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Using Windows Backup and Restore in Windows 10

These notes are specific to Windows10.  For Windows 7 click HERE.

For an informative article, click HERE.

 Some important caveats:

1) The most important thing to note is  that the default backup settings make assumptions about what files should be backed up.  It does a good job with everything in your C disk My Documents folder and your e-mail but it does not back up everything in the folder one level below My Documents.  The folder probably has a name based on the name your computer has, in my case it is called "Bill". Different computers are set up differently.  Mine has folders like My photos and My Music there that are backed up fine but others like My Webs were not so I would not use that directory to store anything of importance other than My Music, My Pictures and similar files.  In particular do not put anything in there that was not already put there by Windows.
2) For reasons only known to Microsoft, this utility only works with backups made with more recent versions of Windows, I know longer remember how far back the current software supports but the bottom line is this is not a good way to back your files up for ever.  It does go back 2 or 3 versions of windows.
3)  The default assumes you only need to back up your data files on the C: drive. If you have data you want to back up on another drive, as is typically the case if you have a SSD (Solid State Device) for your C: drive, you will need to modify the defaults.  It does backup, Desktop, Downloads, Music and Pictures but not Videos. In particular it does not back up My Documents.

To force it to also backup you data on the D: drive, Schedule>Change Settings>Select what to backup>What files do you want to backup>Let me choose. The default is called Data Files but this is mostly just the data files on the C: drive.  You will need to also check the D drive.  It looks like the only option is all of the D: drive which wastes space but the non-data files on the drive should not change much so it will not continually add more.

To Launch Windows Backup:

click on the start button in the lower left, looks like the windows icon, then "Settings", the gear icon, then "Update and security" the last icon in the table, then "Backup" half wa down on the left.

Windows 10 has two types of backup:

1.    System Image Backup:  This backs up everything so you can return to the configuration the computer was when you made the image.  You can also set up a regimen to keep your PC backed up all the time.  If you use the system image to restore your PC you might loose any files created since that date so be careful.

2.   File History:  This backs up your most important files, it is not a system backup.

Making a System Image Backup

Right click the Start Button, the windows icon on the lower left of the screen then select "Control Panel".  Now select select "Save backup copies of your files with File history under System and Security.   Now select System Image Backup in the lower left corner (It may take a minute to appear.)  Now select "Create a System image" from the menu at the left. It will then ask where you want to back it up to.  Answer that and it will want to know what drives and partitions you want backed up.  When in doubt back it up.

When the System image is done being created, it will ask if you want to create a rescue disk.  This is a bootable disk that rescues you from a mired of problems so if you have not made one in a while, you might as well.  It fits on one DCD and might fit on  CD but I have not tried that.


To set up File History:

Start>Settings (the gear icon)>Update and Security>backup (along the left side)>Add a Drive (Under Backup using File History) then select your backup drive (this option will not appear if one has already been selected).  Then  make certain  the option to Automatically back up my files is turned on (Assuming your backup drive is always connected) then select More options.  Some options you may want to change the backup frequency,  the default is every hour, For a home computer, every day should be adequate.  You can set how long to keep the backups, the default is forever, you might prefer to choose "Until space is needed".  Then review the folders it is backing up, you can add additional folders or delete folders it is backing up.  If you have a ram disk for your C: drive, you may be storing your files on the D: drive so there would be a lot of folders on the C: drive that do not need backing up (although they are black so they do not take a lot of space).  Adding folders is not as strait forward as it might seem.  My "Documents" is D:/SOP/Documents. I said to backup D:/SOP but it only backed up the "AppData" folder on SOP.  I changed my settings to specify backing up D:/SOP/Documents and the problem went away.  I suspect that if you were just using the C: drive the defaults would take care of most everything.  If the computer is off when the backup is scheduled, the backup will happen when the computer is next turned on regardless of the time.

A good reference is HERE.

For a good reference for what to do when your backup drive is out of space, click HERE.


Restoring:  It is good to test this out prior to needing it.  You learn how to use it and you verify our backups really exist.

The easiest way to initiate a file restore is by  opening File Explorer, the the program you use to see the files and directories on your computer, then click "Home" along the top.  This brings up a new menu.  Select "History".  It is a folder like icon towards the right.

 Windows Recovery Environment:  You can boot into this mode to work various recovery issues.  To get to it, Got to Start>Settings(the gear icon)>Update & Security>Advanced Startup (Restart Now).  Another reference said to force a restart 3 times by forcibly shutting down  your computer 3 times by holding the power on button down until the computer shuts down then let it boot normally and it should boot into the recovery mode.  At the first sign of windows type screen is when you shut down again.  If it does not work with 3 it might work with 2.  There is also a way if you have the original windows disk but you probably do not have the windows 10 installation disks.

4.   PC Reset:  Lets you return your computer to the way it was when you purchased it.  At your option, you can also restore it retaining your files and many of your installed programs.


Restoring  from a System Image:   (Try a system restore before a complete recovery because a recovery will remove any data files created after the backup point.  I do not fully understand this!
This assumes your PC will not boot up to windows at all.  You have to boot from your rescue disk or a windows installation disk.  To boot from a windows or recovery disk you will probably have to change the book options so it boots from the DVD drive before the hard disk.  First try to see if it will boot from a hard disk bout it probably will not.  To see how to change the boot sequence you will need to edit the BIOS (UEFI) settings, look HERE to see how.

Click HERE to see how to restore individual files from a System Image backup  (Warning it is complicated.)


Restore from File History

 From here on the notes have not been updated for windows 10

You will also have the opportunity to make a rescue disk that can be useful if your computer gets messed up.

To use it:
 Insert the system repair disc into your CD or DVD drive.
2) Restart your computer using the computer's power button.
3) If prompted, press any key to start the computer from the system repair disc. ...
4) Choose your language settings, and then click Next.
5) Select a recovery option, and then click Next.

Next you will want to set up your default backup settings by clicking on "Options" the "Check backup settings"
The more often you schedule a backup, the quicker your backup disk fills up but is not as bad as that sounds.  It only backs up the files that have changed so the more often you back up files, the less files will have a chance to change.  I back up daily as I decided that loosing one day's work is an acceptable risk.
Next make your first backup run.  It will take a very long time, a number of hours so you may want to set it to work when you are done for the day although you can still use your computer while the backup is in operation.  You can not restore individual files from the system image so you are not really covered until you do the first backup.

Restoring Files:

To restore an individual file,

Click on “Restore my files”

If you do not want the latest version, then click on "Choose another date"

Then you can choose a date, then search for files or folders to restore individual files or folders

When you have navigated to the file or folder, click on “Add File” or “Add Folder”, you can then select more files or folders if you want

When done selecting, Check the box next to the files you want and select “Next” at the bottom right of the box.

It  will then ask if you want it restored to the original spot or a new one.  Keep in mind that if you restore it to the original spot it may overwrite the file you have there now.  That may or may not be a problem.

Then Click Restore then End or Exit.


Some General notes:

1) Even though it only backs up the changed files, when you do a restore and choose a backup date, you will see all the files that were on the computer at that date, not just the ones backed up on that date.

2)  What size backup hard drive do I need?  Mine is a 2 Terabyte (2,000 GB) internal hard drive.  Lots of people use external drives.  That is about 10 times the size of all the material on my hard disk and it fills up in around a year with daily backups.  When it is full, you can use some options to delete older copies of files or what I usually do is erase the backup hard disk, create a new system image and start the backup process over again.  This means that I have no backup for a short while and I will never be able to restore files to an earlier version.  If you were really paranoid, you could use 2 external backup hard disks swapping them when they get full so you only erase the older one when you need to use it again.


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