Protect your files

How to create automatic file backup on Windows 10

Windows 10 lets you back up your files with three different features, including OneDrive, File History, and Windows Backup – here's how to use them to protect your data.

Windows 10 file backup

On Windows 10, you have at least three ways to backup and restore your personal files and documents automatically, including OneDrive, File History, and Windows Backup, to protect the data against accidental deletion, hardware failure, or system corruption. In this guide, you will learn the difference between each option and how to use them.

OneDrive is perhaps the best option to create a file backup on Windows 10 for most users. The reason is that files are backed up automatically as soon as you sign in and start saving files to the OneDrive folder. Since the data is stored in the cloud, they are also protected against natural disasters, and you can access the files across devices. The only caveat is that you will need a subscription to unlock the 1TB of storage. 

File History is a built-in feature that allows you to create incremental backups of files to an external or network drive at different intervals during the day to prevent data loss. Unlike OneDrive, you can store as many backups as the storage space allows, which could be many terabytes. This option is better suited for users with a large amount of data, such as video, music, software collections, and project files. Since backups are store locally, the downside is that the data won’t be protected from natural disasters (fire or flood). Also, the external storage must be connected to your computer all the time. Otherwise, backups won’t work.

Windows Backup is the third automatic file backup option on Windows 10. The feature can back up your personal files to a removable drive or network shared folder located on a NAS server. It works similar to File History, but Windows Backup also offers an option to back up and restore the installation files. However, you can only schedule backups once a day. Since the backups are store on-site, your files will be protected against accidental deletion, hardware failure, and system corruption, but not from natural disasters. Windows Backup is an option better suited to long-term archival or to create full backups.

In this guide, you will learn the different ways to back up your files using one of the various features available on Windows 10.

Create file backup on Windows 10 using OneDrive

Back up files automatically to OneDrive with these steps:

  1. Open Settings on Windows 10.

  2. Click on Update & Security.

  3. Under the “Back up files to OneDrive” section, click the “Back up files” option.

    OneDrive backups settings
    OneDrive backups settings
  4. Select the folders to back up in the cloud, including Desktop, Documents, and Pictures.

    OneDrive file backup configuration
    OneDrive file backup configuration
    Quick note: This folder will select automatically, so you want to clear the ones you do not want to upload to the cloud.
  5. Click the Start backup button.

Once you complete the steps, the folders you selected will backup automatically to your OneDrive account as new changes are made.

The above steps help you to backup your profile folders to OneDrive, but you can always move and save files directly to the OneDrive folder available in File Explorer to keep them backed up in the cloud.

OneDrive offers 5GB of free cloud storage, but if you need more, you will need to purchase a Microsoft 365 subscription (see link below) to access the full 1TB of storage. In addition to the OneDrive storage, the subscription also includes access to the suite of Office apps and many other benefits.

Recover files with OneDrive

Since the files will sync to the cloud, in the event that something happens to the device, you can always recover the files by signing in to OneDrive on the new installation Windows 10.

If you accidentally deleted a file or document, you can recover it from OneDrive recycle bin.

To recover a file with OneDrive, use these steps:

  1. Open OneDrive with a web browser.

  2. Sign in with your credentials (as necessary).

  3. Click on Recycle bin from the left pane.

  4. Select the file or folder.

    OneDrive file restore
    OneDrive file restore
  5. Click the Restore button.

Once you complete the steps, the file will sync to your computer again after a few moments.

When using this solution, remember that deleted files are only available for 30 days since the day the file was deleted.

Create file backup on Windows 10 using File History

Back up personal files with Windows 10 File History with these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on Update & Security.

  3. Click on Backup.

  4. Under the “Back up using File History” section, click the Add a drive button.

    File History select backup destination
    File History select backup destination
  5. Select the external or removable drive to use as the backup destination.

  6. Turn on the Automatically back up my files toggle switch.

  7. Click the More options link.

    File History more options
    File History more options
  8. Click the Back up now button if you to create an on-demand backup.

  9. Use the “Back up my files” drop-down menu to configure how often to back up your files. You can select as often as every 10 minutes to every 12 hours or daily. (The default frequency is every hour.)

    File History configuration
    File History configuration
  10. Use the “Keep my backups” drop-down menus to configure how long to keep the backups. You can select to save files as little as one month to two years until space is needed or forever (default).

  11. (Optional) Under the “Back up these folders” section, click the Add a folder option to include additional locations to the backup.

    Add folder to backup
    Add folder to backup
  12. (Optional) Under the “Exclude these folders” section, click the Add a folder option to include the locations with files you do not want to backup with File History.

    Exclude folder from backup
    Exclude folder from the backup
  13. (Optional) Select a folder from the “Back up these folders” or “Exclude these folders” section and click the Remove button to remove it from File History.

    Remove folder from File History
    Remove folder from File History
  14. (Optional) Under the “Back up to a different drive” section, click the Stop using drive button to stop using the drive or use another storage.

Once you complete the steps, Windows 10 File History will start backing up files regularly to the selected drive.

If you are looking for an external hard drive to store backups, we recommend the Element Desktop solutions from Western Digital (see link below) since they offer fast, reliable, and large storage capacity at a reasonable price with a two-year limited warranty.

Restore file with File History

To restore files with File History on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.

  2. Click on Update & Security.

  3. Click on Backup.

  4. Click the More options link.

  5. Under the “Related settings” section, click the Restore files from a current backup option at the bottom of the page.

    File History restore files from backup
    File History restore files from backup
  6. Use the back and forth buttons to navigate to a point in time to restore your files.

  7. Select the content that you want to recover.

  8. Click the green button to restore your files to their default location.

    File History restore experience
    File History restore experience
    Quick tip: You can also click the gear button in the top-right corner and use the Restore to option to restore files to an alternate location.

After you complete the steps, the files will restore to the location that you specified.

Create file backup on Windows 10 using Windows Backup

Alternatively, you can also use the Windows Backup feature to create automatic incremental backups of your files.

Create automatic file backups using Windows Backup with these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel.

  2. Click on System and Security.

  3. Click on Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

    Control Panel backup and restore option
    Control Panel backup and restore option
  4. Under the “Back up or restore your files” section, click the Set up backup option.

    Set up backup on Windows 10
    Set up backup on Windows 10
  5. Select where you want to save the backup – for example, USB external storage or secondary drive.

    Windows Backup select file backup location
    Windows Backup select file backup location
    Quick tip: You can also use the Save on a network button to select a shared folder in the network to upload the backup to your local Network Attached Storage (NAS).
  6. Click the Next button.

  7. Select the “Let me choose” option.

    Windows Backup custom selection
    Windows Backup custom selection
  8. Click the Next button.

  9. Clear all the default selections.

  10. Under the “Computer” section, select the folders and locations with files you want to include the backup – for example, Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Videos, and Downloads folder, and secondary drives with data.

    Windows Backup file selection
    Windows Backup file selection
  11. (Optional) Clear the Include a system image of drives option since you are setting up a file backup.

  12. Click the Next button.

  13. Click the Change schedule button.

    Windows Backup schedule option
    Windows Backup schedule option
  14. Check the Run backup on a schedule option.

  15. Use the How often drop-down menu and select the Daily option.

  16. Use the What time drop-down menu and select the time you want to run backups – for example, 7:00 PM.

    Schedule file backup on Windows 10
    Schedule file backup on Windows 10
  17. Click the OK button.

  18. Click the “Save settings and run backup” button.

Once you complete the steps, the backup process will begin for the first time, and then follow-up backups will be performed on schedule.

Restore files with Windows Backup

To restore files with Windows Backup, use these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel.

  2. Click on System and Security.

  3. Click on Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

    Control Panel backup and restore option
    Control Panel backup and restore option
  4. Under the “Back up or restore your files” section, click the Restore my files backup option.

    Windows Backup restore files option
    Windows Backup restore files option
  5. (Optional) Click the Choose a different date option to restore the previous version of the file.

  6. Click the Browse for files or Browse for folders button to restore a file or folder.

    Select files to recover
    Select files to recover
  7. Select the file or folder depending on the data you want to restore.

  8. Click the Add files or Add folder button.

  9. Click the Next button.

  10. (Optional) Select the In the following location option.

    Windows Backup restore different location option
    Windows Backup restore different location option
  11. Click the Browse button.

  12. Select the new location to restore the files and folders.

  13. Check the Restore the files to their original subfolders option.

  14. Click the Restore button.

  15. Click the Finish button.

Once you complete the steps, the files and folders will be restored to the location you specified.

If you are using an external drive, make sure to keep it connected to the computer. Otherwise, the file backup will fail, and if something happens, you may not be able to recover your files.