How to Back Up Windows 10: A Beginner's Walkthrough

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Aditya Rayaprolu
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Aditya Rayaprolu

Updated · Aug 22, 2023

Aditya Rayaprolu
Technology Architect | McKinsey & Company | Joined February 2023 | LinkedIn
Aditya Rayaprolu

Aditya is an Azure DevOps and Infrastructure Virtualization Architect with experience in automation,... | See full bio

April Grace Asgapo
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April Grace Asgapo


April Grace Asgapo
Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
April Grace Asgapo

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NAKIVO Backup & Replication | Joined July 2023 | LinkedIn
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Data loss is a concern in today's world. Even if you haven't personally experienced it, your computer can still be vulnerable to attacks without your knowledge.

Here's an astonishing fact; hacker attacks happen every 39 seconds in the United States. When companies face data loss, they cannot recover their data 94 out of 100 times. It's like being dealt a knockout blow. Restoring computer systems after a breach can take more than nine months.

Don't wait for a catastrophe to strike. Be proactive. It's as simple as using Data Backup solutions like "Backup and Restore" and "File History" on your computer. By taking these steps, you can safeguard your data.

Discover how to back up Windows 10 and protect your digital life by reading through this article.

🔑Key Takeaways

  • Data loss is a real threat, with many companies failing to recover from it.
  • Backing up Windows 10 is essential for data protection against failures and breaches.
  • Two main backup types: file backup and system backup, each serving different purposes.
  • File backup focuses on safeguarding specific files, enabling speedy recovery.
  • System backup shields essential Windows files, providing a safety net against major issues.
  • Various methods to back up using local, cloud, and third-party software.

Protect Your Files: How to Backup Data on Windows 10

It's important not to overlook the importance of backing up your Windows 10 computer. Backing up your Windows 10 computer isn't just an option; it's a necessity. It's a fact that hard drives will fail sooner or later. 

Consider it like creating a safety net for all your files and data. Occasionally your computer's primary storage may encounter issues. A backup allows you to revert to a state, like rewinding time, on your computer.

Data loss risks are real, and this can be because of:

That's why it's absolutely essential to armor your files.

Opting for automatic file backups is your best defense. Your valuable files—documents, images, and more—are safest when backed up automatically. Think of it like storing precious items in different spots, such as using a trusty USB drive.

Backing up your Windows 10 might seem simple from this angle, but with various methods available, it can get confusing. So, let's dive in with a detailed guide and step-by-step plan.

Determining Your Necessary Backup Type

There are numerous backups and secure storage options. Although each choice is helpful in its own way, it's unlikely that you'll want to keep multiple types of backups.

Instead, you'll need to choose between opting for a fast and compact backup focused on files or a comprehensive backup that safeguards everything, including the entire system. Continue reading to learn more about them.

File Backup 

A file backup is a smart way to safeguard select personal files. It's convenient if you're tight on disk space. By excluding less important files and replaceable software, you can keep it compact.

Not only do file backups save room on external drives or in the cloud, but it also speeds up data recovery. With fewer files to sift through, you can swiftly restore individual items without the fuss.

However, a file backup won't guard you from complete hard drive crashes or ransomware attacks. While it's great for a speedy recovery of crucial data, it's not a stand-alone solution for total data safety.

System Backup Simplified

A system backup is a shield for your essential Windows files and some programs. It's your safety net when things go haywire on your device.

Windows 10 offers a neat trick: creating a system image, which saves all of your data and any files the operating system needs. With a full system image, you can revert all of your info to how it was before. 

This backup type is your lifeline against big-time data disasters, even if your operating system or hardware is toast. 

Here's the catch — it takes a lot of data. You can slim it down by trimming large, replaceable files beforehand, but it's not a perfect fix.

Here are the main points that make system and file backup different.


File Backup

System Backup


Safeguard specific personal files

Protect essential Windows files


Compact, excludes unimportant files

Consumes space due to core data

Data Recovery

Speeds up recovery process

Swift recovery for big data disasters


Not a stand-alone total safety

Safety net for system and hardware

Total Protection

Inadequate for full crashes/attacks

Guards against major system issues

Best for

Speedy recovery of crucial data

Big-time data disasters

Windows 10, like earlier versions, offers features for file and system backups. In the next section, learn easy file backup options for copying your vital personal data.


👍Helpful Articles: To know more about how to delete your backup, check out Techjury’s article about the methods of deleting backup files on Windows 10.

Backing Up Using Local Storage 

Local storage involves saving your files on physical devices like your PC or a thumb drive. This method offers safety and easy access without needing an internet connection.

Here are 10 easy methods to back up your Windows 10.

Method #1: Use a File History

File History is a fairly new way to save things safely on a separate flash drive. This backup method only works with the latest Windows 8, 10, and 11.

Here’s how:

  1. Click on Start , then go to Settings.
  2. Select Update & Security, then Backup. Alternatively, press the Windows key + Q, type backup, and select it.

    Desktop overview of steps to activate Windows 10 backup using File History. Source: Pro Tech Show

  3. Click Add a drive to choose where your backups will be stored, like a network location.

    Add a Drive Option for Storage LocationSource: Pro Tech Show

  4. Turn on Automatically backup files.
  5. Click More options.

    • Choose which files to back up and remove any undesired items.

    Automatic Data Backup ToggleSource: Pro Tech Show

  6. Scroll down and click Add a folder.

    • Exclude specific folders under "Exclude these folders."
    • Include desired folders under "Back up these folders."

    Add a Folder under Back Up These Folders OptionSource: Pro Tech Show

  7. Customize how frequently backups happen.
  8. Click Backup Now to start the backup process.

That's it! Now your files will be backed up and easily recoverable with File History.

Method #2: Backup Your Computer Using System Restore

In Windows 10, restore points are the simplest method to back up essential system files and quickly resolve issues caused by faulty updates or registry changes:

To enable System Restore, just do the following:

  1. Open Create a restore point.
  2. Choose your desired drive.
  3. Select Configure.
  4. Turn on System protection.
  5. Set the maximum space for usage.
  6. Click Apply and then OK.
  7. Confirm that protection is active.

Create A Restore Point PromptSource: Pro Tech Show

Using System Restore can save you from an update or registry glitches. However, remember that it's not a full backup, so consider other methods for your personal data.

Method #3: Secure Your Data with Backup and Restore

Backup and Restore is a program that was introduced in Windows 7, different from System Restore. It lets you save copies of your essential files from your computer's library and any specific folders on your hard drive.

Compared to File History, Backup and Restore gives you more flexibility in selecting files to back up. However, File History stands out for keeping regular records of your backups.

Just like File History, Backup and Restore can also schedule backups. You can even continuously back up your hard drive to an external or internal drive, eliminating the need for third-party backup software.

Follow these steps to launch Backup and Restore:

  1. Search for Control Panel and select it from the results.
  2. In Control Panel, click on System and Security.
  3. Click Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

    Backup Through Control Panel in Windows 10Source:

  4. Click Set up backup.
  5. Choose your backup drive and click Next.
  6. Decide on a full or partial backup. For a full Windows 10 system backup, select Let Windows choose (recommended) and click Next.

    Let Windows choose Option in Set Up Backup TabSource:

  7. Windows defaults to Sunday at 7:00 pm for backups. To adjust this to your preference, click Change schedule.
  8. Check Run backup on a schedule (recommended), then use the drop-down menus to customize backup frequency and timing. Click OK.

    Important: Once you pick a schedule, Windows will do backups automatically. Just connect an external drive before the scheduled backup time.

  9. Click Save settings and run backup.

Start Backup ButtonSource:

Method #4: Leverage the System Image Tool

With the system image tool, you can make a full backup on an external drive or a shared folder on the network. It's best to use portable storage that you can unplug and put away in a different place.

Quick Note: The Windows 10 System Image Backup tool is no longer updated, but you can still use it for the immediate future. 

Here's how to use Windows 10's system image backup tool for your operating system:

  1. Launch Settings.
  2. Click on Updates & Security.
  3. Select Backup.
  4. Click the Go to Backup and Restore — Windows 7 option under Looking for an older backup?

    Looking for an Older Backup Option under Backup TabSource: Windows Central

  5. Click Create a system image on the left side of the screen.

    On a Hard Disk Option on the Left SettingsSource: Windows Central

  6. Choose On a hard disk from the list.
  7. Use the “On a hard disk drop-down menu” to choose where to send the full backup of Windows 10. Then click Next.

    Choosing an external drive in the Dropdown MenuSource: Windows Central

  8. Optional — choose any extra hard drives you want to back up.
  9. Select Start backup from the menu.

Start Backup ButtonSource: Windows Central

Method #5: Forging Data Safety through Recovery Drive Creator

Windows 10 has a handy tool called Recovery Drive Creator. It makes a backup of your OS system files. If your computer has a problem, you can use this backup to install or reinstall Windows.

Here's a brief walkthrough on how to access this tool:

  1. Click the Start button (Windows key).
  2. Search for Recovery drive.
  3. Choose Create a recovery drive.

Create a Recovery Drive in the Search Box

Method #6: Kickstart System Backup via Repair Disc

In addition to crafting a recovery thumb drive, Windows 10 can generate a recovery CD for safeguarding your PC. To locate this feature, follow these steps:

  1. Click on the Start menu .
  2. Search for Backup and restore.
  3. Select Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7).
  4. Look on the left side of the window and choose Create a system repair disc.

Important: You'll need a CD/DVD drive throughout this process. If your device lacks a CD/DVD drive, an alternative method involves using a USB flash drive, which can serve as an equally effective recovery tool.

Method #7: Backup Data With Third-Party Softwares

Using backup software from third-party sources can be confusing because the quality of their backups can vary. 

Some hard drive manufacturers, like Western Digital, offer free software such as:

To ensure you're using the right backup software for your PC, visit the company website that made your hard drive.

Important: When using third-party backup software, learn about it before trusting it with your important files.

Moving on from the tried-and-true method of data protection—local storage backup—let's now delve into cloud-based storage backup.

Backing Up Using Cloud Storage

Cloud storage does not rely on physical devices such as USB drives or hard drives. It stores your files in a digital webspace called "online storage."

This method is becoming increasingly popular as a way to back up system files so that you can view them from anywhere with an internet connection.

There are many ways to improve data security and backup routines, each with unique benefits and safeguards for your important data. Learn more about it below. 

Method #1: Fortify Your Data with Microsoft Azure

Azure Backup is a service that lets you back up your data to the Microsoft Azure Cloud.  This subscription-based tool can be used in addition to other backup solutions or to replace them entirely.

To start, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to the Azure portal.

    Microsoft Azure Sign in Tab Source:  Microsoft Azure 

  2. Choose Virtual machines from the left menu.
  3. Pick the virtual machine (VM) you want to back up from the list.
  4. In the VM settings ⚙️, click Backup under Operations. This opens the backup settings.

    Backup and Operations Tab in BackupVMSource:  Microsoft Azure 

  5. In the Recovery Services vault, click Create new. This vault will store your backup data securely.
  6. Leave the default backup policy (New) or create a new one, then click Enable Backup.

    Enable Backup Button under Recovery Services VaultSource:  Microsoft Azure 

  7. To create your first backup point, click Backup now on the Backup page.

    Backup Now Option in the Backup TabSource:  Microsoft Azure 

  8. In the Backup Now settings, select the calendar icon 🗓️. Use the calendar to choose how long you want to keep the backup point, then click OK.
  9. You'll see the number of completed restore points on the Backup page for your VM.

Restore Points OverviewSource:  Microsoft Azure 

Note that the first backup takes about 20 minutes.

Method #2: Elevate Your Backup Strategy with OneDrive

OneDrive is a famous cloud-based storage service made by Microsoft. If you luckily sign up in time, you can get up to 15 GB of free storage, and everyone else gets 5 GB.

Users can access the files in their account's OneDrive storage through the desktop program or the mobile app. 

Find out how to set up your OneDrive backup in just four clicks:

  1. Open the OneDrive settings by clicking the OneDrive cloud icon in your system tray, > OneDrive Help and Settings icon⚙️, > Settings.
  2. Go to the tab that says Sync and backup.
  3. Choose Manage Backup.
  4. Click the Save button after toggling the switch next to the folder you want to back up and it will begin backing up immediately. 

Continue button under Where do you want to keep your files promptSource:  Microsoft OneDrive 

Method #3: Amplify Data Security with this Honorable Mention — NAS Systems

Network-attached storage (NAS) systems consist of a group of drives that can be accessed through a network connection. 

Unlike cloud storage, which's popular for its ease and cost-effectiveness NAS systems offer greater control over who can access your files and sensitive information. 

With NAS systems you have ownership and control, over the security of your data.

Let's begin by using the agentless backup method, which involves utilizing the Windows Built-in Tool, for NAS backup:

  1. Start by typing "Settings" in the Search box. Then go to the Update & Security section. 

    Update & Security under Settings windowSource:  Minitool

  2. Within the Backup section click on Options.

    More Options tab under Backup Using File History windowSource:  Minitool

  3. In the Backup options window click on See settings. Then select a drive by clicking on Select drive.
  4. Under the Select a File History drive section you can proceed to Add a network location.

    Drive settings under the File History windowSource:  Minitool

  5. Enter the Network address. Provide a name for your NAS device. Then click on Select Folder.

    Select Folder button under the Network settings windowSource:  Minitool

  6. Choose your desired folder and path then click OK followed by Enable. Finally, click on now.

Important: In the backup options, you may choose when to back up, whether to keep previous backups, which folders to back up, and which to delete.

Windows 10 just makes it easy to back up files. Now that you know how to back up Windows 10, let's look at how to restore files or the whole system if you need to.  

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

In today's computer world, copying your files is a must. It saves your data if something goes wrong with your computer, like hardware problems, bad software, or accidents.

Let's discuss restoring your files from a backup in Windows 10.

To recover your Windows 10 system from a backup — follow any of these file backup restoration methods:

Way #1: Restore files with File History

File history is a file backup program that comes with Windows 8/8.1/10. It lets you back up your files and then restore them to an earlier version or get back files that you accidentally lost. 

Here's a step-by-step guide for restoring your backup:

  1. Search for File History and choose Restore your files with File History.
  2. Use arrows to find the latest version, pick files to restore.
  3. Click green restore button. For a new location, click Settings -> Restore to -> new path.

Restore To in the File History WindowSource: Ubackup

Way #2: Recovering Data with Windows 10 Backup & Restore

Start restoring files using Backup & Restore in Windows 10. These steps also work for restoring files from backup in Windows 7 and 8:

  1. Type "backup settings" and select it. On the Backup page, scroll to "Looking for an older backup?" and click Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7).
  2. In Backup and Restore, click Restore my files below.
  3. On the Restore files page, use Search, Browse for files, or Browse for folders.

    • Search — Type part of the file name and select files to restore.
    • Browse for files — Find the folder, select it, and click Add Files.
    • Browse for folders — Add the entire folder for restoration.

    Restore File Options with Search, Browse for files or for foldersSource: Ubackup

  4. Choose In the original location or In the following location for file storage.
  5. Click Restore.

That's all for how to restore files from a backup in Windows 10.


Data loss from hard drive failures or accidental deletion is unpredictable. Malware infections or the need to format your device might arise, underscoring the need for vital data backups.

Your valuable data shouldn't be lost. While backing up might take time and effort, it's crucial. Luckily, Windows 10 offers tools to back up your files, keeping them safe and secure. 

For optimal file backup, exploring the best Windows backup software solutions is recommended. 

No matter if you lose data or switch devices, you can easily retrieve your documents using the steps mentioned above.


Is it better to clone or back up a hard drive?

It depends on your needs. Cloning creates an exact copy, whereas backup protects your data for eventual recovery. Cloning replaces disks, whereas backup protects crucial data.

What are the disadvantages of full backup?

It's the fastest and simplest data protection as it duplicates everything —but requires moving a lot of data, so this type of backup takes a long time to do.

What is the 321 rule for backup?

The 3-2-1 backup method implies that you should have three copies of your data—your production data, two backup copies, and one copy off-site for disaster recovery—on two distinct media (disk and tape).

How long should you keep backups?

Businesses often store complete backups for a year or more. Incremental backups might not be needed for long since you can restore from a full backup.


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