How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (2024)

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

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  • Create backup
  • Restore backup

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, apps, upgrade problems, and 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 create a backup of the entire system, 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.

This guide will walk you through creating a full backup with all your custom settings, apps, files, and installation using the system image tool.

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

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 disconnect and store in a different physical location.

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.

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.
  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.
  3. Click the Next button.
  4. Click the Start backup button.

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

  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 must restore the machine, you can use a USB installation media to access the recovery environment.
  1. 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, you can disconnect and store the external drive safely. You may consider keeping the backup in a different physical location if you have valuable data.

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.
  1. On the "Windows Setup" page, click the Next button.

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

  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 (7)

  1. Click the Troubleshoot option.

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

  1. Click the "System Image Recovery" option.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (9)

  1. Select the Windows 10 option as the target operating system.

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

  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 (11)

  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.
  1. (Optional) Check the "Only restore system drivers" option (if the backup contains a copy of multiple drives and you only want to restore the operating system).
  2. Click the Next button.
  3. Click the Finish button.

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  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 it 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.

Although there are many other backup solutions, you still have many reasons to choose the System Image Backup tool. For example, when you do not have another solution and need a recovery plan, when you are about to upgrade to a new version or make system changes. Or when you are about to replace the main hard drive or need a quick way to transfer the installation and files without reinstallation.

It's also a good idea to periodically create a backup of your computer in case 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 individual files and settings. 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 the system with the files and settings until the last backup. Anything after the full backup won't be available during recovery.

More resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:

  • Windows 11 on Windows Central — All you need to know
  • Windows 10 on Windows Central — All you need to know

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

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

Mauro Huculak

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for 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.

How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC (2024)


How to make a full backup of your Windows 10 PC? ›

Type "control panel" in the Windows Start menu and select the "Control Panel" app. Select "Backup and Restore (Windows 7)" (the function works on Windows 10 and 11 as well). Select "Create a system image" from the left pane. Choose where to store the backup — on an external drive, a DVD or a network location.

How do I backup my entire computer Windows 10? ›

You can use the File History feature in Windows 10 to back up to an external drive or network location. Select Start > Settings > Update & Security > Backup > Add a Drive, and then choose an external drive or network location for your backups (Figure 1). Restore your files with File History.

How do I backup my entire Windows computer? ›

Back up your PC with File History

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

How do I copy my entire computer to an external hard drive? ›

If external hard drives backup is your preferred option, the process is pretty straightforward.
  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.
Oct 13, 2022

Does Windows 10 backup backup everything? ›

By default, Backup and Restore will back up all data files in your libraries, on the desktop, and in the default Windows folders. Additionally, Backup and Restore creates a system image that you can use to restore Windows if your system is not functioning properly.

How to do a full backup? ›

Automatically back up your phone
  1. On your Android phone, open the Google One app .
  2. At the bottom, tap Storage.
  3. Scroll to "Backup" and tap View. ...
  4. To review your backup settings, tap Manage backup.
  5. Choose your backup settings. ...
  6. If asked, tap Allow permissions.
  7. At the top left, tap Back.

How do I backup all data to my computer? ›

5 Top Ways to Backup Your Android Phone to Your PC, Mac or Cloud Storage
  1. Perform a smart backup to PC using Droid Transfer.
  2. Backup to your Google Drive Cloud Storage.
  3. Use your phone manufacturer's backup service.
  4. Transfer Files using File Explorer (PC)
  5. Transfer Files using Android File Transfer (Mac)
Jul 5, 2022

What is Windows full backup? ›

Full backups are considered the most secure method to backup and restore all files stored on your PC. ( be it Windows or Mac) Additionally, we can outline several more advantages: All data on your computer, be it folders or individual files, is backed up at once, enabling earlier version access when needed.

How do I backup my Windows 10 to a USB? ›

Create a recovery drive
  1. In the search box on the taskbar, search for Create a recovery drive and then select it. ...
  2. When the tool opens, make sure Back up system files to the recovery drive is selected and then select Next.
  3. Connect a USB drive to your PC, select it, and then select Next.
  4. Select Create.

How long does it take to backup a computer to an external hard drive? ›

1 TB is a large data size, and it will take 3 to 24 hours, depending on the backing-up speed every second. Assume that the backing-up speed is 10MB/s; it will take about a whole day to complete the full backup process. If the transferring speed is 100MB/s, the backup process only takes about 3 hours.

Can I use my old computer as an external hard drive? ›

Older internal hard drives and SSDs make for great external storage, and by converting an old internal drive into an external one, you can increase your storage capacity and avoid having to buy an external hard drive.

How long does a full Windows 10 backup take? ›

It is hard to say precisely how long a Windows backup will take. Usually, the Windows backup process would complete about 30-40 minutes, according to the data or system size. Several variables affect this.

Is Windows 10 backup good enough? ›

This is because its primary purpose is to allow you to back up personal files rather than creating a complete system image. In addition, it does not let you create a complete system backup. In general, Windows 10 backup is good, but it is not perfect.

What is the difference between backup and copy in Windows 10? ›

In fact, the key difference between backup and copy is precisely that you cannot really copy everything, but backups can. In terms of scope, copy is a subset of backup.

How do I backup my computer Windows 10 without an external hard drive? ›

Back Up to a NAS on Your Network

To create backups and store them locally, you don't have to plug an external hard drive into all the computers you use. You can get a NAS (network-attached storage) device instead. All the computers on your home network can back up and restore from the NAS.

How do I backup my Windows 10 history to my internal drive? ›

Windows 10 File History Backup

In Windows 10, go to Settings > Update & Security > Backup. Connect the drive or device that you want to use as the backup location. Click the button for "Add a drive," and select the drive you wish to use. This turns on File History (Figure 1).

How much memory do I need to backup Windows 10? ›

A decent rule of thumb is to double the combined size of your current files by at least two to determine the storage you require. For example, if you have 250GB of files to back up, you will need at least 500GB of storage space. The minimum space for backup.

Is Windows Backup any good? ›

Windows 10 backup is good, but it is not enough. Therefore, it is better to use third-party backup tools, such as EaseUS Todo Backup Free, as a supplementary measure to help computer users to create a better backup of Windows computers to avoid data loss. 1. Should I use Windows 10 backup?

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