Windows has come a long way since version 1.0, which just put a graphical user interface on MS-DOS, was released in 1985. That said, it has gained a reputation over the years for having bugs, experiencing blue-screen-of-death errors and crashing. In this article, we’re going to help you avoid losing your data by showing you how to backup Windows.
Bugs and crashes haven’t stopped it from being one of the most popular operating systems in the world. It’s latest incarnation, Windows 10, arguably takes care of many of its predecessors’ problems, even though it has some of its own, especially regarding privacy. If you’re concerned about that, read our how to tweak Windows 10 privacy settings guide.
If you’re a server administrator with the huge task of backing up a Windows server in front of you, read our list of the best Windows server backups.
In the next section, we’re going to show you how to use the Windows Backup tool to backup your operating system and make sure you don’t lose your files if anything unwelcome happens.
Backup Windows Using the Windows Backup Tool
This is probably the easiest, though not the best way of handling Windows backups. If your files are particularly important and you have a few bucks to spend, we recommend you skip straight to the section on your online options, which you can find below this one.
In Windows 10, hit start, type “control panel” and select it.
Type “backup” to get a list showing “Backup and Restore (Windows 7)” at the top. Enter it.
In the “Backup and Restore (Windows 7)” window, click the “create a system image” link.
Another window will prompt you to choose where you want to save your image. Note that you’ll get an image that includes all your drives, not just your system drive, and its size could be huge, so make sure you’re prepared. You can get enough DVDs, but saving an image to them would be tedious.
It’s easier to save to another hard drive. Just remember that they can crash or malfunction and take your image with them. If that happens, you’ll have to rely on data recovery software to retrieve your files, but that’s not a sure bet. Solid state drives have a much lower rate of failure, but experience more data errors, so you can’t be sure they’ll keep your image safe, either.
What you can do is include cloud storage in the equation. You should follow the 3-2-1 rule for backup, which suggests you keep your files in one remote location and on two local devices. After all, a backup is only worth something if it can’t get lost; backing up a backup is the only good way to make sure of that.
You’re probably going to need a lot of storage for your image, so providers from our best cloud storage for large files should be a good fit. Some of the best cloud storage services, such as Sync.com and pCloud, are on it and they are a great choice for storing your files.
The Online Backup Alternative
Storage is called storage for a reason. You could use it as a backup service, but that would suggest dedicated backup services don’t have much to offer. That’s not the case, though, as many services can backup your whole computer, or just the Windows image, and restore it when necessary.
In other words, online backup is geared toward disaster recovery. Unlike cloud storage, cloud backup makes an image of your whole hard drive, which means it retains its folder structure and doesn’t require you to put files in your sync folder. While that may be slow and doesn’t free storage space, it provides you with some interesting features.
They include continuous backup, which ensures that your backup is up-to-date, and incremental backup, which reduces the time it takes to upload your files. While most run a continuous backup process, you can run scheduled backups, too, so that your backup can run at night and doesn’t hog your system resources.
If you think the advanced features would benefit you, consult our best online backup buyer’s guide to find a provider that fits your needs. While some services are complicated and require you to tag files, many, such as Backblaze, offer great ease of use. If flexibility is more your thing, you may want to check out CloudBerry Backup, a solid backup client that lets you decide where your data is stored.
Acronis True Image and BigMIND Home are also capable providers. Both feature image backup, incremental backup and the ability to protect your images with a password. If you’re interested, read our Acronis True Image review and BigMIND Home review.
You might keep multiple hard drives that need to be backed up. That’s not an issue, as online backup providers can work with external hard drives. In fact, we’ve got a list of the best online backup providers for external hard drives.
IDrive, which is our top cloud backup service, is among them, too (read our IDrive review).
Your hard drive or Windows OS might never crash and take your data with it, but the chance of that happening is greater than zero. Relying on luck can get you far, but preparation is the more responsible option and guarantees the safety of your data.
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We’ve outlined a couple of ways to backup Windows. The native tool is a free option that’s built in to Windows, and it’s easy to use. That said, the image file it creates can be huge, so it’s best if you can store it somewhere, possibly in the cloud. You can keep it on your computer and take advantage of advanced features that the best online backup for Windows solutions offer, though.
What do you think about backing up Windows? Which solution do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.