable secure boot

With UEFI-based systems, make sure secure boot is disabled in the BIOS/firmware settings. Secure boot can prevent the unofficial drivers required during system recovery from loading properly and cause failure.

Restart the computer, access the system BIOS (typically by pressing F2, F10 or F12 at startup). Then find the secure boot option and set it to disabled. Save changes and exit to try system recovery again.

5. Repair or replace damaged hard drives

If the hard drive you are recovering to has physical damage or corrupted sectors, it may fail writes during the system image process. Use the CHKDSK command to scan for hard drive errors:

1. Open Command Prompt as admin
2. Type “chkdsk C: /f” and press Enter (replace C: with problem drive letter)
3. Allow scan to complete and restart computer

This may help repair minor corruption issues. But a hard drive with physical damage likely needs replacement before system recovery can work properly.

Other tips for successful system image recovery

  • Use an external hard drive enclosure to connect the system drive as an external USB drive for recovery.
  • Try reinstalling the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) which includes image recovery tools.
  • When creating system images, use an incremental image to save multiple backups instead of overwriting.
  • Test system image recovery before you actually need it by doing a practice run on test hardware.
  • After recovery, install chipset, GPU, and other hardware-specific drivers from manufacturer websites if needed.

Alternative recovery options

If you are unable to get a failed system image restore to work even after troubleshooting, there are some other options to try a recovery of your files and settings:

  • System Restore – Use System Restore to roll back your system to an earlier restore point before the issues occurred.
  • Startup repair – The Windows installation media has a startup repair option that can fix certain system file errors.
  • In-place upgrade – An in-place upgrade will reinstall Windows over your existing installation while preserving files and settings.
  • Clean reinstall – As a last resort, you can do a completely clean reinstall of Windows to start fresh. Make sure to backup any needed data first.

Prevention tips for system image failures

To help avoid image recovery failures in the future:

  • Store system images on known good, high-quality media – Avoid cheap or aging HDDs/USB drives prone to failure.
  • Verify image integrity after creation – Use the Windows utility or third party tools to check for errors.
  • Limit system changes after imaging – Major hardware/software changes can impact compatibility.
  • Create images regularly – Don’t let backups get too old before refreshing.
  • Keep multiple images – Rotate through incremental images instead of overwriting the same file.


Recovering from a failed system image backup can be frustrating. But in many cases, the issue can be resolved with some targeted troubleshooting and workarounds. The key things to check are image integrity, storage space, hardware compatibility, hard drive health, and secure boot settings. If system image recovery still will not work, there are recovery options like system restore that may be able to restore your system while preserving your files and settings.

Preventing system image recovery issues comes down to following best practices such as using quality storage media, verifying backups, limiting system changes, and regularly creating fresh images. With some diligence on creating and maintaining system images, you can minimize the chances of a failure occurring when you need to rely on your backup to recover your system.