Creating frequent backups is one of the best strategies at your disposal to protect your documents, pictures, videos, custom configurations, and Windows 10 files against software problems, hardware failure, and malware attacks.

Although you can find many third-party utilities to do the job, Windows 10 ships with the legacy Backup and Restore experience, which allows you to create full backups automatically at regular intervals.

A full backup with this tool means that Windows 10 will make a copy of everything on your computer, including installation files, settings, apps, and all your files stored in the primary drive as well as those files stored in different locations. Then when your device suddenly stops working, a critical error prevents a successful boot, or files get corrupted, you can use the Backup and Restore feature to recover individual files or the entire system as necessary.

Bundle Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for just $13/month

In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the steps to set up full backups of your computer automatically.

How to configure automatic backups on Windows 10

Although you can find many third-party tools to backup your system, Windows 10 still includes the Backup and Restore feature to keep your system and files protected automatically.

Important: Backup and Restore is no longer a maintained feature on Windows 10. You can still use it, but in the future, it may stop working. Also, as a deprecated feature, the company can decide to remove this tool in future releases completely.

To configure automatic backups on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Click on System and Security.
  3. Click on Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

  4. Under the "Backup" section, click the Set up backup option on the right.

  5. Select the removable drive to store the backup.

  6. Click the Next button.
  7. Under the "What do you want to backup?" section, select the Let me choose option.

    Quick tip: You can select the Let Windows choose option, but if you want to make sure that everything you want is getting backed up, the Let me choose is the option that you want to select.

  8. Click the Next button.
  9. Under the "Data Files" section, check all the items as required.
  10. Under the "Computer" section, check the Local Disk (C:). (If you have multiple drives, they will also appear in this list.)
  11. Check the Include a system of drives: System Reserved, (C:) option.

  12. Click the Next button.
  13. Click the Change schedule option.

  14. Check the Run backup on a schedule option.
  15. Specify the frequency, date, and time when Windows 10 should backup your computer.

  16. Click the OK button.
  17. Click the Save settings and exit button.

Once you complete the steps, an initial backup of your device will be created, and then incremental backups will be performed on the schedule you specified.

During the process, you can click the View details button to see more information about the files being copied and an option to interrupt the process (if required). After the backup is complete, in the "Backup" section, you'll be able to view the current size of the backup and drive location as well as the date and time of the next and previous backup.

How to manage backup settings on Windows 10

After configuring the automatic backup feature, you can continue managing many of the settings to prevent running out of space in the backup drive and changing the schedule to a different date and time.

Managing space

To free up space in the backup drive, use these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Click on System and Security.
  3. Click on Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

  4. Under the "Backup" section, click the Manage space option.

  5. Under the "Data file backup" section, click the View backups button.

  6. Select the oldest backup.

  7. Click the Delete button.
  8. Repeat steps No. 6 and 7 to delete additional backups as necessary.
  9. Click the Close button.
  10. Under the "System image" section, click the Change settings button.

  11. Select the Keep only the latest system image and minimize space used by backup option.

  12. Click the OK button.
  13. Click the Close button.

After you complete the steps, the external drive should have more space to allocate future backups.

If you have a lot of data to protect and optimizing the backup drive storage doesn't make a difference, you should consider getting a larger external storage. If you don't know which one to pick, check out our external hard drive guide to select the best option for you.

Changing schedule

If you need to set a different schedule to run backups automatically, use these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Click on System and Security.
  3. Click on Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

  4. Under the "Schedule" section, click the Change settings link.

  5. Continue with the on-screen directions until you arrive in the Review your backup settings page.
  6. Click the Change schedule option.

  7. Specify a new schedule for the backup.

  8. Click the OK button.
  9. Click the Save settings and exit button.

Once you complete the steps, backups will run automatically during the new schedule that you specified.

Creating restore media

When the time comes to restore your data, you'll need a bootable media. Although the tool includes an option to create a disc to boot your device to restore a backup, newer devices don't come with disc drives anymore.

If you don't have a disc drive, you'll need to use the Media Creation Tool to create a USB bootable media, which you can use to access the recovery mode when your computer doesn't boot.

In the case that you still have a disc drive, insert a blank disc, and use these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Click on System and Security.
  3. Click on Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

  4. Click the Create a system repair disc option from the left pane.

  5. Click the Create disc button.

After you complete the steps, you can use the disc or USB bootable media to start your computer in the Advanced startup mode to recover your files.

How to restore data from backup on Windows 10

When the unexpected happens, you can use the Backup and Restore feature to restore files individually or recover your entire system and data.

Restoring files using full backup

To restore one or multiple files and folders, use these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Click on System and Security.
  3. Click on Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

  4. Under the "Restore" section, click the Restore my files button.

  5. Click the Browse for files button.

  6. Select the files that you want to restore.

  7. Click the Add files button.
  8. Click the Browse for folders button.
  9. Select the folders that you want to restore.

  10. (Optional) If you don't know the location of the file, use the Search button to find it.
  11. Click the Next button.

  12. Select the In the following location option (recommended).
  13. Click the Browse button.
  14. Select the restore location.

  15. Click the OK button.
  16. Click the Restore button.

  17. Click the Finish button.

Once you complete the steps, you'll be able to access the files and folders from the location that you specified during the recovery process.

Restoring computer using full backup

If your computer doesn't boot or you're replacing the hard drive, you can restore your device completely using the most recent backup. However, before you can proceed, you have to make sure the computer can start from USB (or CD-ROM drive), which means that you may need to change the boot order inside the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware on your device.

Usually, the process involves pressing one of the function keys (F1, F2, F3, F10, or F12), the ESC, or Delete key as soon as the device starts. The only caveat is that the process is often different depending on the manufacturer and even computer model. So make sure to check your device manufacturer's support website for more specific instructions.

While in the firmware interface, find the "Boot" section, and configure the boot order to start from the USB bootable drive (or CD-ROM drive), and save the new changes.

To perform a system restore, connect the bootable media to your device, and use these steps:

  1. Start PC with bootable media drive.
  2. On "Windows Setup," click the Next button.

  3. Click the Repair your computer link located at the bottom-left corner.

  4. Click the Troubleshoot option.

    Quick tip: If you need to restore your device from backup, and you still have access to the desktop, you can access the Advanced startup settings from Settings > Update & Security > Recovery, and click the Restart now button from the "Advanced startup" section.

  5. Click the System Image Recovery option.

  6. Select the Windows 10 option as the target.
  7. Select the Use the latest available system image option.

  8. Click the Next button.
  9. Select the Format and repartition disks option if you're restoring a full backup to your computer or replacing the hard drive.

    Important: If you have multiple drives with data that you don't want to erase, make sure to click the Exclude disks button to change the settings to prevent the process from wiping out those drives.

  10. Click the Next button.
  11. Click the Finish button.

  12. Click the Yes button.

After you complete the steps, the system recovery process will start, and it'll restore everything since the last backup. The completion time will depend upon the data and hardware configuration.

If you work with files frequently, and you don't create backups daily, it's recommended to complement the backup with another kind of file backup. For instance, using a OneDrive subscription allows you to keep a more up-to-date copy of all your personal files in the cloud.

Backup and Restore vs. system image backup

Alongside the Backup and Restore tool, you can also use the system image backup tool to create a full copy of your entire computer, but there are a few key differences between the two solutions.

When using Backup and Restore, you can create automatic backups during a specified schedule, and you get more options. For example, you can configure the data that you want to protect, manage the storage, and you can restore one or multiple files as well as the entire device.

However, this solution also has at least a couple of things to consider. When doing backups automatically, it means that the backup drive has to be always connected to the computer, which can be a risk as if a malware infects the device, it can also damage the backup.

In contrast, the system image backup feature allows you to create a full backup, but you must go through the process manually every time that you want to protect your system. Usually, this feature is more suited as a temporary backup when modifying the system settings or replacing the hard drive.

One important benefit is that unlike the automatic option, you can always disconnect the backup drive and store it in a safe location, which can protect your data from malware as well as from a natural disaster.

Similar to the other feature, system image backup also has a few caveats. For example, you can only restore files since the last time you ran the feature. As a result, if you're not proactive in creating backups, you could lose a lot of data during the restore process. In addition, this feature is meant to restore your entire system, not individual files.

We're focusing this guide on Windows 10, but the Backup and Restore tool has been around for a long time, which means that you can use this guide on Windows 8.1 and even Windows 7.

More Windows 10 resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:

Mauro recommends all these affordable accessories

Hi, I'm Mauro Huculak, Windows Central's help and how-to guru. I wrote the post you're reading now, and I know the Windows OS inside and out. But I'm also a bit of a hardware geek. These are some of the affordable gadgets on my desk today.

Logitech MX Master Wireless Mouse ($72 at Amazon)

I know mice, and this is the one I use every day. The MX Master is a wireless high-precision mouse that's very comfortable to use and has many great features, including the ability to connect with multiple devices, an infinite scroll wheel, back and forward buttons, all of which you can customize.

Ktrio Extended Gaming Mouse Pad ($12 at Amazon)

If you spend a lot of time typing, your palms and mouse will leave tracks on your desk. My solution was to start using gaming mouse pads, which are big enough for you to use the keyboard and the mouse comfortably. This is the one I use and recommend.

Supernight LED light strip ($20 at Amazon)

You could just use a regular light bulb in your office, but if you want to add some ambient lighting with different colors, an RGB LED strip is the way to go. This one is Mauro-approved.

We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.