How to backup – Windows 10 – Solved

In this guide, we show you how to backup Windows 10. We explain why it is important to have copies of your data and the different types of backup you can do. We also discuss backup software, external hard drives, cloud backups and how often you should be making copies of your files.

How to backup windows 10

There are instructions on how to backup Windows 10 and your important files at the end of this post. If you would rather jump straight to the instructions click here.

What is a backup?

A backup is a copy of important data. So that in the event of damage or disaster the data can be restored safely. We recommend backing up data to a secondary device or location.

Why backup your files?

In today’s world, so much of what is important to us is in a digital format. Photos, movies, invoices, warranties, receipts, etc. Everything is now digital and you could lose it all at once.

Sadly this is one of the most overlooked aspects of having a computer and we cannot stress this enough. Backup, backup, backup! – It is not until you lose your data that you understand how important this is.

It happens to us all, we recently lost 3 years of data because an external hard disk became corrupted. After hours of trying to retrieve the contents, we admitted defeat.

Business backups

Businesses often take multiple copies of data to ensure that in the event of disaster they can be up and running again quickly. They might also do this because of laws and regulations regarding data retention.

In addition to having multiple servers or raid hard disk systems. Businesses will often back up their entire servers daily and will often use a process known as the 3,2,1 backup.

  • 3 copies
  • 2 onsite
  • 1 offsite

In general, home users do not need this many copies of their data. However, in the event of fire, theft or flood having both copies of your important data in the same location is risky. This is where an additional cloud backup can be useful.

Backup software

There are a number of backup software providers, which all do a fine job of securing copies of your data. In this guide, we are focusing on the free services within Windows 10 that allow you to backup your files, folders and create a system image.

If you would like to buy backup software then there are lots of options such as Acronis, Paragon, Idrive, etc. Please note this is not an endorsement just a starting point.

Types of backup

Types of backup

You might think a backup is a backup but there are different ways of taking copies of your data. We outline some of the most common types below.

Self-styled backup

This is where you manually decide which files you want to backup. You might for instance not care about program files but want to take a copy of your photos and word documents. This style of backup requires the user to spend time copying each file or folder. The files and folders are a snapshot of how they were at that point in time.

Full backup

A full backup is a copy of everything at that point in time. It can take a long time to do this type of backup but is the complete snapshot of your computer.

Each additional full backup is exactly that a full backup.

Pros: Copies everything.

Cons: Takes a long time and uses up lots of disk space.

Incremental backup

An incremental backup first takes a full backup and then each additional backup records the changes since the last backup.

For example, a full backup is taken on a Monday. On Tuesday only the new files and those that have changed since the full backup are saved. Then on Wednesday only the new files and those that have changed since Tuesday are saved.

A full back up would be taken once a week.

Pros: Fast / Less disk space

Cons: Should you need to restore, each step would need to be restored in turn. If any of the steps fail you would only be able to go back to the last full backup.

Differential backup

A differential backup first takes a full backup and then each additional backup records the changes since the full backup.  For example, on Monday a full backup is made. On Tuesday only new files and those that have changed since the full backup are saved. Then on Wednesday only new files and those that have changed since full backup are saved.

A full back up would be taken once a week.

Pros: Fast / Less disk space

Methods of backup

There are two main backup methods, image, and file system.

System Image backups are normally used in the event of an emergency. A system image backup is a snapshot in time of the entire computer, the operating system, all users, files, and folders. A complete copy. The only downside to this type is that everything must be restored at the same time.  You cannot pick a single file from the backup to restore.

File system backups are sometimes referred to as a file history or brick level backup. This because each individual component of the back up is recoverable on its own. The amount backed up is determined by the user.

Where should I backup to?

External hard drives

If you are backing up the important files on your computer make sure it is to a different disk. Computers may have one disk which is partitioned into two. For example, the C: drive and the D: drive could appear on your computer like two separate locations but could be part of the same disk.

This should not be confused with an external hard disk which is a physically separate to your computer.

Type of hard drive?

The type of external hard drive is not as important as the size and connection type. The hard disk should have the same connections as your computer, for example, USB. It should also be of an adequate size, which means either equal to or greater than the computers hard disk.

(SSD or Solid state hard drives are faster than spinning disk hard drives but are more expensive per gigabyte.)

Cloud backups

Lots of premium (paid) backup companies will send copies of your data directly to the cloud. If you are using one of these services that is great. We recommend that you also have a physical copy of your important files on an external hard drive.

If you are not using premium services. It is worth noting that many products and devices now come with free cloud storage.  There are also cloud providers that offer limited access to their services for free. For example Dropbox basic allows home users to have 2GB for free. Idrive offers 5GB etc.

USB Memory Stick

Using a memory stick would be fine as long as it is of sufficient quality and size. We prefer to use an external hard disk, as they are more reliable and cannot be lost as easily.

how to backup windows 10

We are going to show you how to make both a file history backup for all your important files and also a system image backup in case your entire computer stops working.

How to backup Windows 10 – File History

  1. Connect your external drive to your computer
  2. Press the Windows key to activate the text box on the taskbar.
  3. Type Settings in the text box on the taskbar and press Enter
  4. You will be taken to the Windows Settings window, click Update & Security

Backup settings

  1. Next click Backup as shown below

backup menu

  1. Click Add a drive

Windows 10 Backup

  1.  Select your drive from the list. 
  2. Once selected you will see Automatically back up my files and an on/off box. If you cannot see this don’t worry.
  3. Click More options as shown below

More backup options

  1. Choose options for how often you would like to backup etc. (Remember, the backup will only run when the external drive is connected.)
  2. If you scroll down, there is a list of all the folders that will be backed up.
  3. You will be able to add any folders you want to the list with the add folder button or you can choose to exclude any folders. 
  4. To start the backup process click Back up now (this is at the top of the page)

 

  1. Leave the backup to run. Depending on the size of your computer’s data, it may take a while. You can continue to work but leave it running in the background.
  2. When it has completed make sure you test the backup has saved the files you wanted to your external drive.

Tip: If Onedrive is a copy of the files on your computer and you have another copy in the cloud, including this folder in the backup could be duplicating your backup.

How to restore a file from your file history backup

The good thing about backing up with Windows file history is you can restore a single file or folder, to restore a file please follow the below instructions.

  1. Connect your external drive to your computer
  2. Press the Windows key to activate the text box on the taskbar.
  3. Type Settings in the text box on the taskbar and press Enter
  4. You will be taken to the Windows Settings window, click Update & Security

Backup settings

  1. Next click Backup as shown below

backup menu

  1. Click More options as shown below

More backup options

  1. A new window will open. Scroll to the very bottom and click Restore files from a current backup
  2. As shown below you will see a list of your files browse to the file or folder you wish to restore and then click the green restore button to restore the file to its original location.

 

How to backup Windows 10 – System Image

A system image backup is great for when everything has gone wrong. Even if you have a file history back, we recommend you take a system image backup too.

  1. Connect your external drive to your computer
  2. Press the Windows key to activate the text box on the taskbar.
  3. Type Settings in the text box on the taskbar and press Enter
  4. You will be taken to the Windows Settings window, click Update & Security

Backup settings

  1. Next click Backup as shown below

backup menu

 

  1. Click Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7) as shown below.

System image backup

  1. On the left of the screen, click Create a system image

  1. Choose On a hard disk, and then select your external hard disk from the list
  2. Click Next
  3. Select the drives you wish to include in the system image. The C: drive (System) is selected by default.
  4. Click Next
  5. You will be asked to confirm, click Start backup
  6. Windows will start making your system image.
  7. When the backup is complete you will receive a notification advising it completed successfully
  8. You will then be prompted to create a system repair disc

Creating a system repair disc is optional. If you have a CD/DVD drive and want to create a system repair disk then follow the onscreen instructions. However, you can restore from the system image files without the repair CD. To restore the system image without the repair CD you can follow the below instructions.

How to Restore from a system image backup without repair disk

  1. If possible save any open work.
  2. Press the Windows Key
  3. Press and hold the Shift key and at the same time click the power icon
  4. Keeping the shift key pressed down, select restart
  5. Windows will start to shut down
  6. A blue screen with several options will appear
  7. Select Troubleshoot (see below)

How to restart in safe mode

  1. Select Advanced Options

  1. Choose System Image Recovery

  1. You will be prompted to choose a username
  2. Enter the password
  3. Select the system image to restore your data from

Additional information regarding backups

  • There other built-in tools which do similar actions to a system image backup, such as system restore. If you would like to know how to turn system restore on click here.
  • Each additional system image backup will overwrite the previous version. You can avoid this by creating a folder to keep your system backups in.
  • Whilst backing up live files, Windows uses shadow copying to allow the user to work whilst the backup runs
  • If you were wondering why the system image refers to Windows 7. This is because Microsoft removed the Backup and Restore feature in Windows 8.1. The tool reinstated inWindows 10 to allow Windows 7 users to restore historical data. The service still allows you to create system images at the time of writing this guide.
  • Some external hard drives come with prebuilt backup software.

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