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When Disaster Happens, You'll Wish You'd Made a Windows Backup

With the best Windows backup utilities, you can avoid disaster by making copies of important photos an files -- even the contents of your entire hard disk.

Apps in this Guide

Windows backup software allows you to create a copy of your hard drive contents to keep in a safe place, letting you quickly restore lost files in the event of a drive failure or wayward software update.more

Windows backup software allows you to create a copy of your hard drive contents to keep in a safe place, letting you quickly restore lost files in the event of a drive failure or wayward software update. The best backup apps let you set a schedule and choose which folders to duplicate. And some let you make a bootable clone of your drive, so you can get right back to work after a drive failure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need a backup plan?
Hard-disk and SSD drives fail. App installations go wrong. Documents get lost or accidentally deleted. If you don't have a current copy of important documents or special photos, when disaster happens, your files are gone for good. If you do have a current backup, then you can easily restore the contents of your drive and return to work.
I use CrashPlan for Home. Can I migrate to another plan with the service shutting down?
Code42 said it is shutting down its CrashPlan for Home backup service on October 23, 2018, and not accepting new subscribers after August 22, 2017. If you subscribe to CrashPlan for Home, Code42 said you can migrate to its small-office plan for $10 a month or move to another service. Code42 said subscriptions are non-refundable.
Are some of my files already getting backed up?
You might already have a backup of some files. If you are using Google Docs editors or Microsoft Office Online, for example, then your files are stored in the cloud, safe from local mishaps. Or if you use Google Photos or Amazon's Prime Photos on your phone, then you have copies of your images stored in the cloud.
What's a good backup strategy?
The best backup strategy is the one you'll stick to. So pick a strategy that is simple and -- most important -- automated. Using a backup utility with a local external drive is convenient. If your main drive dies, you have quick access to your replacement files. And a good external drive is less than $100. If you want to prepare for the worst (a house fire, say, or flood), take the next step and store your backups remotely, using a dedicated online backup service. A subscription to a cloud-based backup service goes for around $50 a year.

Best Windows backup utilities

Windows 10's Built-In Backup Utility

Windows 10's Built-In Backup Utility

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Windows 10 comes with a built-in utility that lets you automatically backup the contents of your user folder to an external storage device. Head to Start > Settings > Update & security > Backup and then tap "Add a drive" to choose where to keep your backups. By default, Windows will run a backup every hour, but tap "More options" to change the frequency.

Acronis True Image

Acronis True Image

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For more control over what gets backed up and where, check out Acronis. You can create a clone of the entire contents of a hard drive-- including OS, applications, settings, and files -- and then restore everything or just specific files. For $49.99, you can back up to local devices. With an annual subscription starting at $39.99, back up to Acronis's cloud-based servers.

Backup and Sync from Google

Backup and Sync from Google

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If you want to make free cloud-based backups of specific files and documents, Google has Backup and Sync, a Windows app that continuously copies local folders to Google Drive. You can set which folders to back up to Drive -- including photos and videos -- as well as sync specific folders from Drive back to your PC. Your backup files count toward your Drive cap.

Backblaze

Backblaze

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Backblaze offers a similar service to Acronis for $50 a year. The cloud-based service lets you continuously back up files, documents, and photos to Backblaze's cloud service.