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How do I backup and restore a Windows computer?

Updated on January 3, 2024
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In today’s cybercrime landscape, it’s sensible to back up your computer regularly to avoid data loss due to a human-caused event or ransomware attack. Backups also come in handy if your laptop is stolen or lost. In addition, if your hard drive fails, you could lose all the data on it, depending on the damage.

However, you can counter all of the above if you have an exact copy of your data stored safely on an external storage device or in the cloud.

If you lack a reliable Windows backup, data lost due to uncontrollable events may never be recovered.

How do I back up and restore data via Windows built-in tools?

Windows offers two native backup and data recovery tools: File History and Backup and Restore.

File History automatically saves specific directories to a chosen storage device and allows easy data restoration of a previous file version (this means you can recover a file as it was at an earlier point).

Preparation for data backup via File History

First, you must ensure our network drive is accessible from your PC. If it has not yet, follow the steps in here to connect your computer to our NAS network drive.

How do I perform data backups in Windows 10?

Now that you have connected our network drive to your computer, let’s review the steps to use File History.

  • Click on the Start button, then go to Settings → Update & Security → Backup
  • There, you’ll find the option “Back up using File History.” Below the option, you’ll see a line labelled “Add a drive.” if you have correctly connected at least one external storage device, Windows will display a list of all available storage destinations.
  • From the displayed list, select the desired target drive.
  • Once you choose a storage device, File History is enabled; however, it’s not yet backing up any data; you’d want to click on “More options” to set it up further.
  • Here, you can choose frequency settings via the “Back up my files” option — the choices vary from “every 10 minutes” to “daily.
  • Afterward, you can set up retention rates from the “Keep my backups” drop-down menu — the choices here vary from “Until space is needed” to “Forever.”
  • Your backups will be limited by the plan you purchased from us. You can always upgrade your plan.

Keep in mind that File History will create a continuous backup by default; this means it will back up data from all default folders on your PC — Desktop, Documents, Downloads, etc. Nevertheless, you can exclude any folder you don’t want to back up.

Exclude folders from the File History data backup

  • Scroll down the “Backup options” window → review the list of default folders set → Select any folder (or folders) you wish to exclude from the backup copies → click “Remove” to exclude them.
  • If you can’t find the folder you want to exclude, click on the “Add a folder” button under “Exclude these folders” → select the folders you want to exclude via File Explorer.
  • Once you’re done with the setup, click on the “Back up now” button at the top of the screen; Windows will start backing up the directories you’ve specified.
  • After completion, Windows will display the total size, date, and time of the backup.

If you want to switch the storage destination, you must stop using your current storage drive. To do so:

  • Go to Settings → Update & Security → Backup → click “More options
  • Scroll down to the bottom → click “Stop using drive.
  • Now go to the previous screen → click “Add a drive” to restart the process with a new storage destination.

If you ever decide to stop using File History, you can turn off the switch for “Automatically back up my files,” located on the “Backup Settings” screen.

How do I create a system image backup in Windows 10 (backup and restore)?

A full image backup creates a complete copy of system settings, applications, documents, folders, log files, database information, etc., to ensure reliable recovery in a data disaster event. It’s best to store the image backup in a remote location, away from the original data. Otherwise, backed-up data in the same location as your primary system can be affected by a locally-based data loss event, leaving you without a viable source to initiate disaster recovery.

  • Type “Backup settings” in the Windows search bar and open the menu.
  • Click “Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7)”
  • Navigate the left panel and click “Create a system image.”
  • Select our NAS → click “Next”
  • On the next menu window, choose which drives to include in the image backup → click “Next.”
  • Confirm the settings and click “Start backup

How do I back up your data in Windows 11?

In Windows 11, File History is located in the Control Panel instead of the Settings screen. To find it, click on the Search icon on the taskbar and search for “File History,” then select the result for the search.

  • Once you locate File History, you’ll see that the feature searches for any compatible storage drives available to your PC and picks one by default; if you don’t want to use the default choice, you can select a new drive via the “Select drive” link, find the specific drive, and click “OK.
  • As with Windows 10, if you wish to exclude any folders from the default set, click “Exclude folders“; in Windows 11, however, you won’t see a prebuilt list of folders waiting to be excluded; instead, you can manually add folders to the exclusion list; to do so, click “Add” and proceed to select any folder you don’t want to include in the backup; when you’re done, hit “Save changes.”
  • Afterward, go for the “Advanced settings” option from the File History screen → click on the drop-down menu for “Save copies of files” to set the frequency; again, the options vary from “every 10 minutes” to “daily.
  • Click on the “Keep saved versions” menu to determine retention timeframes; the options here range from “Until space is needed” to “Forever,” just like in Windows 10 → when done, click “Save changes.
  • From the “File History” screen, select the “Turn on” button to initiate the first backup.

If you want to stop using File History, return to the feature’s page and click the “Turn off” button.

Restore data in Windows 10 & Windows 11

Now that you know how to back up via File History, it’s time to learn how to restore data with it.

Restore data in Windows 10

  • Go for Settings → Update & Security → Backup → click on the “More options” link
  • Scroll down on the “File History” window until you reach the bottom → click “Restore files from a current backup.
  • Windows will now display all folders available for recovery from File History → double-click to view them, and proceed to restore them if they are the ones you need; you can initiate recovery via the green button at the bottom of the window (placed in the middle of the screen).
  • If the original file or folder is completely gone, Windows will automatically restore the backed-up copy to its previous location; if the file still exists in the original location, Windows will ask you if you wish to replace it, keep the original file as it is, or compare both items before choosing an option.

Restore data in Windows 11

  • Go to the “File History” screen in the Control Panel → click on the “Restore personal files” link
  • You’ll see a list of backed-up folders → select the folder containing the file you need to recover.
  • Then, locate the file you wish to restore and click on it → click the “Restore” button.
  • Again, if the original file is still in its original location, Windows will prompt you to choose one of three options — replace the file, skip the file or compare both versions before choosing an option; if the original file is gone from the primary location, Windows will restore the copy to its previous location.
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