How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (2022)

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (1)

As part of your recovery plan, a full backup should be at the top of your list since it is the best strategy against hardware failure, and apps and upgrade problems, as well as malware attacks that can corrupt your files and damage your Windows 10 installation. If you are not proactively creating full backups, you will be putting at risk documents, priceless pictures, and configurations you have spent long hours setting up.

If you use Windows 10, you have many different methods to create a backup. For example, you can use third-party solutions to backup the entire system or copy files to an external drive manually or upload them to a cloud storage service like OneDrive. However, if you do not want to use manual methods or third-party tools, you can always create a full backup using the legacy built-in System Image Backup tool.

A system image is another way to say "full backup," as it contains a copy of everything on the computer, including the installation, settings, apps, and files. Usually, you will find this tool better suited to restore the entire system from critical hardware or software problems, such as hard drive failure or when trying to roll back to a previous version of Windows 10.

In this Windows 10 guide, we will walk you through the steps to create a full backup with all your custom settings, apps, files, and installation using the system image tool.

  • How to create backup with system image tool on Windows 10
  • How to restore backup with system image tool on Windows 10

Quick note: The System Image Backup tool for Windows 10 is no longer a maintained feature, but you can still use it for the foreseeable future. The instructions outlined in this guide are meant to create a temporary full backup while the feature is still available. You can also read this guide with alternative ways to back up your computer.

The system image tool allows you to create a full backup to an external drive or network shared folder. However, it is best to use removable storage, which you can then disconnect and store in a different physical location.

To create a full backup of Windows 10 with the system image tool, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Update & Security.
  3. Click on Backup.
  4. Under the "Looking for an older backup?" section, click the Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7) option.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (2)

  1. Click the Create a system image option from the left pane.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (3)

  1. Select the On a hard disk option.
  2. Use the "On a hard disk" drop-down menu and select the location to export the Windows 10 full backup.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (4)

  1. Click the Next button.
  2. (Optional) Select any additional hard drives to include them in the backup.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (5)

  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Click the Start backup button.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (6)

  1. Click the No button.Quick note: You'll also receive a prompt to create a system repair disc, but because most devices no longer include an optical drive, you can skip it. If you have to restore the machine, you can use a USB installation media to access the recovery enviroment.
  2. Click the Close button.

Once you complete the steps, the tool will create an image of the entire system that includes everything on the primary hard drive and other drives you may have selected.

While the backup is in progress, you can continue working on the device since it uses the "Shadow Copy" feature to backup files even if files are open and apps are running.

After the process is complete, you can disconnect and store the external drive in a safe place. If you have valuable data, you may want to consider keeping the backup in a different physical location.

(Video) Windows 10 Backup Free, Fast & Easy with built in Windows 10 Backup

How to restore a backup with system image tool on Windows 10

If you need to replace the hard drive or hardware failure occurs, you can use one of the backups to recover the device and files.

To restore a backup on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Connect the drive with the full backup to the device.
  2. Connect the Windows 10 USB bootable drive to the computer.
  3. Start the computer.
  4. On the USB bootable drive startup prompt, press any key to continue.Quick tip: If the device does not start in the Windows Setup wizard, you will need to access the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) to change the boot order settings. You can use this guide to access the BIOS/UEFI, but the steps are usually different per manufacturer and device model. It is recommended to check your manufacturer support website for more specific details.
  5. On the "Windows Setup" page, click the Next button.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (7)

  1. Click the Repair your computer option from the bottom-left corner of the screen.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (8)

  1. Click the Troubleshoot option.
  1. Click the System Image Recovery option.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (10)

  1. Select the Windows 10 option as the target OS.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (11)

  1. On the "Re-image your computer" page, select the Use the latest available system image option.Quick tip: You can use the "Select a system image" option if you have multiple backups and you are trying to restore an older version of the system and files.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (12)

  1. Click the Next button.
  2. (Optional) Carefully select the Format and repartition disks option before restoring the backup (if you are restoring the backup on a new drive).Quick tip: If you choose this option, use the Exclude disks option to prevent formatting secondary drives that may contain data.
  3. (Optional) Check the** Only restore system drivers** option (if the backup contains a copy of multiple drives and you only want to restore the OS).

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (13)

  1. Click the Next button.
  2. Click the Finish button.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (14)

  1. Click the Yes button.

After you complete the steps, the recovery process will start on the computer. The time to finish the restoration will depend on the amount of data and hardware configuration.

If you are about to restore a device, do not interrupt the process as it can cause the backup to fail, making the device unbootable. It is always recommended to have the laptop connected to a power source and a desktop computer to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to avoid problems.

Once the backup has been restored, open Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and click the Check for Updates button to quickly install any missing security updates.

Wrapping things up

Although there many other solutions to create a full backup of the entire system and files, there are still many reasons to choose the System Image Backup tool. For instance, when you do not have another solution, and you are about to upgrade to a new version of Windows 10. You can use the built-in tool to create a temporary full backup in case you need to rollback.

Or when you are about to replace the main hard drive, or you need a quick way to transfer the installation and files without the need for reinstallation. It is also always recommended to periodically backup your computer if the unexpected happens, and you need to recover from system or hardware failure, malware, ransomware, or hacker attacks.

One thing to keep in mind with this tool is that it is meant to recover the entire system, not files and settings individually. If you want to keep updated copies of your files, you should be using other solutions, such as OneDrive or File History. Also, you need to be proactive about creating backups because you can only recover a system since the last backup. Anything after the full backup, such as apps, settings, and files, won't be available during recovery.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (15)

Mauro Huculak

(Video) How to backup your stuff in Windows 10

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

34 Comments

  • Why can we still not save our start menu setup???

  • This should be saved in the ms account settings backup! Like everything else which is able to change in the settings app

  • Anytime I have refreshed a PC, the start menu has been lost

  • Because they can't do it.
    I always have a screen grab of the start menu. This is the way to backup the start menu on PC and Mobile.
    Its quick to rearrange tiles if you have screen grabs after you restore.
    Best of all, you can do a screen grab before you restore so you have the latest.

  • You can backup it manually: https://www.windowscentral.com/how-backup-start-menu-layout-windows-10You do have to have installed all your old apps/programs before it works properly I believe (not sure what the consequences otherwise are, probably just blank tiles or such).Personally I like to just redo it on new pc's and change/optimize the layout a bit (there is usually something that I want to do different this time).

  • Can I use this method to migrate my entire data to a new PC?

  • If it has the exact same hardware, then Yes. The best way to move your data to a new device is by simply making a copy of that data and restoring it on the new device. You can even use OneDrive to do this.

    (Video) How to Create & Restore Windows 10 Full Backup (Step by Step)
  • I would prefer to put the data on an external drive than one drive.
    It is possible to move windows from one machine to another even if they are slightly different hardware, but not recommended.when I updated from my old AMD FX machine to the Ryzen, I did not format the drive and the machine booted up and found the drivers it needed for the new board, that was with Windows 8.1, not 10,. but the system kept falling over with memory management errors.
    But it was nothing to do with not doing a clean install, as a clean install did the same thing, just for some reason windows 8.1 would not work reliably on my new Ryzen sadly, which meant I had to change to awful Windows 10.

  • The gotcha when trying to transfer a copy of Windows to another device [PC] is that the core device drivers Windows needs to boot may need to be changed. Win10 is Much better at accomplishing this on its own than earlier versions. There are migration utilities, often built into 3rd party backup image apps, that will remove the registry entries for those core drivers so Windows will look for & install new drivers on 1st boot. Alternatively a Windows repair install may cause the same thing to happen. Do note that after successfully migrating a copy of Windows to different hardware, old drivers are still there, and can continue to haunt you, e.g. I've seen components revert to the old, now incompatible drivers after a driver update etc. Also note that lots of software uses hardware IDs for activation, & will deactivate [or worse] after migrating to different hardware with different IDs. The *Or Worse*?... I've had software add files & registry entries when it detected new hardware IDs that made reactivation impossible, even after removing & reinstalling that software.

  • My partner moved WIndows 10 from an old Intel X38 board to an AMD based board (so a complete architecture switch). Booted Windows 10, a few minutes of 'getting devices ready' and it was up and running, worked first time and has had no issues since. Activation was a different story but we got that sorted too. I wasn't expecting it to work without any problems but it did.

  • On top of that, transfering a copy of Windows to another computer violates the license, which explicitly states it can only be used on the machine it was purchased on, or originally installed on if it is an OEM copy (that is why W10 "fingerprints" your machine and stores that info with the license in MS's cloud, and why they no longer provide OS media with new PCs.)
    You CAN replace the motherboard, etc. and re-license the machine, but only 3 times (I believe.)
    You CANNOT run the same copy of Windows on two machines at once (legally) and it will not activate if the other machine is still running. You CAN re-activate a key (I've done it) without calling MS by changing the hardware up to 3 times.
    The one exception to this is a Windows 7 Family Pack, which entitles users to simultaneously have the OS running on three different PCs, but that does not extend to W10 upgrades.
    Only Windows Enterprise supports using the same product key to activate multiple times, and Enterprise licenses are only sold to companies under the MS Premier or other support agreements.

  • I would advise cloning the SSD for that (eg Samsung but also other parties have software for that).
    You may need to reinstall some stuff but it mostly just works unless the old HDD/SSD had errors or a corrupted Windows installation.

  • Clonezilla is my favourite, especially if you have multiple partitions, or if the windows backup utility gives you grief.

  • FWIW... creating/restoring a disk or partition image backup isn't advanced or complicated tech -- there are several apps available free & low cost that can do an excellent job -- but there are a couple of gotchas you really have to watch out for. First is bootable media...You do need to be able to boot to a USB stick or another internal or external drive if disaster hits. That *should* be easy, with backup apps & Windows itself able to create bootable USB sticks, but you need to test, because a great many of them [including those created by Windows] may not work on your hardware. Before you go to the trouble of creating a backup, Make Sure That USB Stick Or Drive Will Actually Boot The Device.Note 1: creating a Windows To Go drive is a viable option. Note 2: backups created after booting to a 2nd OS, whether on removable media or if you dual boot etc., tends to mean smaller backup archives.The 2nd gotcha is the drive you use to store your backup archives -- it has to be capable of the sustained data transfer, & very many are not, so again, test. One potential problem with external hard drives is heat -- without active cooling they can exceed the drive's max temp, possibly compromising data or the drive itself.Quick tip: image backup archives are portable -- once created they can be moved &/or copied. Storing those archives in more than one place is insurance against media failure. It can also be faster &/or more convenient to create a backup to another internal drive, then copy those archives to an external drive(s).

  • The free version of Macrium Reflect is far superior to the Windows backup tool. When I moved my Windows drive to a new ssd, Windows backup failed to restore but the image I created with Macrium worked first time

  • I'd 2nd that FWIW.Also [purely] FWIW, I've found the bootable USB sticks you create with Macrium work on devices where none of the other brands of backup software will. The only downside I've found is that Macrium is more expensive than alternatives if you want more advanced features.

  • If you get a Samsung SSD, their free migration tool is surprisingly quick and easy too. Upgraded my 2013 HP Envy 15 Touch Smart from a 2 TB HDD I installed at Christmas to a 1 TB Samsung Evo 860 SSD. Whole process was easy and took less than an hour. It's like a totally different machine now.

  • Yeah Macrium Reflect is a good one. I usually use it as a plan B if the Samsung one does not work / detect a SSD.

  • I believe this feature is deprecated and will be removed in a future version of Windows 10. Maybe the fall update?

  • I have been able to do file backups fine to one of my network servers\shares, but the backup fails when trying to create a system image. Anyone have an idea why this might happen? I have seen it on multiple different laptops I have tried to backup to my home server.I have used Macrium to clone a new hard drive and replace and it has always worked very well, even on Surface Pro's that seem to be a bit quirky.

    (Video) How to Create a System Image Backup in Windows 10

  • Doesn't work on SSD's. Getting a non NTFS error. Oh well.

  • Windows backup hasn't worked for a couple of years on my machine. I use Aomei backupper instead.

  • WD drive owners can get a copy of Acronis True Image for free. You only need to own one WD drive (it checks on boot), even an external one, and you qualify to use it on all your drives (even non-WD ones). I use it for scheduled backups and it seems to do the job well.

  • AOMEI Backupper is alway my favotite. It is free and easy to use. it allows you do system backup and system restore with just a few click.

  • I always use free AOMEI Backupper to do system backup as well as file sync sometimes. It never fails for months and it is been updated by their team all the time. I guess I've found the best way to backup my computer.

  • Backup is one of the lifesaving act of our data. Without multiple backups, the chances of losing crucial data are quite high. But, what happened if one can miss of taking a backup of their valuable data? Don’t worry!!! There are multiple choices of data recovery software available online which can easily recover the lost or deleted data. Few of them are listed below:Stellar Phoenix Windows Data Recovery – ProfessionalTest DiskMinitoolThere are many more data recovery software available in the market. But, the few are listed here.Thanks for sharing an informative post with us.

  • So after everything is done, do you have to go back to your bios and change it back to the original drive to boot from?

  • suppose i have 500 Gigs of data to back.. how much will it compress ? will my laptop be affected with shorter space because these backup file would take too much space ???

  • I have 8 TERABYTES of data on my system. Good luck backing that up to the cloud. Good luck backing it up, period!

  • You need a NAS.

  • The back up system on windows 7/8 was awful, since that is what is in Windows 10 it will be just as bad.
    Use something like Macrium reflect to make images and I use comodo back for files.both free and does a far better job than Windows and more reliable.

  • Macrium Reflect is all you need

  • I wonder if we can have a time machine like software. When I used a Mac it put everything back. Even the software so I didn't have to type all the keys in. When my hardrrive crashed TM placed everything back. I wish this was made esp for Surfaces at least.

  • Why cant we have simple like Apple Time Machine. That saved me so many times and it backed up all my stuff including software. I was ready to go in less than 5 Min when I got my Mac back.

    (Video) How To Back Up Windows 10 Files to External Hard Drive 2022

FAQs

How do I do a full backup on Windows 10? ›

Select Start​ > Settings > Update & Security > Backup > Add a drive , and then choose an external drive or network location for your backups.

How do I back up my entire computer? ›

Click Start, type backup in the Start Search box, and then click Backup and Restore in the Programs list. Click Back up files under Back up files or your entire computer. Select where you want to store the file backup, and then click Next.

Is Windows 10 backup good enough? ›

Windows 10 Backup and Restore

Included with Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate versions of Windows 7, Backup and Restore is a relatively good backup option for users wanting to backup Windows to a local or external hard drive.

Does Windows 10 backup backup everything? ›

A full backup using this tool means that Windows 10 will make a copy of everything on your computer, including installation files, settings, apps, and all your files stored in the primary drive, as well as those files stored in different locations.

Can I backup Windows 10 to flash drive? ›

For instance, if your Windows is installed on the C drive, then a system backup would create an image of the drive (including system and boot files) to a USB drive. To back up the Windows 10 image file to a USB drive, you can use a professional tool like AOMEI Backupper.

How long should a Windows 10 backup take? ›

The backup wizard takes from 10 minutes to several hours. This depends on the amount of data that needs to be backed up. It also depends on the speed of the hard disk.

What are the 3 types of backups? ›

There are mainly three types of backup are there: Full backup, differential backup, and incremental backup. Let's take a look at each types of backup and its respective pros and cons.

Does Windows 10 have backup software? ›

In Windows 10, click the Start button and go to Settings > Update & Security > Backup. Under Back up using File History, click Add a drive. Assuming you've connected a workable backup device, Windows displays a list of them.

How do I recover permanently deleted files in Windows 10? ›

Press the Windows key, enter Windows File Recovery in the search box, and then select Windows File Recovery. When you are prompted to allow the app to make changes to your device, select Yes. There are 2 basic modes you can use to recover files: Regular and Extensive.

What is the fastest backup? ›

Incremental backups are completed quickly and require fewer resources. Disadvantage: While incremental backups have the fastest backup time, they also boast the slowest data recovery time.

What does Windows backup actually backup? ›

Turning on File History will tell Windows to occasionally backup the files you save to Windows Libraries. That includes files saved to your Documents, Music, Pictures and Video folders as well as your browser Favorites.

How do you backup a PC to an external hard drive? ›

For Windows PC Owners
  1. Connect your external hard drive via your PC's USB port.
  2. Open your Control Panel. ...
  3. Select Save Backup Copies of Your Files with File History, then select System Image Backup.
  4. You'll then be prompted to create a system image.

Does Windows 10 backup only backup changed files? ›

The data on your PC changes every day, but you can backup only changed or new files on Windows 10 to avoid creating a lot of duplicates.

What type of backup does Windows 10 use? ›

On the backup side of things, File History is the primary backup tool in Windows 8 and 10. It offers not just full backups, but also a way to restore previous versions of files.

Where are Windows 10 backups stored? ›

Where are Windows backup files stored? Usually, they are saved on your USB drive or external hard drive.

Can I copy my operating system to a USB? ›

To backup computer to USB flash drive, first connect the USB drive to computer. Install and launch AOMEI Backupper. Click System Backup under Backup tab. If you want to create a bootable copy of OS on USB flash drive, please go to Clone tab and choose System Clone.

Are USB flash drives good for Backup? ›

USB flash drives have long been one of the go-to solutions for easy and cost-effective file backups. Millions of people worldwide use them for storing, backing up and transporting their most important files.

What size thumb drive do I need to Backup my computer? ›

Make Sure USB Flash Drive with Enough Storage Space

It's necessary to prepare a USB flash drive with enough storage space for saving your computer data and system backup. Usually, 256GB or 512GB is fairly enough for creating a computer backup.

How long does it take to backup 500 GB? ›

The backup process will be I/O bound, regardless of which medium (network or USB) is used. USB 3.0 is limited to 500 MB/s, so you can count on the 500 GB backup lasting at least 1000 seconds (almost seventeen minutes), provided that no verification is done during backup. Verification should at least triple that time.

How long does it take to copy 4TB? ›

The external hard drive am transferring to is connected to a windows laptop with USB 3.0. 4TB is estimated to take 48hrs.

How long does a 1tb backup take? ›

At 5Mbps, for example, 100GB should take about 48 hours to backup. A terabyte backup would take less than three weeks.

How do I backup my laptop to an external hard drive? ›

Connect the external drive to your computer, then select the Start menu. In Windows 11, type file history and select File History. In Windows 10, type backup and select Backup settings. Select Add a drive to choose the external hard drive you want to use for your file history backups.

How do I Backup and Restore files in Windows 10? ›

Select the Start button, then select Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Backup and Restore. Choose Select another backup to restore files from, and then follow the steps in the wizard. If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

What is the difference between a backup and a system image? ›

If you were to compare a file backup vs image backup, you would find that file backups are typically a more flexible way of doing backups, scheduling, and are normally smaller backups than disk image backups. But, image backups are better in disaster scenarios where an entire system restore is required.

What is the difference between Windows System Restore and Windows Backup? ›

A system restore point is not a full backup. It does not affect user data or files. This means that a system restore point can be safely used by a user. A system restore will not delete personal files such as documents, pictures, music or videos.

How many GB do I need to backup my computer? ›

The unofficial rule for the amount of storage a backup drive should have is 1.5-2 times the size of your computer's storage. So, if your Windows 10 ($151 at Amazon) laptop has 256GB of storage, you'd want a backup drive with 512GB of space.

What is the best way to backup a laptop? ›

An external USB hard drive is the fastest and most cost-effective way to back up your files at home.

How do I transfer all my files to an external hard drive? ›

About This Article
  1. Connect the drive to the computer.
  2. Format the drive if necessary.
  3. Open File Explorer.
  4. Go to the folder with the files you want to copy.
  5. Select the files and press Ctrl + C.
  6. Click This PC.
  7. Open the external drive.
  8. Right-click a blank area and press Ctrl + V.

How do I recover permanently deleted files in Windows 10? ›

Press the Windows key, enter Windows File Recovery in the search box, and then select Windows File Recovery. When you are prompted to allow the app to make changes to your device, select Yes. There are 2 basic modes you can use to recover files: Regular and Extensive.

Does Windows 10 have backup software? ›

In Windows 10, click the Start button and go to Settings > Update & Security > Backup. Under Back up using File History, click Add a drive. Assuming you've connected a workable backup device, Windows displays a list of them.

Does Windows 10 have system Restore? ›

In the Control Panel search box, type recovery. Select Recovery > Open System Restore. In the Restore system files and setting box, select Next. Select the restore point that you want to use in the list of results, and then select Scan for affected programs.

How long should a system backup take? ›

It really depends upon what you are backing up. Small files shouldn't take more than a few minutes (or seconds), larger files (1GB for instance) may take 4 or 5 minutes or slightly longer. If you are backing up your whole drive you may be looking at hours for the backup.

Does a system image back up everything? ›

A system image is a complete backup of everything on your computer's hard drive, so it saves everything, including Windows OS, your system settings, executable files, installed programs and all other files.

What is full backup? ›

A full backup is a complete copy of a business or organization's data assets in their entirety. This process requires all files to be backed up into a single version. It is the best data protection option in terms of speed of recovery and simplicity because it creates a complete copy of the source data set.

Videos

1. How To Make a Full Backup of Windows 10 Before Installing Windows 11
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2. How to create full backup of Windows 10 (system image)
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3. How to backup windows 10 OS 2022 | Full windows 10 backup
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4. Restore Windows 10 backup to new PC (Easy step by step guide)
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5. Windows 10 - How to Backup Your Files
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6. Windows 10 backup and restore step by step
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