How to Back Up Files to an External Hard Drive in Windows 7

By Ken White

If you have irreplaceable files stored on your computer, you should have a backup strategy in place before a hard drive failure or operating system malfunction makes it impossible to access those files. Windows 7 includes a backup and restore utility that will back up your files to an external hard drive, CDs or DVDs, or a shared network location. The utility lets you choose individual file folders or libraries, or you can make a disk image of the entire hard drive.

Step 1

Open the Control Panel, click "System and Security," then "Backup and Restore."

Step 2

Click "Set Up Backup." Windows will scan your system. When the scan is complete, click the external drive where you want to store your backup files in the "Save Backup On" window and click "Next."

Step 3

Click "Let Me Choose." Click "Next."

Step 4

Click the check boxes next to the library data files you want to backup. Click the arrow beside each library to expand the list to choose only specific folders in each library.

Step 5

Click the arrow beside the hard drives in your computer. Click the check box next to folders you want to add to the backup.

Step 6

Click "Include A System Image of Drives" to create a full drive image in the backup. You can restore the entire system, including operating system and data, from a drive image. Click "Next."

Step 7

Review the backup settings you've selected. Click "Save Settings And Run Backup."

Tips & Warnings

  • You can schedule regular backups of your system to be run on specific days and times, or on a weekly or monthly schedule. These backups will back up files that have changed since the last backup.