How to Backup and Restore your Personal Files with Windows Backup

Last updated on August 6th, 2017

One of the most useful features in the latest Windows Operating Systems (Windows 10, 8 and 7) 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.

This tutorial contains detailed instructions on how to make a backup of your personal files by using the Windows "Backup & Restore" feature. (Windows 10, 8, 7 & Vista OS).

How to Backup or Restore your Personal files 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 Settings > Update & security > Backup.

* Note: The screenshots in this tutorial are from Windows 7.

back up your computer


3. In Windows 7: At "Backup or restore your files" screen, click Set up backup.

  • In Windows 10 & Windows 8.1: At the "Backup using file history" screen, select Add a drive.

set up backup


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

setup backup


5. In Windows 7: 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).

  • In Windows 10 & Windows 8.1: At the "Backup using file history" screen you can view and modify the Backup options, such as how often the backup will be taken and the folders included in the backup.*

* Note:  By default, the backup job in Windows 10, 8.1 & 8, will back up everything in your user folder (C:Users<username>) hourly. If you want to change which files to backup, or to add additional folders, or to specify how often the backup will be executed, then click More Options.

(In this tutorial, we demonstrate the Let me choose option.)

backup options


6. In Windows 10, 8, 7 or Vista, if you want to backup only the necessary and important personal files and folders on your computer, then you have to include – at least* – the following folders (in Bold letters) in the backup and click Next:

* Note: Don't forget to select any other folder that contains important information to you. {e.g. In case that you use additional locations to save your files, then include –also – those additional locations (folders) in the backup job}.

  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

(8.) Additionally, include on the backup,
the following 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.

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