How to Backup Windows 10
As our lives become more and more integrated with digital technology, backing up your most precious memories and files in one way or another is one of the most important things you can do. However, it’s also a good idea to back up your Windows 10 installation, because if something major happens, you can revert to it and start working or playing again, rather than doing a complete reinstall.
Just as there are many third-party backup utilities that offer a variety of different features, you can back up Windows 10 in different ways. You can choose to protect the bare minimum, or create a full clone of the system to return it to errors exactly as it should.
Whichever option you choose, follow the steps below to learn how to backup Windows 10. If you’re looking to transition to a new version of Windows, see our handy guide on the differences between Windows 10 Home and Pro.
Note: If you store your backups on an internal drive, you run the risk of any malware (such as ransomware) corrupting your system and affecting your backups. Ideally, backups should always be remote from your host computer – at least via a network connection, and better yet, via a temporary physical connection such as an external drive. These are our favorites.
How to Backup Windows 10 Using File History
File History is Windows 10’s file backup utility that ensures your pictures, documents, audio and video files are all protected by copying them elsewhere. It does this automatically, periodically, and once set, it continues to do so permanently until you turn it off.
Here’s how to use it:
- Go to the Windows 10 settings menu by typing “settings” in the Windows search bar and clicking the corresponding result.
- Click the Update & Security icon.
- From the left menu, select “Backup”
- Under the “Backup” heading, click the grey “Add Drive” button to select the drive or device you want to back up your files to.
This will open a new option for “Automatically back up my files”, which you can turn off if you don’t want it in the future.
For additional options, such as how often to perform backups, how long backups will remain on your drive, and which files and folders are actually backed up, click the blue More Options link. You’ll also find a “Backup Now” button here if you’d rather start the backup immediately, rather than waiting for the scheduled time.
How to Backup a System Image of Windows 10
If you want to protect more than just your files, that is, if you want your Windows settings, apps, themes, and pretty much everything else that makes your PC your PC, then you need to do a system Image backup. Thanks to Windows 10, you can also use the built-in utility to do this. That’s it:
- Make sure you have attached a drive or media large enough to create a mirrored copy of the system.
- Search for “Control Panel” in the Windows search bar and click the appropriate result.
- Click the System and Security icon, and then click Backup and Restore (Windows 7). Don’t worry, this also applies to Windows 10.
- Click Create System Image in the left menu.
- Use the on-screen options to select the storage location for the system image backup and click the Next button. You can choose from internal or external storage drives, DVDs (you need a lot of disks), or network drives.
- If you have more than one other drive, select the drive to include in the system image and click the Next button.
- When you’re ready, click “Start Backup”.
Once the backup starts, everything on the drive you selected will be backed up to the drive or media you specified. If the backup is particularly large, it may take some time, but once it’s done, you’ll have a full copy of all the information you can restore later if needed.
If the system fails to boot, you will be asked if you want to create a repair disk to access recovery options. You don’t have to, but it is recommended.
If you do need to restore your system from a backup image, you will need to access the Windows 10 Advanced Options boot menu (either using a system repair disk or pressing the ‘Shift’ key and clicking Restart in Windows). From there, click Troubleshoot, then System Image Recovery, and select Windows 10 as your operating system. Then follow the on-screen instructions.
A note on cloud backup
While local backups of important files and even system images are great, it’s also worth considering keeping a copy in the cloud. There are plenty of options out there, from free solutions like Google Drive and Dropbox, to paid plans with their own automatic backup options.
While cloud backups aren’t a necessary step to protect your system, they can protect your files from any bigger disaster that could affect your external drive. This is something to consider if you want to guarantee that your digital treasure is protected no matter what.
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