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How to Backup Your Computer - A Comprehensive Guide

Having all of your data in only one place is dangerous. Computer loss, theft, natural disaster, and accidental deletion, are just some of the ways that you can lose the data you’ve spent so long creating and accumulating. The only way to prepare for the unexpected is to have a good backup strategy in place. For example, if you have 3 copies of a working document on your computer, if your computer crashes, you will still lose all three. This makes the backup method and medium, an important thing to consider for your backup strategy! There are many different ways to backup your computers, and using multiple forms of backup will minimize the risk of ever losing your valuable files.

Fortunately today there are more backup options than ever before. You can backup your entire computer or just selected files to: External Hard Drive, CDs, DVDs, or Blu-Ray Disks, Cloud Backup Service, and so on.

How to backup computer? There are two ways, Windows build-in solution and third party backup programs. Windows provides built-in tools to backup of your data to an external hard drive or a shared network location. Although Windows backup improves much compared to the built-in backup of former Windows Operating System, it still has many limitations and inconveviences. Some third party software fills the gaps, and make computer backup more easier and fast, especially useful for non-tech persons.

If you don't want to pay monthly fees for online backup, backup computer to external hard drive is a good choice. You could probably find countless different backup methods, but which one is right for you? And what do you really need to back up? If you are non-technical person, we encouraged you to try a tool called Todo Backup Home. It is a pretty comprehensive backup tool which covers all the essentials for file and system backup, with good scheduling and support for all the typical copy destinations. You can also clone your hard drive in the event that you have to switch it out for a new one. In this post we will show you the fast ways to backup computer to external hard drive with this smart tool.

Part 1. How to Back Your Files to an External Hard Drive or Network Location Using Windows Backup

Part 2. How to Backup Entire Computer or Selected Files on Computer With Professional Software

Part 1. How to Back Your Files to an External Hard Drive or Network Location Using Windows Backup

The steps below will back up the irreplaceable files you most care about, such as your documents, photos, videos, and browser favorites.

Step 1. Open the backup utility

Search for "backup" in Windows to find the backup tool. In Windows 7, that means clicking the Start button, then typing in "backup" in the search box, and clicking on "Backup and Restore." In Windows 8, you can just start typing "backup" on the start screen and then choose "Save backup copies of your files with File History." Click the "Turn on" button in File History (Windows 8) or the "Set up backup" link in Backup and Restore (Windows 7) to start the setup process.

Step 2. Select the location for your backups

The next step is to choose the drive or network location for your backups. Windows will automatically look for connected drives for you to select or you can choose a location on your network. (In Windows 8, click on the "Select drive" link in the menu at the left to choose a specific drive or location. In Windows 7, click the "Save on a network…" button.)

Step 3. Choose the folders to back up

Windows 7's Backup and Restore tool asks you to either let Windows choose what to backup or select your own folders. If you let Windows choose, it will automatically save the files in your libraries, desktop, and default Windows folders, as well as create a system image for restoring your computer as a whole if it stops working. (Note that it will not back up Program Files, any files formatted in the FAT file system, deleted files in the Recycle Bin, or temp files with a size of 1GB or more.) If you choose what to back up yourself, you can select specific folders to include or exclude and can select the option to create an image of your drive.

Windows 8's File History chooses the folders for you and will automatically save files in your Desktop, Libraries (Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos), Contacts, and OneDrive folders. You can exclude folders from your Libraries you don't want backed up, such as program-generated folders (e.g., that empty "Adobe PDF" folder) that will just get recreated if you have to reinstall the program.

Then simply hit the button to save your settings and run the backup and you're done. You've set up your first (and ongoing) backup.

Step 4. Optional: Tweak your settings

You might also want to adjust the backup settings for your needs. You can change how often the backup will run and other details. Backup schedule: In Windows 8, go into the advanced settings (by clicking on the "Advanced settings" link in the left menu after turning on File History) or, in Windows 7, click on the links to "Change schedule" to adjust how often you want the backup to run. By default, Windows 7's Backup and Restore runs once a month, while File History on Windows 8 runs every hour. You can make these more or less frequent if you like.

Other settings: Windows 8 also allows you to adjust how much disk space to use for the offline cache, which saves some of your file history on your local C: drive so you can access backups even if your external drive or network isn't connected (very useful for laptop users!). You can also adjust how long old versions of saved files are kept (by default, it's forever. If storage space is an issue, you can reduce this.)

Part 2. How to Backup Entire Computer or Selected Files on Computer With Professional Software

It is found wanting in some features, for instance, Windows Backup and Restore cannot do Incremental and Differential Backup but Full Backup, and that is one of the reasons why many prefer to use one or the other backup and recovery software available. If you want to try software solution, we recommend Easeus Todo Backup Home. It is easy to use and integrates well with Windows. Simply double-click any Todo backup file, and it opens as if it were a folder. This allows you to easily browse and recover individual files and folders using Windows Explorer. There's a full integrated restore function as well if you prefer that approach.

1. How to Backup Entire Computer With Todo Backup Home

Disk Clone option in Todo Backup can deal with the job easily. It will transfer all data (include operating system and program) on the selected or all hard disks to another. For a successful disk clone, please ensure that the capacity of destination hard disk drive is larger than the used space of source disk.

Step 1. Click Clone option at the top right corner.

Step 2. Select any or all hard disks as source, then click Next

Step 3. Select an external hard drive as target, then click Next

Step 4. Click Proceed after you preview and confirm the hard disk layout.

Advanced clone settings:

Optimize for SSD - If the destination external hard drive i an SSD, checking this option will ensure sector alignment in the process.
Sector by sector clone - A sector by sector clone ensures that the destination hard disk/partition is exactly the same as the source hard disk/partition. It will clone all the sectors if the option is checked, even if the sector is blank.

2. How to Backup Files on Computer With Todo Backup Home

Basic Settings:

1. Preserve file security settings in backup - This option will keep the security attributes of NTFS encrypted files.
2. Include all contents referred to Reparse Point - Enable this option can ensure all Windows Reparse Point or link will be included in this file backup. However, this usually creates a larger image file than regular one, so checking this option is not always recommended.
3. Destination - Click the folder icon to modify your backup destination.
4. Plan name and Description - An accurate plan name and appropriate description will help you distinguish easily.

Advanced backup settings:

These advanced settings can help you create a flexible and automatic backup plan. Create a automatic backup plan with Schedule, edit the advanced parameters with Backup options, add image retention rule with Image-reserve strategy.

However, without these advanced settings, it can still give you a simple and intact backup image.

Only backup the selected file types

If you just want to backup one or some specific file types from one folder, the option at top right corner can help you exclude the others files.

Click User defined and press File type in the appeared drop-down menu.

Some commonly used file types have been present and divided into 6 categories.

Select the file types you want to backup from default categories or click Add to create a new entry for your special file type(s).

Please don't forget you have to decide which folder you want to backup from the file tree on left panel. The figure above means I want to backup all Documents on my desktop.

Back to How-To

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Connie Turrentine, is editor in computer area. At other times she'll search and test new apps, or focus on smart devices use tips.

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