The backup tool included in Windows 10 works very well if we use another disk (external or a network drive) as the destination in the backup. If we don’t have another external drive to save a copy of the files we can always create a VHD virtual disk on Windows to solve quickly, even if it is preferable to always point to external USB disks or network drives to be able to effectively separate the backup files from the machine (which can always break!).
READ ALSO -> Backup of installed programs and settings on Windows
Before proceeding with the actual guide, you need to get an external hard drive or network drive to be able to back up your files. This is necessary because it would not make much sense to save the backups on the same disk or computer where the original is: in the event of a virus or hardware problem, these would also affect backups!
To save usable backups we can purchase a portable external USB drive ideal for making backups, to always keep at hand wherever you go. Alternatively we can also purchase a network NAS storage for larger backup needs and for securely storing movies and photos.
Back up your files to disk or network
To back up files in Windows 11, click on the Start button, search and open the app Control Panel. In the new window we open the menu System and security, then we open the menu File history.
In the new screen we will see the external disk connected via USB appear; if we want to add another unit or we want to add a network path we press on the left side on the item Select unit, wait for the system scan for new USB disks or press immediately on Add Network Neighborhood Wizard to configure a NAS or another network path, then finally press on OK.
Basically this backup will save one copy of the files in the Collections (i.e. all personal folders) and files on the desktop, in the folder Contacts and in Favorites; to select the folders to exclude from the backup, press on the left side on the Exclude folders, then we select which folders should not be included in the backup.
To change the backup frequency and the retention time of the history files just press on the item Advanced settings, present in the same screen seen a little while ago. Once everything is prepared, we press the button Activate to make File History operational e always have a valid copy of your personal files create or modified within the operating system.
On Windows 10 the procedure for turn on File History it can also be activated from the Settings menu, taking us on the path Update and security -> Backup and activating the switch underneath the section File history.
After activating the voice, just press on Add a unit, select the external USB hard drive or network drive, choose the backup frequency and retention time of the files and folders to be included in the backup and confirm where necessary.
To change the settings of this backup just press on the item Other options, so we can add new folders, remove the ones we don’t care about, and change the backup frequency at a later time.
Back up your files and settings to OneDrive
With Windows 11 Microsoft pushed its own OneDrive as a single backup system for personal files: for the Redmond company it is preferable to have files saved on Microsoft’s secure cloud than on external disks or NAS.
To activate this new file backup system on Windows 11 we use a Microsoft account at system login, we open the app Settings, let’s get to the menu Account and press the button Configure synchronization.
This will open a new window where you can choose which folders to backup (Desktop, Documents and Pictures) and by pressing the key Start backup, we will start real-time synchronization of personal folders on the OneDrive cloud space. If we use the PC a lot, the 5GB of free space will hardly be enough: to have a real remote hard drive we recommend activating the 100GB OneDrive Standalone subscription (€ 2 per month) or, even better, signing up for a Microsoft 365 subscription and, at a cost of € 10 per month, take advantage of 1 TB (1000 GB) of backup space.
On the screen Account we can also activate the backup of the app list and settings of Windows 11: to obtain this backup, simply activate the switches present next to the items Remember my apps e Remember preferences.
Restore the File History backup
To restore a file saved with Windows 10 and Windows 11 File History, click on the Start menu and then look for the option Restore files with File History.
From the screen that opens, click on Restore files, so you can see all the folders that have been backed up.
We will then be able to navigate in these folders, search for the file to be recovered, see its various modified versions (in the case of documents you can also recover a modified version several times) and, when ready, press the blue restore button to restore the file to its original location. If it is an old version of an existing file on the PC, the system will ask us how to proceed: by simply replacing the file or keeping the current one, thus creating files with different names.
Another effective method to restore the backup is via File history expects to right-click on the file to restore, click Property then go to tab Previous versions.
If the file history is active, we will see the various versions of the selected file in the window; we can either open a specific version using the key You open (very useful for checking the differences) or restore it to the current file using the key Reset.
Restore the OneDrive backup
Files synced on Windows 11 with OneDrive they do not need to be reset manually: they are always available in the OneDrive cloud space and we can access it at any time, from any device.
If we want to access the files saved to OneDrive from another PC with Windows, all we have to do is Sign in with the same Microsoft account used for the backup, so as to immediately view all the files in the cloud space, with the possibility of open them even without downloading them.
Back up files from a PC that won’t boot
If our PC with Windows 10 or Windows 11 does not start and we want to immediately save all the files contained on the internal disk, we can proceed with the manual backup of the files creating a Windows Live CD / USB, based on AOMEI PE Builder 2.0.
With this program we can create a bootable USB stick or DVD disc, to be used on the PC that is not working. After connecting the WinPE drive to the computer let’s start it, let’s change the boot order and, once inside the recovery environment, we access the computer resources, open the disk on the PC and copy the personal files present inside to a USB hard drive (to be connected only after the recovery environment is active ).
Alternatively we can also use a Linux distribution to back up files from a non-working PC: they are well suited for the purpose either Ubuntu is Linux Mint, which allow you to quickly access NTFS formatted disks.
The methods seen in this guide are best for save your personal files on Windows 10 and Windows 11, without installing any type of external program. The files will be stored in a separate space from the operating system and we can restore them at any time, even from another PC (just connect the disk or resource that contains the backup folder to immediately access all the saved files).
On Windows 11 it is better to take advantage of the OneDrive cloud to keep personal files: this is the best and safest solution, but we must have at least 100 GB of space to be able to use it properly (so we will have to pay to be able to expand the space of the Microsoft cloud).
If we want to use an external program to be able to make the backup, just choose from those in the AI guide programs to make automatic and incremental backups.
Let’s not forget that Windows also allows you to create full system backup images, a real clone of the Windows disk and partitions as they are present at that precise moment, useful for restoring a damaged computer or that does not start.