How To Backup Windows 10 In Nine Easy Steps

Bobby Chernev
Bobby Chernev

Updated · Oct 16, 2022


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I know what you didn’t do last March 31.

You didn’t make a data backup. That’s not good. 


The risk of data loss is widespread and affects everyone. In the blink of an eye, you can lose your precious data forever.

Many do.

You could be next if you keep pushing your luck.

With the next annual backup data day (March 31) around the corner, it’s time you start taking data backup seriously.

Making backups in Windows 10 is easy and simple. There’s absolutely no excuse to not do it.

 “How to back up Windows 10,” you wonder?

Windows 10 comes with two excellent backup utilities: (1) Backup and Restore and (2) File History

You should use both. 

Remember, both. Not one or the other. 

This is because they work differently and backup different things. 

Also because, when it comes to data protection, more is usually better. 

Here’s why:

  • Data loss is up 400% since 2012.
  • A study reports 46% of users experience data loss every year.
  • Small companies lose more than $100,000 per ransomware incident because of downtime.
  • 60% of businesses that experience data loss close down within the next six months.
  • 140,000 hard drives fail every week in the US. 

It’s clear, then. Whether you’re an individual or a company, you can’t afford to not back up your data. 

If you don't want to use the built-in Windows tools, feel free to use Stellar Data Recovery, Acronis True Image, AOMEI Backupper, iBeesoft Data Recovery, or EaseUS.

How To Create System Backups in Windows 10

The easiest way is to use the inbuilt Windows backup software utility called Backup and Restore. 

Before we look at how to use it, let’s understand what a system backup is first. 

In a system backup, you create a snapshot of the entire system. This includes the operating system, documents, programs, and other important data. 

But why go through so much trouble? 

As said above, the risk of data loss is constant and affects us all. 

Malware infection or a hardware or software failure can all cause data loss and even irrevocable damage to your Windows installation.

A complete Windows 10 backup allows you to get your system up and running with minimum hassle and time lost if something bad happens to it. 

With Backup and Restore, you can backup your entire system with just a few clicks.

Understanding the Backup and Restore Tool

An oldie-but-goodie utility, Backup and Restore was first introduced in Windows Vista and has been present ever since. 

As a matter of fact, in Windows 10 it is called Backup and Restore (Windows 7), indicating that it is not a new component. 

This Windows backup utility allows you to save backups in different places, such as on a network, a USB flash drive,  a CD or DVD, or on an external hard drive. 

Mind you you can't do a backup in the cloud.

Windows and most experts recommend making backups on an external drive and then store it in a safe, secure place. 

Experts also advise users to make backups frequently. 

You may be thinking - how frequently? 

Well, it depends on how you use your computer. That said, you should make a complete Windows 10 system backup once a week, and also before a major change. 

For instance, if you want to perform a system upgrade, do a full backup. This will protect you if something goes wrong. 

Remember, having several backup instances is always better than one, which in turn is better than none. 

By default the Backup and Restore tool creates a system image, which preserves the files on your desktop, in your libraries, and in your user folder. 

However, if you want, you can ask the tool to only save specific files in the Windows 10 backup instance. You can also decide whether you want it to create a system image or not.

If you want to go the default route, select Let Windows choose (recommended).

How to Backup Windows 10 let me choose option

Otherwise, pick Let me choose.

Now you can manually select the files you want to back up and decide if you need a system image.

How to Backup Windows 10 mannually select files

It’s best to go with the first option. However, if you are worried about the external hard drive getting full quickly and are also using the File History tool, which you should,  you may choose to unselect Libraries here, since the latter is backing them up. 

Important: You should use separate external drives for Backup and Restore and File History. If one fails, at least you won't lose all your data.

How To Backup Windows 10 With the Backup and Restore Utility

1) Type control panel in the search menu and click Control Panel in the results.

2) In the Control Panel window, click System and Security.

3) Now click Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

How to Backup Windows 10 backup and restore windows 7

4) Click Set up backup.

How to Backup Windows 10 setup backup

5) You can select the backup drive here. Then click the Next button.

How to Backup Windows 10 select backup drive

6) Now decide whether you want a full or partial backup. To choose the former, select Let Windows choose (recommended) while making a Windows 10 system backup. Click the Next button.

How to Backup Windows 10 let windows choose option

7) By default, Windows makes backups every Sunday at 7:00 pm. If you want to change this setting, click the Change schedule button.

How to Backup Windows 10 change schedule

8) Now check the box before Run backup on a schedule (recommended) and then use the drop-down menus to select how often and when you want the system to make backups. Finally, click OK to tweak the Windows automatic backup feature as per your liking. 

Important: Once you configure a schedule, Windows will automatically make system backups according to it, provided you connect an external drive to your computer before the backup is scheduled to run.

How to Backup Windows 10 setup automatic backup

9) Now click Save settings and run backup.

Windows will now make a backup on the external drive. This may take some time, depending on how much data there is. 

Create a System Repair Disk

After making a Windows 10 backup, you should create a system repair disk. It will come in handy when you are unable to boot into Windows or want to replace the main drive. 

The system repair disk helps you boot Windows when you can’t boot the normal way. It also has Windows system recovery tools to assist you to restore Windows using a system image or recover Windows following a severe error. 

To create a system repair disk from Windows Backup and Restore utility, click the Create a system repair disc link and then click the Create disc button in the dialog box that opens on your screen and follow the onscreen instructions.

How to Backup Windows 10 create a system repair disc

Managing Space on Your External Hard Drive

Worried that frequent backups will make your external drive full rather quickly? 

If yes, you can use the Backup and Restore utility to manage space. 

Here are the steps to follow. 

1) In the Windows Backup and Restore utility window, click the Manage Space link. 

How to Backup Windows 10 manage space

2) Click the View backups… button in the Data file backup section.

3) Now you’ll see a complete list of file backups. To free space, select the oldest backup, click Delete, and then Close.

How to Backup Windows 10 delete backup files

4) You can free up more space by removing old system images. To do so, click Change settings… under System image.

How to Backup Windows 10 change settings

5) Select Keep only the latest system image and minimize space used by backup. Click OK.

How to Backup Windows 10 ratain older system images options

How To Restore Specific Files or the Entire System on Windows 10

Now that we’ve learned how to backup Windows 10, let’s see how we can restore files or entire system when the need arises. 

You are likely to need the backups you’ve created in any of these scenarios. 

Scenario 1 - You Need Specific Files

If you’ve lost certain files and need to recover them, follow these steps. 

1) In the Backup and Restore (Windows 7) window click Restore my files.

How to Backup Windows 10 restore my files

2) Now click the Browse for files button.

How to Backup Windows 10 browse for files

3) Go through the backup and choose the specific files you wish to restore. Then click Add files.

How to Backup Windows 10 add files

4) Now click Browse for folders, go through the backup, choose the specific folders you wish to restore, click Add folders, and then finally click the Next button.

How to Backup Windows 10 browse for foldiers

5) You can have the Backup and Restore utility restore the selected file to its original or to a new location. To save the restored file in a new place, select In the following location and then specify the desired location.

How to Backup Windows 10 choose location

6) Click the Restore button and then finally click Finish. Windows will now restore the selected folders and files to the specified location. You can navigate to this location and access the restored data. 

Scenario 2 - How to Restore Windows from System Image when You’re Able to Log in to Windows

You may need to restore Windows in different situations, for instance when your system files become corrupt. 

If you’ve created a system image using the Windows backup utility, you can restore Windows without much hassle. 

Here are the steps to follow. 

1) Click the Windows icon in the taskbar and then click Settings.

How to Backup Windows 10 option 2 settings

2) Click Update & Security.

How to Backup Windows 10 update and security

3) Click Recovery.

4) Click Restart now in the Advanced Startup section.

How to Backup Windows 10 restart now

5) When Windows restarts, click Troubleshoot.

How to Backup Windows 10 troubleshoot

6) Click Advanced Options and then click System Image Recovery.

How to Backup Windows 10 system image recovery

7) Now you can pick the system image, from which you want to restore.

Scenario 3 - How to Restore Windows from System Image when You Can’t Log in to Windows

A complete pc backup can save the day when your system goes completely kaput.

When your computer doesn’t boot or fully load Windows, you can use the latest system image to get your system back on its feet. 

In such a scenario, you’ll also need a system repair disc, a bootable disc that helps troubleshoot and fix system problems. 

1) Connect the external drive on which you created Windows image backups to your computer.

2) Connect the system repair disc.

3) Restart the computer. Note: If the Windows Setup Wizard is not loading, you’ll have to change the BIOS settings. To do this, typically you’ll need to keep hitting a function key (F1, F2, F3, F10, or F12) or pressing the Delete or ESC key as your system boots. The exact key you need to press will depend on your computer’s model or manufacturer. Therefore, we recommend that you search for the relevant information on the PC manufacturer website first. 

4) Click Next in the Windows Setup screen.

How to Backup Windows 10 windows setup screen

5) Click Repair your computer.

How to Backup Windows 10 repair your computer

6) Click Troubleshoot and then click Advanced Options.

How to Backup Windows 10 troubleshoot

7) Click System Image Recovery.

How to Backup Windows 10 system image recovery

8) Select Windows 10.

9) Select Use the latest available system image in the next screen and then click Next. Note: In case you’ve made multiple Win 10 backups and want to restore from an older copy, choose Select a system image (toward the bottom of the screen).

How to Backup Windows 10 select image backup

10) In case you want to restore a full backup onto a new drive, choose Format and repartition disks first and then click Next.

How to Backup Windows 10 format and reparation disk

11) Click Finish.

12) If you’re asked to confirm your action, click Yes.

The recovery will start now. How much time it will take depends mainly on two things: the amount of data that needs to be restored and your PC's hardware configuration.

Mind, any sort of interruption may disrupt the recovery process and make the computer unbootable. 

So make sure there are no disruptions while the recovery process is going on. Also, ensure your laptop is connected to a power outlet. If you use a desktop PC, connect it to a battery backup before initiating recovery if possible. 

How To Create File Backups in Windows 10?

Above we saw how to backup Windows 10 using the Backup and Restore utility. 

Now let’s learn how to make files backups with help of File History, another useful backup tool that comes pre-installed in Windows 10. 

File History proves mighty helpful when you need to restore a file that you’ve accidentally removed or retrieve an older version of a modified file.

File History, by default, will backup all the folders in your user account folder, such as your desktop, download folder, documents, music, pictures, etc. It also makes a backup of the folders in your OneDrive. 

Unlike the Backup and Restore utility, this Windows 10 backup utility saves only user data, not system files. 

Also while the former retains only the latest version of a file, File History can save multiple versions. Thanks to this feature, you can restore an older version of a file in a jiffy. 

Furthermore, when you run File History the second time around, it updates only the files you’ve added or modified since the last backup. 

In contrast, the Backup and Restore application, used primarily for making windows 10 system image backups, saves all the files in the specified folders, irrespective of whether they’ve been recently modified or not. 

File History, just like its counterpart, allows you to backup data to different destinations, namely a USB flash drive, a network location, or an external hard drive. 

Here we’ll see how to backup data on an external drive using File History. 

How To Enable File History

You can enable this Windows backup software in no time at all. Here are the steps to follow. 

1) Connect an external drive to your desktop PC or laptop.

2) Click the Windows icon in the taskbar and then click Settings.

How to Backup Windows 10 how to enable file history

3) Click Update & Security.

How to Backup Windows 10 how to enable file history update and security

4) Click Backup and then click Add a drive. Select your external drive in the list that appears on the screen.

How to Backup Windows 10 backup file history

5) The moment you choose a drive, Windows will turn on the Automatically back up my files button. Now this application will automatically make file backups whenever you connect the external hard drive to the system.

How to Backup Windows 10 backup file history on

File History Default Settings

You can go with the default settings of this Windows 10 backup utility or tweak its settings as per your needs. 

The default settings of File History are as follows: 

  • How often it makes backups - By default, File History will make backups every hour, provided the external drive is connected to the system. You should backup all your files once a week, and the more important ones, every day or at least two-three times a week. 
  • For how long it keeps backups - By default, File History keeps your backups forever. As you may guess, this is far from ideal. Chances are you’ll be out of disk space quickly if you keep the default setting on. 
  • What it backs up - By default, this Win 10 backup application backs up all your user libraries, your Contacts, the Desktops, Microsoft Edge favorites, and OneDrive. 

How To Configure File History

To change File History’s default settings, perform these steps. 

1) Click the More options link, located in the Back up using File History section, to access and change the configuration options.

How to Backup Windows 10 backup file history more options

2) These are the default settings.

How to Backup Windows 10 backup file history defaut settings

3) To tweak File History’s backup schedule, click the Back up my files drop-down menu and pick a suitable option.

4) To change the time duration for which the File History keeps the backups, click the Keep my backups drop-down menu and select an appropriate option.

How to Backup Windows 10 backup file history how long to keep options

5) File History is considered to be among the best Windows backup software because you can easily customize it as per your requirements. For instance, if you don’t want to backup a folder in its default list, just browse through the list, select the folder you want to remove, and then click the Remove button. Repeat this step for all folders that you don’t want to backup.

6) You can also ask File History to backup additional folders as well. Simply click + Add a folder, navigate to the desired folder, select it, and then click Choose this folder. Repeat this step for all folders that you want this Windows 10 backup tool to preserve.

How to Backup Windows 10 backup file history selecting folder

How To Run a Manual File History Backup and Stop It

What if you want to run a file backup outside of the defined schedule? Can you do that? 

Yes, sure. Just click the Back up now button in the Backup options window.

How to Backup Windows 10 manual backup file history

On the other hand, if you want to stop File History from making backups, switch off Automatically backup my files in the Settings screen.

How to Backup Windows 10 manual backup file history activate

How To Restore Files

You can restore files either through File History or File Explorer. Here’s a step-by-step description of both methods. 

Scenario 1 - Restore Files Through File History

You can use the PC settings to restore files backed up by File History, a free Windows 10 backup software. 

Here are the steps to follow. 

1) Click Settings, Update & Security, Backup, and then More options.

How to Backup Windows 10 file restoring more options

2) In the new window, scroll down and click Restore files from a current backup.

How to Backup Windows 10 file restoring current backup

3) In the File History window, browse to the relevant file and select the version you want to restore. Finally, click Restore (the green button).

How to Backup Windows 10 file restoring

That’s it. The Windows 10 backup tool will now restore the chosen file.

You may see a message asking you to confirm if you would like to overwrite the current version of the folder or file. Click Yes to save the restored file in the original location. 

If you want to save the file to an alternate location, right-click Restore (the green button) and click the Restore to option and choose the new location.

Scenario 2 - Restore Files Through File Explorer

Want to restore files using File Explorer instead of the aforementioned, inbuilt Windows backup utility? 

If yes, just follow these steps. 

1) Go to File Explorer, choose the desired file, click the History tab.

How to Backup Windows 10 file restoring file explorer

2) Browse through different versions of the selected file and pick the version you want to restore and then click the Restore button.

How to Backup Windows 10 file restoring file explorer 2

Windows will now restore the file. 

Alternately, you can restore a file through File Manager by right-clicking it and then selecting Properties. Now browse through the different versions of this file saved by the pre-installed Win 10 backup utility, select the one you want, and click the Restore button if you wish to restore the file to its original location.

How to Backup Windows 10 file restoring file explorer restore to

To save the file to a new location, click the down arrow next to Restore and choose Restore To and save the file in the desired location.

Wrapping Up

Computer backups are much like health insurance. You don’t realize their importance until you need one. 

And by then it's already too late. 

Your data’s gone and with it your peace of mind. 

Whether it’s data or your personal health, it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

Windows 10 offers two excellent utilities that aptly take care of the how to back up Windows 10 question - Backup and Restore and File History

For all-round protection, use both - regularly. 

Also, create a system repair disk the first time you set up Backup and Restore. It’ll help you retrieve your system when it gets severely damaged. 

Both Backup and Restore and File History allow you to schedule backups as per your needs. 

Making backups on external hard drives is a decent option. However, it’s best to use a different external drive for each utility.  

Still, the best way to backup your files is by using one of the best Windows backup software solutions. We've tested and reviewed them in detail.

Make full system backups once a week and always before an important change. 

The same applies to all users. That said, you should backup important files more frequently.

And that brings us to the end of our exploration of how to backup Windows 10. See you next time!


How to backup a hard drive?

The easiest and most effective way to do this is by using the Backup and Restore tool.  To access it, open Control Panel and click Backup and Restore (Windows 7). Next, click the Create a system image link in the left panel. The system will give you three options for saving the image: on a hard disk, on one or more DVDs, or on a network location. Select the option that works best for you and the drive you want to back up.  Finally, click the Start backup button.

How to backup your computer? 

Windows 10 makes it easier for the average user to make backups. Two utilities are included in your computer for this very purpose. The first one is Backup and Restore. Using that, you can create a system image and backup individual folders. You can access it from the control panel window. The second pre-built tool is File History. It backs up all the files in the user library. For comprehensive protection, use both.

Can I backup Windows 10 to USB? 

Yes, you can. Both Backup and Restore and File History allow you to back up data in multiple ways: on an external hard drive, a network, or a USB flash drive. You can only make backups of your system files and user files on most flash drives. Unfortunately, it won’t be easy to create a system image on one. These images require a lot more space, and USB drives do not usually support vast amounts of storage. In the end, it all depends on how big your system drive is and, of course, the USB stick you want to use. Full backups like these can also take a lot of time. If you’re looking for a quicker way to make backups, try out a free online backup solution. Some of the best backup software for windows 10 for incremental backups are Personal Backup, AOMEI Backupper Professional, and Comodo BackUp. The Backup and Restore utility can do full backups as well. Every time you run the tool, it will save the selected files, even if they’ve not been modified after the last backup. On the other hand, when you opt for an incremental backup, the tool backs up only those files that have been recently changed. Let’s say you schedule a full backup for Sunday and opt for incremental backups for the remaining days of the week. On Sunday your third-party Windows backup software will copy all the files, but on Monday it will back up only those that have been changed since Sunday, the day of the last backup. It will do the same every day until the following Sunday. As you can guess, incremental backups take less time. They also help you utilize space better. Further, online incremental backup tools save your data on the cloud. So you wouldn’t need to worry about spending money on USB flash drives or external hard disks.

How to delete backup files in windows 10?

By default, File History keeps backed up files forever. If you didn’t change the default setting when you turned on this tool, after a while you may get a message to make some space on the File History drive. To free up space, go to PC settings and click Update & Security, Backup, More options, and then See advanced settings. Now click Advanced settings (in the left pane). Now click the Clean up versions link. Finally, select the option that works best for you and click the Clean up button. 


Bobby Chernev

Bobby Chernev

Bobby Chernev, editor at A historian and political scientist by training, he is passionate about quality research and writing in different fields. He's also a general sports fan, a devotee of cask ale, and an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction.

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