Keeping your data backed up is essential. In the event of hardware failure or a virus attack, having a copy of your data ensures your loss is minimal and you’re back on your feet in no time. As a Windows user, what useful tools and features are available to you?

Does Windows 10 Have a Backup & Recovery Utility?

Windows does come with a handful of useful tools for backing up your data. The sad thing is that most of the time, you need to know where to look in order to make use of them. Non-technical users rarely stray away from what they know, so having backup features hidden behind a collection of menus and windows results in them being easily missed. The two back up features we’ll focus on are Backup and Restore and File History.

In terms of recovery, Windows doesn’t come with any data recovery apps by default. Instead, if you want the official Windows recovery app, you must download it from the Microsoft Store. Windows File Recovery is a tool that allows you to recover your lost or deleted data using a command-line interface. If you find command-line tools intimidating, there’s also a third-party tool called Disk Drill you can use instead. We’ll discuss both in more detail later in the article.

Built-in Backup & Recovery Features in Windows 10

Let’s take a look at what Windows 10 backup options are available to you so you can prepare how you want to back up your data.

Backup & Restore (Windows 7)

Backup and Restore was the primary backup feature of Windows Vista and Windows 7. However, when Microsoft noticed that users weren’t backing up their data, they intended to make it easier by replacing it with File History.

While File History may be its successor, Backup and Restore remains a part of Windows because it’s reliable and still used by many to this day to backup Windows 10 computers. You can pick and choose what files and folders you want to backup, as well as when you want the backup to run.

How to Set up Windows 10 Backup and Restore

Let’s take a look at how you configure a scheduled backup using Backup and Restore on Windows 10:

  1. Press Windows Key + S and type Backup settings. Open the first result.Opening backup settings.
  2. Click Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7).Opening Backup and Restore.
  3. Click Set up backup.Setting up the backup.
  4. Select the drive you want to keep the backup on. Click Next.Selecting the backup drive.
  5. Select Let me choose and click Next.Choosing how the backup will work.
  6. Choose what data you want to back up by ticking the checkbox next to each list item. If you want to keep a system image backup of your system files, keep the bottom checkbox ticked. Click Next.Choosing what items to back up.
  7. By default, the backup will run every Sunday at 7pm. If you want to change this, click Change schedule. Otherwise, click Save settings and run backup.Saving the backup.

How to Restore Files From Backup and Restore in Windows 10

Follow these instructions to restore a backup in Windows 10 from Backup and Restore:

  1. Press Windows Key + S and type Backup settings. Open the first result.Opening backup settings.
  2. Click Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7).Opening Backup and Restore.
  3. Click Restore my files.Choosing to restore files from the backup.
  4. Click Browse for files. Select the files you want to restore.Browsing for files in the backup.
  5. Click Next.Proceeding with the restore.
  6. Choose the location where you want to restore your files. By default, it will be to the original location. Click Restore.Confirming the file restoration.

File History

File History was released with Windows 8 and was intended as a replacement for Backup and Restore. It is still regarded as the preferred method to create backup files on Windows 10. It allows you to select what files or folders you want to keep safe and takes regular snapshots of the file. This method has additional benefits, as it allows you to restore a different version of the file rather than a single version. Sadly, you are unable to create system images like you could with Backup and Restore.

How to Set up File History on Windows 10

Use the below instructions to back up data on Windows 10:

  1. Press Windows Key + S and type Backup settings. Open the first result.Opening backup settings.
  2. Click Add a drive.Adding a drive in File History.
  3. Select the drive where you want to store the backups.Selecting what drive will hold the backups.
  4. Click More options to configure the backup.Look at additional File History settings.
  5. Set how often you want the backup to run, as well as how long you want to retain backups for. By default, the backup will run every hour and keep all backups forever.Modifying the backup timetable.
  6. In the Back up these folders section, you can choose what folders to keep a copy of. By default, it’s set to keep a backup of all folders contained in major directories (Desktop, Downloads, Pictures, Music etc.) To add a folder, click Add a folder.Adding a specific folder to back up.

How to Restore Files From File History in Windows 10

To restore files from File History, follow these steps:

  1. Press Windows Key + S and type Backup settings. Open the first result.Opening backup settings.
  2. Click More options.Looking at other File History options.
  3. Click Restore files from a current backup.Choosing to restore your files.
  4. Select the files you want to restore and click the green Restore button.Confirming the restore from backup.

System Image Backups

A system image backup is regarded as a full backup of your computer. In addition to your personal files, it retains a copy of your system files, settings, apps, and configuration settings. This type of backup is often associated with a larger file size considering how much information is being saved.

The drawback of a system image is that you cannot choose individual items to restore like the previous methods. Instead, you must use it when Windows doesn’t allow you to boot, as it will restore all the necessary files for you to open and access Windows.

To create a system image backup, we’ll make use of Backup and Restore, as it has a built-in feature that allows you to create a system image. Follow these steps to do so:

How to Create a System Image Backup in Windows 10

To create a system image backup, follow these instructions:

  1. Press Windows Key + S and type Backup settings. Open the first result.Opening backup settings.
  2. Click Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7).Opening Backup and Restore.
  3. Click Create a system image.Creating a system image.
  4. Select where you want to save the system image backup. Click Next.Choosing what drives to include in the backup.
  5. Select what drives you want to back up. It will automatically select the EFI System Partition, the C: drive, and the Windows Recovery Environment. Click Next.Choosing what drives to include in the backup.
  6. Click Start backup to start the creation of the backup.Saving the backup.

How to Restore Using a System Image Backup

In the event that you need to use a system image backup to access your computer, you will need a bootable version of Windows (bootable USB or DVD). Follow these instructions:

  1. Boot into the Windows pre-install environment. Click Next.Windows startup overview screen.
  2. Click Repair your computer.Choosing to repair the computer.
  3. Click Troubleshoot.Troubleshooting the PC.
  4. Click System Image Recovery.Restoring from a system image.
  5. Either select your system image manually or just click Next.Selecting the system image.
  6. Choose whether you want to format and repartition your drive. Click Next.Configuring the restore parameters.
  7. Click Finish.Confirming the restore from system image.
  8. Click Yes to confirm you’re prepared to replace the existing data with the system image.Confirming your decision.

Recycle Bin

The Recycle Bin can be a lifesaver in times where you’ve deleted a file before getting a chance to back it up. It can be found on your Desktop. When a file is deleted, it will go to the Recycle Bin first instead of being permanently deleted immediately. The only time this won’t happen is if the file or folder is too large, or the file is deleted using Shift + Delete.

Recovering data from the Recycle Bin is super quick and easy. Follow the below instructions to recover files or folders from the Recycle Bin:

  1. On your Desktop, open the Recycle Bin.Accessing the Recycle Bin.
  2. Select the items you want to restore. To select multiple files, hold CTRL and left-click each file. When ready, click Restore the selected items.Restoring the files.
  3. The files will be restored to their original location.Showcasing the restore files.

What to Do If I Didn’t Have a Backup Set up in Advance

Data loss can occur before you get a chance to back up your files. Whether it be hardware failure, a power surge, or even just the accidental format of a drive. Don’t worry. Even after your data has been permanently deleted, there’s still a chance you can recover your deleted files in Windows 10 using data recovery software.

Data recovery tools and software work by scanning your drive and recovering any data that they discover. When your data is deleted, it’s not immediately erased from the drive. Instead, the data will physically remain on the drive until it’s overwritten with new data. Until this data is overwritten, you still have a chance of recovering it.

Let’s look at some useful data recovery tools you can use to get your data back.

Using your drive for anything after your data has been deleted may result in it being overwritten. This includes the installation of a data recovery tool. Therefore, try to use a portable version of the recovery tool or make a byte-to-byte image backup of your drive and recover from that.

Option A: Disk Drill

Disk Drill is a recovery tool that has proven its usefulness time and time again. It’s quick, reliable, and even allows you to recover up to 500MB before needing to upgrade to a paid plan. Moreover, it has a simple user interface that makes it accessible even to beginners.

We’ll guide you through what the typical recovery looks like using Disk Drill using the instructions below:

  1. Download Disk Drill for Windows. Install it then open it.Downloading Disk Drill.
  2. You’ll be met with a screen listing your drives. Select the drive you want to recover data from, then click Search for lost data.Searching the drive using Disk Drill.
  3. Once Disk Drill has finished scanning your drive, click Review found items.Reviewing the data found by Disk Drill.
  4. Select what data you want to recover by clicking the checkbox next to each list item. Use the Recovery chances column for an indication on that file’s recovery chances. If needed, you can also Preview each file to ensure you’re choosing the correct one. When ready, click Recover.Recovering the marked files.
  5. Select the output folder. It’s good practice to choose a separate physical partition to avoid overwriting your data as you recover it. When ready, click OK.Confirming the recovery.
Now that you’ve seen Disk Drill’s recovery abilities, you may be surprised to find that you can use Disk Drill as a backup solution too. It allows you to create byte-to-byte image backups of your drive. These images can be used to recover data from or serve as a complete backup of all your data on that drive.

To take a byte-to-byte backup of your drive using Disk Drill, follow these steps:

  1. Click Drive Backup.Accessing the Drive Backup feature.
  2. Select the drive you want to back up. Click Byte-to-byte Backup.Selecting the drive and creating a byte-to-byte backup.
  3. Choose the output location and press OK when ready.Choosing where to store the image file.
  4. Click Done to complete the process.Confirmation of the successful backup.

Option B: Windows File Recovery Tool

Windows File Recovery is the official recovery tool from Microsoft. It’s still quite young when compared to other recovery tools on the market, having only launched early 2020 on the Microsoft Store. It’s appealing to many because it’s completely free, only requiring a Microsoft account and a working version of Windows.

It has the ability to recover lost or deleted files from your hard drive or removable storage. It may be lacking some features that Disk Drill has to offer like a streamlined interface and the opportunity to preview your files before recovery, but it has the essential features that are needed to recover the data.

Windows File Recovery requires a separate physical partition you can recover to. This could be a separate internal drive or a removable drive (USB, SD card etc.)

As Windows File Recovery is a command-line tool, it can be a bit tricky for first-time users. Let’s take a look at the recovery process to give you a look at what it’s like using the tool:

  1. Download Windows File Recovery from the Microsoft Store.Get Windows File Recovery.
  2. Press Windows Key + S and search for Windows File Recovery. Open it.Opening Windows File Recovery.
  3. Type winfr C: D:\RecoveryFolder /regular. Replace C: with the drive letter you’re recovering from. Replace D:\RecoverFolder with the path to your output folder. Press Enter.Running the winfr recovery command.
  4. When asked to continue, press Y.Confirming the command.
  5. If at any point there is a conflict (typically a file with the same filename), press O to overwrite, S to skip, A to always overwrite, N to never overwrite, K to keep once, or B to always keep both files.Addressing conflicts in Windows File Recovery.
  6. When recovery is finished, click Y to view the recovered files or N to exit.

What About Windows 11?

With the release of Windows 11 in October 2021, many were wondering what data recovery will be like on the new version of Windows. Thankfully, data recovery in Windows 11 isn’t too dissimilar to Windows 10.

Backup and Restore and File History both work on Windows 11. Disk Drill and Windows File Recovery have also been tested on Windows 11 and work fine. Many, if not all of the same options you currently use will be available to you, with some even getting a slight facelift thanks to the new user interface.

FAQ

Conclusion

Windows 10 comes with some useful backup features like Backup and Restore and File History. In terms of recovery, though, you will need to find a solution. Microsoft has their own recovery tool, Windows File Recovery, but it’s only available once you download it from the Microsoft Store. If you want a more comprehensive recovery solution that’s also easier to use, look towards Disk Drill instead.