How to back up your computer


A back-up is a copy of all the files on your computer. If you have a back-up, you’re protected if, for example, you delete a precious photograph by mistake.
It’s normal to back up your files on to a different storage device from your computer’s hard drive – its main memory store. That way, if your hard drive gets damaged you can still restore all the information on your computer and be up and running quickly.
There are basically two types of data that need to be backed up:
  • the files that you create and update frequently
  • the programs, applications, etc. that make up the ‘system’ that your computer depends on to run and which are updated only occasionally.
You can back up as often as you like – monthly, weekly or daily. But it’s common to make a large back-up of the entire system and your folders at the start and, after that, only back up those items that have changed since the last back-up.
Some computers have a second hard drive built in for back-ups. However, you’ll be more secure if you store your copies on a free-standing external hard drive with a very large storage capacity. These can be bought relatively cheaply. You can then remove this hard drive from your computer and keep it safe in case of fire or burglary.
Follow these step-by-step instructions on how to back up your computer
This article assumes that you’re using a PC with Windows 7 and have set up an external drive or similar. Windows 7 has its own back-up program built in.
Step 1: First, you have to find the Windows 7 back-up program. Press the ‘Windows’ button on the left-hand side of the taskbar and type in ‘backup’ in the search box that appears.
On the results you now see, click Backup and Restore:
Backup and restore
Alternatively, press the ‘Windows’ button and click Control Panel in the right-hand column:
Control panel
Then click Back up your computer on the ‘System and Security’ menu
System and security menu
Step 2: No matter which route you took to get there, you should now have arrived on a page headed ‘Back up or restore your files’. On this, click Set up backup:
Set up backup
This will open a series of pages.
Step 3: The first page is ‘Select where you want to save your backup’. This is where you’ll tell the computer to send copies of all your files and programs/applications.
You’re given a number of choices, depending on which back-up method you’ve set up. Here the choices are: to send copies to a DVD in the DVD drive; or, as Microsoft recommends, to send them to an external hard drive.
Select where you want to save your backup
Click on the option that suits you and then click Next.
Step 6: You’ll now see the ‘What do you want to back up?’ page. Here you can choose what Windows recommends – that is, a combination of a system copy and back-ups of all your data files – or you can opt for ‘Let me choose’ and pick only those items you want Windows to copy:
What do you want to back up window
Make your choice and then click Next.
Step 7: You’ve now reached the ‘How often do you want to back up?’ page, where you can set up a schedule for regular back-ups. This is highly recommended – it’s very easy to forget to do a back-up!
How often do you want to backup window
Make your choices and then click OK.
Stephen Baird-Parker is a qualified ICT teacher.


WindowsLover7's picture

By WindowsLover7 on 27th March 2013

Excellent tutorial for windows 7 but do you have for Windows 8 also i read article about backup importance you should read from here thanks
DU Community Manager's picture

By DU Community Manager on 28th March 2013

Thank you for the comment, we are working on a series of Windows 8 guides at the moment so look out for a guide to backing up in the future!
ted shepherd's picture

By ted shepherd on 1st April 2013

I am computer illiterate but find the jargon buster and your tutorials very helpful
DU Community Manager's picture

By DU Community Manager on 2nd April 2013

Thanks for your feedback, Ted, that's great to hear!
david j's picture

By david j on 16th March 2014

Thank you so very much to whoever took the time to make this tutorial and post it.I had no idea what to do and you made it very simple.Thank you and congratulations to you!
Thala Harate's picture

By Thala Harate on 5th August 2015

Thank you, Stephen excellent stuff. But, how can I tell if my backup includes all my installed programs?
DoubleE's picture

By DoubleE on 21st March 2016

After I go to programs, the options you say are there are not. After I put backup in the search, the options you mention above, are not available.