How do I back up my files on Windows 10?

File History is a handy tool that lets you back up files on your PC to any hard drive connected to it, whether that connection is external via USB or internal via a bus. You can also back up to a network location if one is available. Here's how to use File History to safeguard your important files.

How to add a drive to use with File History

Before starting these steps, you should ensure a secondary drive is connected to your PC or that a network is set up.

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Click the Settings button. (It looks like a gear and is located in the bottom-left corner of the Start menu.)

    Click the Start button. Click the Settings button.

  3. Click Update & security.
  4. Click Backup.

    Click Update and security. Click Backup.

  5. Click Add a drive.
  6. Click the drive you'd like to use as a backup. You can also choose to back up to a network location if one is available.

    Click Add Drive. Click the drive to back up to.

You now have a drive or network location associated with File History, and it's time to choose which files you want to back up.

How to back up files using File History

File History will automatically back up files from folders it deems important, but you can customize exactly which folders and files its backs up.

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Click the Settings button. (It looks like a gear and is located in the bottom-left corner of the Start menu.)

    Click the Start button. Click the Settings button.

  3. Click Update & security.
  4. Click Backup.

    Click Update and security. Click Backup.

  5. Click More options.
  6. Click Add a folder.

    Click More options. Click Add a folder.

  7. Click a folder you want to back up.
  8. Click Choose this folder.

    Click a folder. Click Choose this folder.

    • If you add the wrong folder or simply want to remove a folder from the backup list, perform the following two steps.
  9. Click a folder in the Back up these folders list.

  10. Click Remove.

    Click a folder. Click Remove.

How to change the frequency of backups

If you don't need your files backed up on an hourly basis, you can change how often a backup occurs, as long as the drive is connected or the network location is available.

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Click the Settings button. (It looks like a gear and is located in the bottom-left corner of the Start menu.)
  3. Click Update & security.

    Click the Settings button. Click Update and security.

  4. Click Backup.
  5. Click More options.

    Click Backup. Click More options.

  6. Click the dropdown arrow beneath Back up my files.
  7. Click a frequency options.

    Click the dropdown arrow. Click a frequency option.

    • You can also change how long the backups are kept on the drive or network using the following two steps.
  8. Click the dropdown arrow beneath Keep my backups.

  9. Click a time limit.

    Click the dropdown arrow. Click a time limit.

How to switch the drives that use File History

If your backup drive is full, or if you just want to start using a different drive, you have to manually switch the drive in the File History settings.

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Click the Settings button. (It looks like a gear and is located in the bottom-left corner of the Start menu.)

    Click the Start button. Click the Settings button.

  3. Click Update & security.
  4. Click Backup.

    Click Update and security. Click Backup.

  5. Click More options.
  6. Click Stop using drive.

    Click More options. Click Stop using drive.

You can now connect a different drive, and back up to it, using the steps listed above.

How to restore files from File History

If something goes wrong and you lose files, you can easily restore them from the File History backup. Make sure the drive that contains the backup is connected to your PC or the network location is accessible.

  1. Click the Start button.
  2. Click the Settings button. (It looks like a gear and is located in the bottom-left corner of the Start menu.)
  3. Click Update & security.

    Click the Settings button. Click Update and security.

  4. Click Backup.
  5. Click More options.

    Click Backup. Click More options.

  6. Click Restore files from a current backup. (You might have to scroll down to find it.)
  7. Click the Restore button. (It is green and has a circular arrow on it.)

    Click Restore files from a current backup. Click the Restore button.

Your files contained in the backup will now be restored to their original location.

Best external drives and NAS solutions

If you don't already have an extra hard drive, check out our picks for the best available right now:

See the best external hard drives

If you'd like to take some extra steps and create a network storage solution, have a look at our guide to building your own NAS, or our collection of the best pre-built NAS systems:

How to build your own NAS

Best NAS for a Plex server

More resources

If you want to create an image of your drive to use in the event of a complete failure, Windows has a built-in tool that is quite easy to use. We've also created a guide to walk you through each step of that process:

How to make create an image backup on Windows 10 and Windows 8.1

Using File History and Windows Image Backup are just the tip of the iceberg. If you'd like more info on creating data backups, have a look at our roundup of six easy backup methods:

Six easy and effective ways to back up your PC