You know you want to. You know you should.
You may have sensed by now that I’m a huge fan of backing up.
Microsoft Windows includes several tools that, used in conjunction with a third-party tool, provide a backup strategy that will protect you from almost anything that can go wrong.
Let’s learn how to use those tools properly so we can get your backup strategy started.
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How to Back Up Windows
- Make an image backup of your computer.
- Make a recovery disk for emergencies.
- Prepare to restore a backup image in case it’s needed.
- Restore individual files from a backup image.
- Turn on File History.
- Restore individual files from File History.
- Use OneDrive for online backup.
- Restore individual files from OneDrive’s history.
0. What about Windows 7 Backup?
Prior versions of this article relied on using the Windows 7 Backup and Restore tool that was built into Windows 10 and 11.
As of sometime in 2020 (or even earlier), Microsoft decided to pull the plug on the Windows 7 Backup and Restore tool. At the least, it has been “deprecated” and will likely be removed in a future Windows update. The official word from Microsoft is that you should use third-party utilities to back up instead.
So that’s what we’ll do. We’ll use the free edition of EaseUS Todo (there are other third-party programs that do this, but EaseUS Todo is one of my recommendations), along with File History and OneDrive, to learn eight tasks involved in a robust backup plan.
1. Make regular images
Start by making an image backup of your computer. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what to do with it; that’ll come later. Creating an image of your computer gives you a known point to which you can always return should anything go wrong.
- Creating a Backup Image Using EaseUS Todo Free explains how to create an image backup of your system to an external hard disk.
- YouTube: Installing EaseUS Todo Free
- YouTube: Backing up With EaseUS Todo Free
This is something you’ll want to do periodically, and ideally automated.
2. Make a recovery disk
To recover an image — to restore your computer to operating order when something bad happens — you’ll need what EaseUS calls an emergency disk.
You may also want to create a Windows recovery drive. This is a disk (a DVD or USB thumb drive) from which to boot, which includes additional tools to examine and possibly repair your system as well as the ability to reinstall Windows from scratch if needed.
- Creating an EaseUS Todo Emergency Disk explains how to create a recovery disk.
- Create a Windows Recovery Drive illustrates the process of creating a recovery drive.
- How Do I Boot From a USB Thumb Drive? Make sure you can boot successfully from the recovery drives you’ve created.
- YouTube: Creating an EaseUS Todo Emergency Disk
3. Restoring an image
Restoring an image is the process of taking a backup image you’ve previously created and putting it back on your computer’s hard drive (which erases anything currently on that hard drive). An image restore is what you would do after replacing a faulty hard drive with a new, empty one.
- Restoring an Image Using EaseUS Todo shows how to restore a backup image created by EaseUS Todo.
- YouTube: Restoring an Image Using EaseUS Todo
4. Restore an individual file from an image
I rely on image backups primarily because there’s no question about what’s in them: everything. But sometimes you don’t want to restore everything; you just want a single file, folder, or collection. You can do that from a backup image you created above.
- Restoring a File from an EaseUS Todo Image Backup. EaseUS Todo makes restoring individual files and folders from an image backup easy.
- YouTube: Restoring a File From an EaseUS Todo Image Backup
5. Set up File History
In addition to image backups, we can utilize more “in the background” backups in the form of File History. File History sets aside some amount of space on your hard disk (ideally an external hard disk, perhaps even the same one containing your backup images) to which it writes copies of your data files periodically as they change. Using File History, you can recover a file as it was an hour ago, a week ago, or sometime in between, depending on how often files change and how much space you’ve set aside for backups.
- Enable File History in Windows 10 tells you how to set it all up.
- Enable File History in Windows 11
- YouTube: Enable File History in Windows 11
6. Restore a file using File History
After you’ve had File History running for a while, you’ll surely encounter a point where you want to recover a file that has been backed up.
Learn to browse what’s been backed up, locate the file or files you want, and restore them.
7. Use OneDrive for backing up
Backing up to a completely different physical location — “offsite” backup — has never been easier since the advent of cloud storage and synchronization tools like OneDrive.
- Using OneDrive for Nearly Continuous Backup shows you how and also discusses a couple of simple changes to your workflow that result in almost continuous cloud backup of all your work.
- YouTube: Using OneDrive for Nearly Continuous Backup (Available Soon)
8. Restore a file from OneDrive history
Just like File History, the day will come when you need to recover a file that’s been backed up to the cloud.
- Recover Deleted Files in OneDrive points out that OneDrive has an online Recycle Bin from which you can recover deleted files.
- Recovering from Ransomware with an Online Backup discusses how it can even save you from ransomware.
- YouTube: Recover Deleted Files in OneDrive (Available Soon)
- YouTube: Recovering from Ransomware with an Online Backup (Available Soon)
Backing up is important. I say it so often because it’s so true.
I also say it because I see so much data loss and accompanying heartbreak occur when people don’t realize just how important it is until it’s too late.
Used together, these eight steps and three tools (image backups, File History, and OneDrive) can ensure you’re appropriately backed up and need never suffer data loss again.