How To Create A Full Backup With Windows 10

Computers eventually fail. That’s why it’s important to have a backup.

This is especially true for laptops since they are often exposed to more demanding usage than a laptop computer. Drops, liquid spills, and theft are all more likely to happen with a laptop than with a desktop computer.

Have you ever lost an important document? Or perhaps your computer crashed with all of your photos stored on it? Then you understand how critical it is to have a backup.

A backup protects all of your data. A full backup also protects your system. With a full backup, you can recover your laptop without any major losses.

A full backup restores the system to the way it was at the time of the backup. Even if your hard drive crashes, you will be able to restore items using a different drive.

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Why You Need a Full Backup

HDD Failures

Computers aren’t designed to last forever. There are so many things that can go wrong. When they do, you risk losing the information on your computer.

Just a few of the things that can go wrong include:

  • Your computer hard drive fails.
  • You spill something on your computer.
  • A power surge fries your computer.
  • Your computer gets infected with malware.
  • You can’t get your computer to turn on.

When these things happen, you may lose your favorite items. Such a loss is heartbreaking. If you lose work materials, it can even be costly.

When you back up your computer, you save yourself from these headaches. Regular backups store everything that you need to save. As a result, you can access them again even when your computer has been ruined.

What You Will Save with a Full Windows 10 Backup

A full backup saves the entire system:

  • All of your documents will be saved.
  • You will keep all the files you’ve created.
  • You will save photos, videos, music, and other multimedia.
  • The applications you’ve downloaded will all be stored.
  • You keep the settings you’ve configured to your liking.
  • A full backup will store Windows 10 itself.

In short, you will be able to use your full backup to recreate the computer. You will be able to get back anything that was lost, as long as you have created a backup for it.

With an ordinary backup, you save just the files. With a full backup, you save the entire system.

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How to Create a Full Backup with Windows 10 System Image

There is more than one way to create a full backup with Windows 10. The best option is to use what Windows provides. This is the system image tool.

What is the Windows 10 System Image Tool?

System Backups

In the past, you may have needed to run a third-party tool to do a full backup. However, computer companies now create the tools that you need.

The system image tool is the Windows 10 backup option. In fact, this tool has been around since Windows 7.

When you run the system image tool, you will create a backup of absolutely everything that has been stored on the computer. This includes all the aforementioned items. Additionally, you’ll back up any additional drives you have connected to the computer.

To put it simply, you are taking an image of the entire system. You will then be able to restore the computer to exactly as it was at the moment you ran the tool. You can use the backup to get the computer running on the same device or a different hard drive.

Back-Up to External Storage

The purpose of a full backup is to restore your computer if it has broken. Therefore, you don’t want to store the backup on the same computer. You want to create your backup using external storage.

There are other options besides a hard disk. One is to use DVDs for backup. Another is to back up to a network location. However, a hard drive is currently the optimal option for this type of backup.

How to Create a System Image Backup

Connect the external storage to the computer. Next, you are ready to run the system image tool. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Open the Control Panel.
  • Click on the “System and Security” option.
  • Scroll down and select “Backup and Restore.”
  • Choose “Create a system image” in the left sidebar.
  • You should see a drop-down menu asking where to save the backup.
  • Select “on a hard disk.”
  • Select the installed hard disk from the new drop-down menu.
  • Click on “start backup.”

That is all that you have to do. The computer will do the rest of the work for you. It will back up your system.

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Create a System Repair Disk

When the backup is complete, you will get a new message. It asks you to insert a CD/ DVD to create a system repair disk.

This disk stores a full backup of the Windows 10 installation files. You can use it if your computer dies and won’t reboot.

One odd thing is that you may get this message, even if your laptop doesn’t have a DVD drive. It’s okay to skip this step because it’s just a secondary measure. Your system backup created a full image on the external drive.

If you wish to make the extra backup, then insert the disk. Select “create disc” from the window prompt.

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Store Your External Hard Drive Safely

External Drives

You have gone to the effort of creating a full backup. Don’t waste that effort by then losing the backup. Make sure that you securely store your external hard drive.

If you created a system repair disk, then you should make sure you also store that properly. Use DVD cases. Store them in cool, dry storage areas.

Safety Tips for External Storage

Here are a few key tips to follow for safe storage of the external drive that holds your backup.

Store drives where they can’t fall, even in an earthquake.

Make sure your storage area is completely dry.

Pack the drive in foam then inside of a sturdy container.

Add a packet of silica beads to storage to reduce moisture.

Invest in anti-static bags to surround hard drives in storage.

Alternatively, you can purchase containers specifically intended for hard drive storage. Look for anti-static protectors that also arm against moisture.

If possible, you should store your backup in a location other than where you keep your computer. For example, if you back up a work computer, then use storage at home for the backup drive. This protects you in case of damage — such as fire — in the location of the computer.

How to Use Your Full Backup of Windows 10

Advanced Options In Windows

The point of creating your backup is so that you have it in case of an emergency. When the time comes, you can use it to restore your computer.

To do this, you’ll need to first restart the computer to recover. Follow these steps:

  • Open the start menu and go to “Settings.”
  • Select “Update and security.”
  • Choose “Recovery.”
  • Go to the “Advanced startup” area.
  • Select “Restart now.”
  • Allow the computer to restart.

Once the computer has restarted, follow these additional steps:

  • Go to “Troubleshoot.”
  • Select the “Advanced options.”
  • Go to “System Image Recovery.”

Use the prompts to restore your computer.

Other Options for Backing up Windows 10

The system image backup is the key tool for doing a full backup. However, it’s not the only backup option. You especially have a lot of options when it comes to backing up files.

Remember that when you backup files, you save your personal items. For example, you save your documents and photos. However, you don’t save the PC system itself or the applications installed on it.

When you restore files, you get back precious items you don’t want to be lost. However, you can’t restore the whole computer using just a file backup. Most people opt to do frequent file backups and less frequent, but regular, full backups.

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Save Files with File History Settings

History Backups

You want to backup files often. That’s because you’re on your computer daily, adding new content. You don’t want to lose that content.

One key tool to know for Windows 10 is the file history tool. You can set this up to do scheduled backups to a hard drive. Follow these steps:

  • Open the start menu and go to “Settings.”
  • Select “Update and security.”
  • Go to the “Backup” area in the left sidebar.
  • Under “Back up using File History” you can select “Add a drive.”
  • Click the + sign and select your hard drive.

After making this selection, you will see that the “Backup” area has changed slightly. Instead of “Add a drive” it will now read “Automatically back up my files.”

This new option is turned on as a default setting. You can toggle it on and off. Leave it on to create regular backups.

Go to the “More options” tab and do the following:

  • Run “Back up now” if you want an immediate file backup.
  • Select your preferred option from “back up my files”; for example, select “Every hour”
  • Select your preferred options for how long to keep the backup in the “Keep my backups” drop-down menu.

Save Files with Cloud Storage

Cloud storage is increasingly popular for file backups. You may use it on its own. Alternatively, you may use it in conjunction with hard drive storage, so that you have multiple backups in the event of an emergency.

Each method of cloud storage has its own steps for file backup. Two popular options for cloud storage to consider are Dropbox and Google Drive. That said, Microsoft has its own tool called OneDrive for your Windows 10 backup.

Developer and technologist Jason Young offers a complete guide for Using Unlimited OneDrive Space for Backups.

Full Backup Alternative: System Restore

Windows System Restores

One more tool worth pointing out is the classic “system restore” option. If you are a longtime Windows user, you are probably already familiar with this tool.

System restoration isn’t a full backup, per se. Nevertheless, it can be a terrific option if you experience a computer crash. What it does is it returns your computer system to what it looked like at a chosen point in time. 

System restoration doesn’t mess with personal files. It doesn’t alter your documents or photos, for example. Therefore, if you do a system restore to an earlier date, you’ll still have the files you created today.

With system restore, you return to the settings and computer files you had at the time of the save. This is helpful if you install an application that makes the computer crash. Simply restore to a time before that app was ever on the computer.

The important thing to know as a Windows 10 user is that this option is turned off by default. Turn it on immediately if you want to have it available to you. To do this, follow these steps:

  • Go to the Windows 10 search box.
  • Search for “System Restore.”
  • Select “Create a restore point.”
  • A system properties window will open. Go to the “System Protection” tab.
  • Click to “Configure.” A new window will open.
  • Select “Turn on system protection.”
  • Use the slider bar to select 10% of disk space to be used for system restores.

This will back up your files. If you ever need to get to them, you can repeat the above steps to get to the “System Protection” tab. From there, click “System Restore” and choose your restore point.

Third-Party Backup Options

Windows Backup 3rd party

In general, it makes sense to use the tools already on your computer. Those are the ones most compatible with your device.

However, it’s always worth a look at third-party options for backups. That’s certainly an option with Windows 10. For example, you might opt to use EaseUS Todo Backup.

Most likely, you will find that a system image restore creates a full backup of Windows 10 to your satisfaction. Nevertheless, it’s good to know what all of your options are.

Points to Remember

You can never replace those photos of grandma or the videos of your children when they were young, and you don’t want to lose that novel or business proposal you’re almost finished writing either!

It is important to regularly back up your laptop. This prevents the loss of photos, documents, media, apps, and settings, in the event of a computer crash or disaster.

You can use the system image tool to do a full backup on Windows 10. The tool is easy to operate. It creates a backup that you can use on the same hard drive or another one.

When your computer crashes, get out your backup copy. Use the “system image recovery” option on the PC to restore the computer. It will go back to the way it was when you created the backup.

About the Author Mico

Mico is a current graduate student in computer science researching computer architectures for pattern processing. In her free time, she loves walking her dog, Charles, and exploring local coffee shops.

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