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System backup vs. disk backup

I have read different posts about this subject but I have still not found a resolution to my specific situation concerning the question of, should I do a system backup or a disk backup, because everyone starts muddying up the waters with talk of partitions and disks and drives.

My question is, if everything is on just one drive with no partitions, and that drive is the only thing on your disk, is there still a difference between a system backup and a disk backup? In my case, I have an internal 2T HDD that is labeled "Disk 0" and the only thing on that disk is a drive that has been labeled "C:" which contains everything in one primary partition.  I am backing up to an external 2T HDD that is "Disk 1" containing drive "E:" and I have done both types of backup using AOMEI Backupper (Free Version) and when I check the properties of both of these files, they are the same size.  Am I wrong in assuming that, in my situtation where everything on the HDD is included in one drive, there is no difference between the two types of backup, or is there some other difference between the two types of backup that matters when it comes time to restore the system or retrieve files?  I've seen talk of being able to boot from the drive which has also added confusion to the issue.

Thanks in advance for your time & attention.



  • Your setup is the same as mine.

    Typically, if your physical drive WAS partitioned, a System restore would be used to get a corrupted Windows installation back up and running.

    The above assumes that the other partitions (which you and I don't have) were not affected.

    If your physical drive  - the whole shooting match - had died, a "Disk" restore would be used to fire up the replacement hard disk.

    In your case and mine, either type backup could be used to get back in business.

  • edited February 2016

    HDD that is labeled "Disk 0" and the only thing on that disk is a drive
    that has been labeled "C:" which contains everything in one primary

    In my words:

    In that case you have an older Windows, as more current Windows do have hidden partitions, from one to three hidden partitions. If you look from Windows disk mgt, you don't see these hidden partitions even when they are present. From AOMEI Partition Assistant you see all partitions (are you therefore even sure it is one primary

    The function of the hidden partitions is system (System), recovery (WinRE, WindowsRE) and reserved (MSR). The function of C: is boot, although this does not mean it, the system partition gets booted. Parentheses give other names for them. On older Windows their functions are included in C:.

    The intention of System backup is a roll backup of the operating system including everything needed for this (and rolling backup everything else on these partitions, that is programs and data in addition to windows-related), to the exact very same disk and never changed the partition layout, even not by a windows update. Disk backup is for everything else.

    System backup attempts to make the roll back bootable, and Disk backup does so less. Both do not always succeed and need manual rework that not is always clear. A modern computer has firmware configuration and Windows configuration regarding boot that a simple backup does not cover (firmware config, Windows config, is not disk, therefore not covered). Take note of the command bcdboot c:\windows from the bootable media, and of the less-known reagentc in Windows.

    Regarding mounting the image and retrieving your user data, there is no difference. Both contain your data, as both contain your full C:. Both do have the issue, that you cannot retrieve user data from C: on a foreign computer, or on a freshly setup same computer, because of permissions, and both have the resolution retrieving from a bootable media. Deep folders have been a subject recently.

    These long words reflect what you said in the beginning yourself about mud.

    And keep the installation media handy if you have such.

  • edited February 2016

    "Both do have the issue, that you cannot retrieve user data from C: on a foreign computer,"

    Peter, what do you mean with a "foreign computer". You can explore images and retrieve user data on an other computer. Is that a Vista or Win7 than there is no problem. Is it a Win8 or 10 than you may need administrator rights to explore them using a program with a "Open file box" or with another Explorer than Windows Explorer.

  • edited February 2016

    ok you are right, of course, it fonctions with a special replacement explorer. simply Exploring Image say C: as K: and hoping to access K:\Users\yourname\Desktop has led to threads here.

    By the way and a little bit offtopic, I consider V and W7 technically outdated, W8.1 and W10 are more needed overall, and if it where not for its permanent forced updates and forced internal maintenance I would go W10 Home without any hesitation, and go W10Pro wherever the cost justifies it. But again you are right, it is helpful to know that exploring V and W7 is easy.

  • Sorry, I should've noted that I am using Windows 7.  I will probably stay with W7 until they pry it from my cold, dead hard drive or it dies a slow death from lack of support.  I'm not interested in using a tablet OS that has been "stretched out" to also cover desktop computers, which is what I consider W8 to be.  As for W10, I'm also not interested in having a subscription to an operating system.

    So, you're saying that a system backup does have files that the disk backup doesn't have, it's just that I can't see them because they're hidden files?  If that is true, and the system backup also includes everything that's in the disk backup, then what is the purpose of the disck backup?  It would seem to me that a system backup would back up just the OS or "system" and the disk backup would back up the entire disk, but it seems that isn't the case.  So, back to my original question, wherein, I'm trying to determine which of the two is the one I need to do if I want to back up everything on my hard drive, the answer would be a system backup?

    Thanx for your response.


  • edited February 2016

    I my opinion, system backup is a subset of the disk backup and partition backup of C: is a subset of system backup. Regarding Windows 7 (BIOS+MBR) with all these 3 it is possible to restore the operating system but with just a partition backup of C: you need to add manually the boot configuration. 

    Disk backup will also backup D: and E: and so on, if present on that disk.

  • edited February 2016

     It would seem to me that a system backup would back up just the OS or
    "system" and the disk backup would back up the entire disk, but it seems
    that isn't the case. 

    There is no such thing as OS or "system", you are on misleading questions, regarding backup. There is no such thing as hard drive. It is called hard disk.

    System backup, backs up the C: partition (drive, volume) and some hidden partitions, all fully. Disk backup backups up C:, some hidden partitions, and all the other partitions like D: E: and more hidden manufacturer partitions if you have such on the disk, all fully.

    Therefore, you want disk backup to back up "everything". In your case, just W7, and all the just described hidden partitions missing and their functions included in C: :  a disk backup is asked for nevertheless.

  • If there is no such thing as a "system" then why does this software offer a "system backup"?  What exactly is it backing up if there is no such thing as a "system"?


    No such thing as an OS?  That makes no sense.  Windows 7 is my operating system, therefore I do have an OS.  This OS and all of the accompanying programs, applications, registries, system files, data files, drivers, etc. that are involved in the successful operation of my computer are commonly known as a "computer system", or, at least the software part of the computer system, and it's the software that we're concerned with when we're talking about a backup.  

    There is such a thing as a hard drive, it's the physical object that I use to store my computer system.  This storage device is commonally known as an HDD or hard disk drive, often shortened to "hard drive", at least that is true here in the United States. My internal storage device is a Western Digital 2 terabyte hard drive and my external storage device that I back up the internal drive to is a Seagate 2 terabyte USB hard drive.  You can also call them hard disks if you prefer, the terms "hard drive" & "hard disk" have become interchangeable because the storage discs and the drives that power them are all in one simple piece of hardware these days, the HDD.  For future clarity, I will use the term "hard disk" instead of "hard drive" when referring to my physical storage devices.

    So, now that we've straightened out our terminology, as you can see, I have a computer SYSTEM that is stored on my hard DISK and there are two different types of backups offered by this piece of software, one called a "SYSTEM backup" and the other called a "DISK backup".  Applying basic logic, their names would imply that one backs up the system and the other backs up the disk.  Meaning, the "system backup" backs up just my computer system and the "disk backup" backs up everything that is on my hard disk, including the computer system and any non-system files that might be on the disk; whether they be in a separate partition or drive from the system, or not.   

    My main concern being, is there a significant difference between the two when it comes time to restore my computer or transfer to a new hard disk?  If my system becomes corrupt and crashes, will there be a problem restoring my computer from a "disk backup" as opposed to a "system backup"?  If it is a hardware problem will there be a difference between the two when trying to restore onto a brand new hard disk?  If I am understanding correctly what you have said, Peter, a "disk backup" would be preferred for restoring to the current hard disc because it includes the disk manufacturer's files and a "system backup" would be better for a transfer to a new hard disk because it doesn't bring over these extraneous files.  Am I wrong in this interpretation?

    PHEW!  It's really a fairly simple question, it shouldn't be this hard.  :-D



  • edited February 2016

    "system backup" is not the same as "system" or as "OS", regarding backup. Your whole machinery including screen cables mouse is also part of the system and it would not duplicate it....

    "Backup up just the OS", what was asked, could be understood back up just c:\windows and (perhaps) a few other folders and files but not the whole C:\. Backing up the system could also mean this. Issue is that given the structure of Windows this cannot be done, the least unit is c:\ and this includes unfortunately not just the OS parts, but also programs and user data, and user configuration. "System backup" includes therefore OS (Windows), programs (FileZilla, OpenOffice, VLC or what have you not belonging to Windows), names of the users, pictures stored in your Pictures folder (not belonging to Windows), email config, emails, and more not contained in the OS and not needed by it.

    Regarding hard drive the terminology is different in Windows than when you buy it and you touch it. And it causes confusion. backing up drive c: (the thing having the drive letter, the only visible content on a HDD, mostly) would not the same as backing up the disk or doing a system backup.

    As I wrote, you need disk backup for all of your scenarios. When you change to a brand new disk one wants to include the manufacturer hidden partition if there is any.

    (it is not an extranous partition used during manufacturing of the disk and originating from the HDD manufacturer, but purposely delivered on the disk by the OEM computer manufacturer, if there is any. Purpose mostly factory restore and maintenance).(Explanation just in case).

    A system backup is meant to restore to the same config in case Windows goes astray. It would not restore for example manufacturer partitions but you seem not to have (in case you found out, using AOMEI Partition Assistant for example).It does not pay to do system backup instead of disk backup on these assumptions for your scenarios.

  • I suggest also you have not one 2TB c: but partition the disk. C: mostly should be around 120GB, and all data, software setups+installers, videos and the like be on E: F: This scenario would allow for separate backups of OS and of data. And I do backup of large pieces (video and so, large installers) by hand copy, not using a backup software. I use backup software when there is a myriad of small items, and my E: is a partition having such, and F: a partition of large pieces. I use backup software for an extra rare full disk backup.

    120GB is enough for Windows and ordinary office programs and user data that Windows wants to keep on C: (it would not be enough for large game programs).

  • Asfor your wondering, please notice that system Backup will back up the all thepartitions which are necessary for system, including boot partition and systempartition. Disk Backup will back up all the partitions on your disk, and whenyou restore the disk backup you have to restore it to a entire hard disk.

    Youcan make a system backup please refer to this tutorial:


    andcreate a bootable media, please refer to this tutorial:


    Incase you are not able to boot your computer, you can boot from the bootablemedia you made and then restore your system.

     You can also select the feature depending onyour requirement.

  • KublaConn , for your situation,if you do the system backup, it will backup the C partition. If you do the disk backup, it will backup C partition because there is only one partition in your disk.

  • So, if you did a disk backup on a disk with 4 partitions, you would have to restore all 4 partitions?  You would not be able to just choose say the C or D drive?

  • @ajc; You can always choose what to restore. One partition, one folder or even 1 file if necessary. That's the same with System Backup or Disk Backup or Partition Backup.

  • @ajc, you can just restore the partition you want from the disk backup.



  • This thread didn't answer my question completely ;(

    f.e.: my disk is partitioned like this:

    C: 100GB (system)

    D: 900GB (data)

    E: 1TB (media)

    and now i want to clone my system to an SSD.

    I add an SSD to the machine and do a System Clone from the clone menu ...

    Works ...

    But if I only want to backup my system without data and media in order to restore it to a new HDD ... what is the right way?

    System Backup didn't do that without having issues to boot the machine after succesful restore from this HDD.

    Disk Backup is not what i need, because it will backup the whole disk.

    So what do I need to make a "System Backup" what will work without issues?

  • edited March 2016

    ElMuchacho, System backup or System clone is right for your purpose (and there are hidden partitions that you did not enumerate).

    It is usual to have boot issues after restoring to a different disk, this is in the core of the boot process of Windows and of EFI firmware. Main explanation: Because the disk signature or the disk GUID are different, and the partitions signatures are also different. This affects BIOS firmware ("BIOS bios") and even more UEFI firmware ("UEFI bios"). On BIOS one usual reason is that the hidden partition is erroneously not active. End of explanation.

    Some times Windows does fix it at boot time.

    Some times the command bcdboot c:\windows, or bcdboot c:\windows /l us-EN  (replace with your locale) from a preboot environment is needed.

    Just for your information I usually give your 100GB partition the volume label "C", to avoid all troubles with overusing the word "system". We don't know the type of your computer and is it BIOS or UEFI firmware?

  • ElMuchacho "But if I only want to backup my system without data and media in order to restore it to a new HDD ... what is the right way?"

    You want to restore it to the new HDD which will be inseted to another computer?

    "System Backup didn't do that without having issues to boot the machine after succesful restore from this HDD."

    You restore to the new HDD in the same computer?

    Do you amend the boot mode?

    You need to choose the HDD as the first boot, and also Legacy is for MBR and UEFI is for  GPT.

  • edited March 2016

    I have the same question and a similar set-up as Kulbla Conn, though my PC is newly upgraded to Windows 10 Home Premium. Partitions MBR UEFI GPT etc are all very confusing. 
    My aim is to backup my hard drive, so that in the event of a problem I can roll things back to when everything worked OK. To date I have performed a System backup as the information posted on the Aomei website suggested that it would do a complete backup of everything on my Hard disk which has not been divided up as far as I know.

    AOMEI Backupper provides a one-click backupsystem solution. If you need to do a system backup, it will enable you to backup your system drive completely, including applications, drivers, configuration settings, system files and boot files.
    Reading what a Disk backup has rather added to my confusion as it seems to do about the same job, but compresses things. I assume that partitions and volumes are all part of my 'C' drive

    Disk backup will back up all your files on the disk into a compressed image file, including all partitions or volumes on this disk, and system files. That means if you back up a system disk, after restoring it, the restored disk can also be booted directly. It supports backing up MBR disks, GPT disks, external hard drives, USB disks, and other storage devices that can be recognized by Windows.

    As you can see I'm not very technically minded so would appreciate an uncomplicated explanation 


  • edited March 2016

    >>I assume that partitions and volumes are all part of my 'C' drive

    That assumption and that naming of things is the other way around. C: is one partition (volume, drive) on your disk (HDD, hard disk device). The other partitions are hidden partitions as you did not divide the disk. Some of the hidden partitions belong to Windows, other hidden partitions could be present and belong to factory reset, or OEM tools.

    >>but compresses things.

    All backup types do compress the same, there is no difference except in the sentence you cite, but that's just formulation.

    >>a complete backup of everything on my Hard disk

    This calls for a disk backup. And an bootable media. And take note of the following commands.

    On the bootable media, to repair boot if needed:

    bcdboot c:\windows /l us-EN

    in the restored system, to repair WinRE if needed (sometimes more commands are needed)

    reagentc /info

    reagentc /disable

    reagentc /enable

    To date
    I have performed a System backup as the information posted on the Aomei
    website suggested that it would do a complete backup of everything on
    my Hard disk

    The text about system backup suggest different, that it backs up only everything belonging to Windows, and everything otherwise on C:. This is less than everything on the hard disk. There could be in addition a factory reset partition for example and it would not be covered by system backup, even on an disk that you did not divide. Some manufacturers, e.g. Acer, did deliver the computer with a divided disk into C: and D: (data), and D: would not be covered.

    Running Aomei Partition Assistant Standard you can see what other partitions are on your Hard Disk Device, there should be at least a System Reserved Partition, or otherwise a System partition and a Recovery Partition.

    As a rule of thumb, System Backup protects against Windows failure only and Disk backup protects against Windows Failure and Hard Disk Failure. 

    I personally use this strategy. I do System Backups, I do file backups frequently for my ordinary data, and I created factory recovery disks. This way everything is covered. In this strategy system backup plays its role.

    For your setup, a disk backup strategy would be right, to cover everything.

    Need to discuss the advantages of each strategy?

  • Oh dear that does all sound rather complicated. You have rather lost me as far as the codes ofr bootable media are concerned.

    There shouldnt be any OEM software on this hard drive as it was a custom built PC, not one off the shelf.

    Have made a boot disk for my Security suite (Kaspersky) will that suffice or do I need to make another with Aomei

  • edited March 2016

    at suffice no or do I need to make another with Aomei yes Kasperski would not restore your AOMEI backups onto a crashed or replacement disk

    There shouldnt be any OEM software on this hard drive as it was a custom built PC, not one off the shelf. The texts on the AOMEI web site you cite are generic and most computers are OEM.

    Take note of the commands I have given, it is just four lines. Did you custom-build the computer yourself? Otherwise tell your friend who built it to take note, and if it was from a shop they please take care about back up and recovery. The builder of your computer is near to you.

  • edited March 2016

    You have lost me there Peter, I really do. It understand what you are on about.

    What commands? What do they mean? When should they be used, why and how?

    No I didn't build the computer myself. The hard disk only had Windows installed on it. Nothing else.

    Of course I know Kaspersky will not restore my AOMEI backups, but the Kaspersky Rescue boot disk will reboot my PC. From that state I should hopefully be able to relaunch AOMEI 

    I need help here not putting down :-/ 

  • edited March 2016

    The hard disk only had Windows installed on it. Nothing else.  (They same could be told of any brand computer, from the user's point of view.) But your statement is true when there was a Windows freshly installed.

    From that state I should hopefully be able to relaunch AOMEI No this is impossible, you cannot launch AOMEI Backupper from a Kasperski rescue disk. (one cannot launch anything except Kasperskis emergency program)

    What commands? What do they mean? When should they be used, why and how? I suggest a disk backup, create a bootable disk, and take note of the commands as written in #20 including the line just above them. The commands are intended to be at hand for a super-emergency case after restore.

  • Thanks Peter, but you misunderstand me re Kaspersky. I know their rescue disk launches their programme. IF a problem is caused by something Kaspersky can deal with all well and good, I should then be able to get Windows working again.

    You have a much better understanding of AOMEI than I do. I am a complete novice here and am at a loss re the commands you mention. What do they mean? Where should they be typed? 

    Is a Disk backup therefore more thorough than a System backup ... Ie, it backs up more than the System backup does, BUT needs a bootable disk to recover itself, whereas the System backup doesn't? 

  • edited March 2016

    Is a Disk backup therefore more thorough than a System backup ... Ie, it
    backs up more than the System backup does, BUT needs a bootable disk to
    recover itself, whereas the System backup doesn't?
    For both it is necessary to create the bootable medium in advance and have it at hand when a restore becomes necessary, but computer doesn't boot regularly.

  • Gnooby, it's a good idea to create a recovery drive and/or system repair disc and keep them on hand in case of a system or disk failure.  Backing up is where you start, but you will need these tools to assist in recovery.  If you have the original installation media, you can restore from that, as well.

  • Thanks guys, will have a go at creating one later this week when I get a decent break from work. I have all the original installation media except of course for Windows 10 *sigh* which came  in as an upgrade. 

    Am hoping that somewhere along the line there will be enlightenment as to what those codes Peter mentioned mean and do .... 

  • edited March 2016

    *sigh* please try here


    scroll to the lower half of the page, Need to create a USB, DVD or ISO? and click Download tool now

  • Sorry for the misleading, we will improve our documents.

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