How to Backup a Windows 10 PC

Every time someone buys a Windows PC, they’re encouraged to get virus protection. This has become a standard practice because for years, Windows users were barraged with malicious code. Anytime someone mentions virus protection, backups should bookend the conversation.

Backups for your Windows 10 PC is one of the most important things you’ll configure. Having a backup allows you to replace any files that you’ve managed to mess up through editing. Having backups means that when you’re device is compromised by a virus, you can refresh Windows 10 itself without first having to spend hours copying over documents, pictures, videos and more. So much of our lives revolves around the things we create and store on our devices. Everyone needs a backup in place if the unthinkable happens.

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Here’s how to Backup a Windows 10 notebook, desktop or tablet.

Before We Begin

Often, the conversation about backups starts and ends with talk of physical storage. For some reason, we’re trained to expect that backing up means plugging something into our PCs and manually copying every file that we own. You can do that if you want, but there are alternatives based around cloud storage and physical storage that’s always connected to your device.

How to Backup Windows 10: Cloud Storage & OneDrive

Cloud storage is all about trusting other companies with your data on their servers. You can run a utility that creates a backup of your data on that remote server without you noticing, or you can explicitly upload the data yourself. Carbonite is the go-to solution for users who want cloud backup. It’s a fine service, but Microsoft has its own that’s built directly into Windows 10. This service is called OneDrive.

Chances are you’ve seen options for OneDrive on your Windows 10 device already, Microsoft doesn’t give users the option to not add it to their Windows PC these days. Every Windows user who creates a Microsoft Account gets 15GB of storage from Microsoft to load everything they want on to. You can add more storage to OneDrive in yearly increments available for purchase at OneDrive.com.

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On your Windows 10 device, look for the cloud icon to the left of the clock on your Taskbar. We’ve already set-up OneDrive on our device. As such, our OneDrive icon has a blue syncing bubble within it. If you haven’t setup OneDrive yet, yours will appear with a red x.

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Microsoft doesn’t include a very friendly OneDrive set-up experience. In fact, if you already used OneDrive or have a Microsoft Account, the first thing the app does is ask you what folders you’d like to sync. By default, you can go with just the OneDrive folder. In our example we’ve already synced files to OneDrive from other PCs. As such there’s a ton of folders for us to choose from. Tap or click on the check beside each folder that you want to sync. Note that at the top of the window is an option to sync everything to and from OneDrive. Hit Ok once you’ve made your selections.

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Now every time you drag something to the OneDrive folder on your device it syncs back to OneDrive’s servers online. If something happens to your Windows 10 device, you still have your files. To open your OneDrive folder tap or click on the folder icon pinned to your Taskbar. It’s also visible in other windows too.

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Some people take it a step further and put all of their stuff in the OneDrive folder. This is done by moving the Location on their folders to OneDrive.

Create a folder with the same name within the OneDrive folder by right-clicking anywhere in the OneDrive folder and selecting New Folder.

Right-click on a folder like Documents or Music and select Properties.

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Then select the Location option.

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Tap or click on Move.

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Select the folder that you’ve just created within OneDrive and hit Yes both times when Windows asks you if you’d like to merge the two folders. Now your essential files will go to OneDrive immediately, instead of you manually needing to backup every day.

Microsoft makes OneDrive apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac and Windows 7. Install one of these apps on another of your devices and you can sync content between them.

How to Backup Windows 10: Physical Storage & File History

Cloud storage is gaining a foothold, but physical storage backups are the bedrock of backups. With physical storage, users aren’t sending their files to a sever owned by Microsoft, or Google or Carbonite. Instead, they’re files are stored on a hard drive installed on their PC or a flash drive or USB hard drive plugged into their PC.

Windows 10 includes a backup utility for physical storage backups called File History. File History does exactly what it sounds like, it stores copies of files on external drives automatically, giving you another copy of your photos, pictures, movies and documents should you need it. To get this working on your Windows 10 device you’ll need some physical storage of some kind. Whatever hard drive you purchase will have double the amount of storage that’s available to your device, in an ideal world. You can find a hard drive at Wal-Mart, Staples or dozens of other retailers. Amazon has a pretty robust selection too.

Go to the Start Menu by pressing the Windows button on your keyboard. Touch users should tap or click on the Windows logo in the Taskbar’s left corner.

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Now tap or click on Settings in the bottom left corner of Start. Note that if you’re on a Windows 10 device with touch mode enabled, you’ll need to tap on the menu button in the top-left corner before you see the Settings option.

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In the Settings app, tap or click on Update & Security.

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Now tap or click on Backup in the menu on the right of your screen. At this time, you’ll want to go ahead and connect that hard drive or flash drive that you purchased for the purposes of backing up your stuff.

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Tap or click on Add a Drive.

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Now select a drive from the menu. The USB media that you connected to your Windows device should surface in the list.

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Now tap or click on More Options to get some more settings related to backups.

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Here you’ll find options for selecting which drives on your Windows 10 device you’d like to backup and which you’d like to exclude. Microsoft lets you set the frequency for backups. Daily backups are all most people really need, but Microsoft gives users granular control so that everyone can tailor their backups to their needs. For example, if you work with a lot of video files or create a lot of media, maybe backing up every hour is important to you.

Good luck with Windows 10 and getting your backups setup on Microsoft’s latest operating system. The hope is that you’ll never need to use them, but now they’re there if you need them.

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