How to Take a Full Backup of Windows 10 on an External Hard Drive

We will use the Image Backup feature in Windows 10 to create a complete backup of your system, including the operating system, settings, applications, and your personal files. I will show you in this guide how to do a backup to hard drive in Windows 10 using Windows's own tools, so there is no need for any additional software.

The main advantage of this feature is that it can be used to restore a complete system in case of a software or hardware failure. The disadvantage is that you cannot use it to restore individual files.

With this tutorial, you can create a complete backup image on Windows 10.

Taking a Full Backup of a Windows 10 PC on an External Hard Drive

Step 1: Type 'Control Panel' in the search bar and then press <enter>.

Step 2: In System and Security, click "Save backup copies of your files with File History".

Step 3: Click on "System Image Backup" in the bottom left corner of the window.

System Image Backup

Step 4: Click on the button "Create a system image".

Step 5: Choose your hard drive and click Next.

Choose Hard drive for backup

Step 6: Click "Start backup" to start the backup process.

The backup wizard takes from 10 minutes to several hours. This depends on the amount of data that needs to be backed up. It also depends on the speed of the hard disk.

Windows is saving Backup

By following this guide, you created an easy to restore full-backup of your Windows PC in 6 steps.

18 thoughts on “How to Take a Full Backup of Windows 10 on an External Hard Drive”

  1. windows 10 made a backup using image to my external hard drive. I cannot figure out how to access my photos etc because there is only a string of numbers and dates when i click on the hard drive,c,users, my name, etc. i have a lot of photos on my segate that they said i need to get in touch with microsoft to figure out how to understand how it is backed up.

    • I understand your confusion! Unfortunately this is a common format among some backup software (Windows, Western Digital) I think it’s Windows fault as I have seen backups of macs basically duplicating the file system! To answer your question in any situation the easiest way to access your backed up files is through the way you backed them up. If you used this tutorial then hopefully your backup should appear in the restore section of back up or restore in control panel if you ever lose your original files.
      I highly recommend using Google Photos (I’m sure iCloud also has a nice download feature) as you can download your photos whenever you want, and even change settings to Automatically backup your photos! Not only this but the format is easily accessible when downloading ALBUMS from Google Photos. Sorry this was so long winded but I hope it helps!!!

    • You need to give your saved photos a NAME if you don’t it allocates a number Say you have 20 odd photos all of a holiday in Spain Put all 20 on a folder Title the folder Spain 2019 (or whatever Another folder may be (dads birthday) This way they can still have numbers BUT you know what’s what and where it is.
      IF you ever accidentally DELETE all your photos and you have a google account Everything is in this account automatically IF YOU DON’T gave an account Here is a tip ,,,, Click MY COMPUTER then top right in the small search box type *.jpj that is star dot JPG just wait and watch EVERY single photo and image that your PC has ever seen will be recovered to save again to an new folder… Enjoy Paul

    • You can restore individual files from System image.
      click on search -> type Disk Management
      click Action -> select Attach VHD -> browse through your USB drive where the system image is saved and select the WindowsImageBackup file
      the system image will be mounted as a another drive letter, you can browse the files that you want to restore and copy it to your existing drive or whichever location you want.

  2. I can do all these steps but the message I get is that there is not enough room on the external hard drive. Well, I want it to OVERWRITE the old info with the new! This is a new problem — I have not had this issue before and I have made many backups onto this same external drive. I cannot seem to find a way to tell the laptop to do this. Any suggestions welcome. Thank you.

  3. This method also seems to duplicate my e drive aswell.I only the operating system back up,my e drive contains mostly my games,music,photo’s,videos etc.Is it possible I can just back up the c drive?.

  4. All I’ll say is Macrium Reflect.

    Makes a bootable clone of my C drive once a day. In addition, it does this whilst I’m working on the PC.

    If I have a hdd failure I not only have a bootable drive instantly, I also have everything save the last 24 hours (at worst) work. If there’s a better way to have peace of mind, I haven’t found it.

  5. “The drawback is that you can not use it to restore individual files.”

    This is wrong. The backup is in a form of a (one or more) VHDX file, that can be opened with a single click (OK, double-click, depending on system settings) and each individual file can be viewed, opened, copied back or … restored.

  6. Please i tried backup my windows 7 the same way on “create a system image”, but the hard disk is not showing up. I only see refresh.

  7. This doesn’t work. I don’t have System and Security. I used Backup and Restore (Windows 7) in control panel. Then step 4 came up. Create system image, and computer found external drive. So I selected that and was able to create an image of hard drive.

  8. Do I need to dedicate an entire external USB HDD for the image of my computer?
    I do not need access to individual files. Those are all backed up on DropBox, Carbonite, etc.
    Once I have the image on a external USB HDD, how do I restore it? Suppose, my computer gets thrown in a river and I can’t get it anymore. I want to be able to go and buy ax exact model (as exact as I can) and restore my whole computer. How do I restore?

  9. Hi!

    Let say that I save my system backup in disk E: and disk E: also contains a lot of files (no system files! ) Does a system backup erase everything in disk E: or does it just make a file with numbers and act the same way like the other files on disk E: ?

  10. I bought a WD External HDD. The Backup in Windows 10 does NOTHING. I went to Win 7 back up. It backed up my library, but only got to 91% of my system Image. I cannot backup a system image. I’ve tried 4 times already. Hours of waiting for nothing. I had a Toshiba that backed up Windows 10. A complete backup. After the latest update, it won’t work anymore. Can somebody tell me how to get a system image on WD Passport 1TB? This is getting way too hard to do. My laptop won’t update because the battery doesn’t reach 40% capacity. Looks like the bottom line is $$$$$$$


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