How to effectively backup and restore your Windows 10 PC
Creating a backup of your system is always a good idea if you want to keep important data safe, regardless of what might happen to your computer. Disk failures, viruses or physical damage to your hardware can corrupt your files, making them unreadable or unusable, therefore, having a way to quickly get them back might prove to be crucial. Luckily, Windows 10 provides you with several features that could help you create and restore system images, put your important data on an online server (cloud), revert your system to its default state or even make recovery drives that can be used in case of emergencies.
If you have been using Windows 8 before updating to Windows 10, then you might be familiar with this feature. If not, then, let me tell you that File History is a limited app that comes installed with your new operating system and allows you to automatically create quick backups of your libraries, contacts, favorites and desktop files on a removable drive.
To access File History, you can either type "File History" in your search bar, access the Settings app and open the Update and Security tab or find it in the old Control Panel. Now that you have accessed the File History window, simply plug in your removable drive and turn on the automatic backup feature to allow Windows to start the process.
You should know that, in order to recover the files that were saved using File History, you will have to either use the Control Panel, go to the app and click on the Restore personal files link in the left side of the window (as you can see in the image above) or, if you are using File History from the Settings app, click on More options and choose the Restore files from a current backup option. For a quick access to this option, you can also type "Restore files" in the search bar.
Create a system image
Since we're talking about the File History feature, you might have noticed that, after accessing it from the Control Panel, there is another feature available to you, called System Image Backup (found in the bottom-left part of the window). Clicking on it will allow you to create a full backup of your drive's contents, which you can restore at any given time.
Once there, click on the Create a system image option, plug in your removable drive (or don't, if you plan to store your backup in another location) and simply follow the step-by-step guide in order to select which folders or disk partitions you want to include in your backup and start the process.
Now that your system image file has been created, you might want to safely store it in another location (that's the point of creating backups, isn't it?). In order to restore it, you will have to restart your computer with the Advanced Startup Options active and select the System Image Recovery tab to begin the process.
If you don't know how to restart your computer with Advanced Startup Options, then simply open the "Settings" app, go to "Update and Security", choose "Recovery" and click on the "Restart Now" option. Or, if this seems a bit tedious, you can just hold down the "Shift" key and click on the "Restart" button in the "Start menu".
Backup and Restore (Windows 7)
Now this is a feature that you might remember, the old Windows backup app from Windows 7. Even though it's mostly used for restoring backup copies of Windows 7 on your new Windows 10 PC, you can also use it to create new backups of practically anything you have stored on your hard drives. You can create backups of entire partitions or only of specific folders on your disk in a very simple way and store them in any desired location: removable or local drives, DVDs, CDs or network computers.
While it is not actually a backup solution, Windows 10 provides you with an app, called OneDrive. You can use this program to copy important files to your OneDrive online account and access them from any device that has an Internet connection. This way, you won't have to bother with removable drives, keep track of your system images or any other issues. Simply store your data on the cloud and access it whenever you want. All it takes is an Internet connection and a Microsoft account.
Keep in mind, though, that you can use this app only to safely store files on an online server. If you want to create a backup of your system, registry, installed applications and such, then you should use one of the other methods mentioned in this guide.
Create recovery drive
Even though creating a USB recovery drive is not actually a backup solution, it can greatly help you restore your system to a stable state or aid you in resetting your PC. Basically, a USB recovery drive will allow you to access the Advanced Startup Options even if you Windows 10 operating system crashed or, for some reason, you are unable to normally access these options.
In order to access it, you will have to go to Control Panel and perform a search using "recovery" as a key. Then, click on the Recovery icon and select the "Create a recovery drive" option from the list to start the app. You can also directly access it by typing "create a recovery drive" in the search bar from your taskbar. Simply follow the instructions on screen to create your recovery drive and wait for the process to be finished.
After you have created your recovery disk, keep it somewhere safe so that you can boot your system from it when (and if) the time comes.
As you can see, there are several ways in which you can effectively backup and restore your Windows 10 PC by using only the apps provided to you by your operating system. Of course, there are many third-party pieces of software that can also help you create backups of your data and restore them, but it's entirely up to you to decide if you want to use them (and, often, pay for them) or stick with these Windows tools.
If you have any comments or know of other efficient ways to backup and restore your computer, feel free to leave a message in the comment section below.