How to use Windows Backup to Backup & Restore your Personal Files.

Last updated on April 15th, 2019

This tutorial contains detailed instructions on how to create a backup of your personal files by using the Windows "Backup & Restore" feature. in Windows 10, 8, 7 & Vista OS. One of the most useful features in Windows,  is the "Backup and Restore" feature that can help you easily backup and restore your personal files and also gives you the ability to specify how often the backup will be executed in order to have your backup always updated.

Backup and Restore

The backup of your data is a very important action! Do not skip it!

I have always advised my customers to backup their data regularly because I believe that keeping backups is the safest way to avoid data loss. If you follow this advice, then you will minimize the risk of losing your files by any reason in the future, like a disk failure or if a ransomware destroys your files.

How to Backup or Restore your Personal Data with Windows Backup feature.

Part 1. How to backup your personal files with Windows Backup.
Part 2. How to restore your personal files from a Windows Backup.

Part 1. How to Backup your Personal Data with Windows Backup.

Requirements: A media with enough free space to save the backup (e.g. an External USB Hard Drive, an empty optical DVD disk, etc.)*.

* Important: The safest method to backup your data is to save the backup to another media and then (after the backup) to keep that media offline.

To backup your Personal Data, by using the Windows Backup feature:

1. Connect to your computer a media with enough empty space to save the backup.

(e.g In this tutorial I will use an external USB hard disk to save the backup.)

2. Then start the backup process: *

    • In Windows 7: click the Start menu and navigate to Control Panel > Backup your computer.
    • In Windows 10 & Windows 8.1: Navigate to Control Panel > Backup and Restore (Windows 7) *

* Note: Windows 10 offers also the 'File History' feature' to backup your personal files.  The main difference between the "Windows Backup & Restore" feature and the 'File History' is that the Windows backup has also the abilities to create full system images and to backup entire drives.

back up your computer

3. At "Backup or restore your files" screen, click Set up backup. 

set up backup

4. Select a drive to backup your files (e.g. an External USB drive) and press Next.

setup backup

5.  At the "What do you want to back up?" screen, you can select one of the following two (2) options:

  • Let Windows choose (recommended): if you select this option, then Windows will take a backup of the following items:
    a. The Libraries from all accounts (Documents, Music, Pictures and Videos)
    b. The Standard profile folders (Desktop, Favorites, Links, Saved Games, etc.)
    c. The "AppData"* folder from all accounts.
    d. The Windows state: A System Image of your current Windows State, if there is enough space on the backup media.
  • Let me choose: if you select this option,then you have to manually select the files that you want to backup. *

* Note:  This article focuses on the "Let me choose" option in order to include in the backup only your important personal files (Documents, Pictures, Music, Videos, e-Mail, etc.) and exclude all the other useless data that are stored inside the "AppData" folder (e.g. the settings and data from installed programs, the Internet history, cookies, etc.). **

** The "AppData" or "Application Data" folder contains data from every installed program on your computer. Usually, the only really important information that is stored inside the "AppData" folder is your e-Mail data (Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Thunderbird).

backup options

6. At the next screen choose which folders/files that you want to backup and click Next.*

* Note: Below are mentioned(in Bold letters) all the important folders with your personal files that you must include on the backup. Don't forget to include any other folder that contains important information to you.

  1. C:\Users\<username>\Desktop
  2. C:\Users\<username>\Documents
  3. C:\Users\<username>\Downloads
  4. C:\Users\<username>\Favorites        (Internet Explorer)
  5. C:\Users\<username>\Music
  6. C:\Users\<username>\Pictures
  7. C:\Users\<username>\Videos

Additionally, you can include on the backup,
the following personal folders (in bold letters) if you want:

  • To backup Outlook: *
    • C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Outlook

* Note: This is the default storage folder for Outlook 2003, 2007 PST data file (Outlook.pst). In Outlook 2010, 2013 & 2016, the "Outlook.pst" data file is stored (by default) at this location on your computer:

    • C:\Users\<your username>\Documents\Outlook Files\<YourEmailAddress>.pst
  • To backup Thunderbird data:
    • C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\<Profile name>
  • To backup Firefox data:
    • C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\<profilename>.default
  • To backup Chrome data:
    • C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User\Data\Default

Windows backup

7. At the next screen review your selections and specify (if you want) how often you want Windows to backup your files, by clicking the Change schedule link.

backup schedule

8. Finally choose Save settings and run backup, in order to start immediately the first backup of your files.

run backup

9. When the backup process is started, you will see a screen with the backup progress. (Wait until the backup is completed).

backup progress

Part 2. How to Restore files & folders from a Windows Backup.

1. If you want to restore your files, from a previous Windows backup, then (after connecting your backup media) launch the Windows restore feature, by using either one of the following two (2) ways:

A. Navigate to Windows Control Panel > Backup your Computer and select the Restore my files option, or

restore files

B. Navigate to the backup location (where you saved the backup, e.g. your external USB disk) and double click at the file folder that has the same name as your computer's name. (e.g. "WIN7-BLOG" n this tutorial).


(Select the Restore my files from this backup option to continue)

restore files from backup

2. When you reach the "Browse or search your backup for files and folders to restore" options screen, choose want action you want to perform:

  • Browse for files, if you want to restore individual files from the backup.
  • Browse for folders. if you want to restore individual folders from the backup.

(e.g. in this example I have chosen to restore a folder from the backup.)

restore folder

3. Next, explore the backup contents, until you find the folder (or file) that you want to restore.


4. When you locate the folder (or file) that you want to restore, highlight it and press the Add folder (or "Add File") button.

(e.g. In this example I want to restore the "Desktop" folder, from the profile folder of "Admin" user: "C:\Users\Admin\Desktop")


5. After that you should return to "Browse or search your backup for files and folders to restore" options. At this point you can select additional files (or folders) to restore, or if you have finished with your selections, press Next.


6. At "Where you want to restore your files?" specify in which location you want to restore your files (or folders) and then click the Restore button to start the restore process. If you want to restore your files (or folders) in their original location, simply choose the first option (In the original Location). Otherwise, select a different location by choosing "In the following location". *

* Note: I prefer to restore the files in an alternate location to avoid overwriting.

(e.g. in this example I have selected to restore the selected folder (Desktop), to a new location (folder) on the external USB disk, named "RestoredFiles".)

restore location

7. Finally, when the restore process is completed, select the View restored files option, to view the restored files.


That's it!

Let me know if this guide has helped you by leaving your comment about your experience. Please like and share this guide to help others.

If this article was useful for you, please consider supporting us by making a donation. Even $1 can a make a huge difference for us in our effort to continue to help others while keeping this site free:

We're hiring

We're looking for part-time or full-time technical writers to join our team! It's about a remote position that qualified tech writers from anywhere in the world can apply. Click here for more details.