Where should I save my backup?

Where you save your backup depends on the hardware that you have available and the information that you're saving on your backup. For the most flexibility, we recommend that you save your backup on an external hard drive.

The following table lists the types of backup destinations that Windows Backup supports and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Destination Type Advantages Disadvantages
Destination Type

Internal hard drives

Advantages
  • Hard drives are relatively inexpensive and aren't affected if you have a problem with your operating system. You can even install the drive in another computer if you buy a new computer and you still want to use the disk for backups.

    Notes

    • Another hard drive isn't the same thing as a partition. You can save your backups on a partition on your drive, but if the drive were to fail, you would lose your backups.

    • You should also never back up files on the same drive that Windows is installed on, because if your computer gets a virus or has a software failure, you might have to reformat the drive and reinstall Windows to recover from the problem and then you would lose your backup data.

  • Internal hard drives are more secure than other media because they aren't being moved around, which makes it less likely that they'll crash or become damaged.

  • Internal hard drives are more efficient than external hard drives or removable media.

Disadvantages
  • If your computer doesn't already have another hard drive, you need to install one or have someone install it for you.

  • If you have a problem with your computer, you can still use the drive by moving it to another computer, but you need to know how to install it in the new computer or have someone install it for you.

  • Since the hard drive is installed inside your computer, you can't store it in a location separate from your computer, such as in a fireproof safe.

Destination Type

External hard drives

Advantages
  • An external hard drive can easily be attached to your computer using a USB port.

  • External hard drives can hold lots of information. We recommend that you use an external hard drive that holds at least 200 gigabytes (GB).

  • External hard drives can be stored in a location that's separate from your computer, such as a fireproof safe, which can help protect your backup.

Disadvantages
  • The external hard drive needs to be plugged into your computer and available when a backup is scheduled to occur. If you store your hard drive somewhere else for safekeeping, you'll need to remember to get it out and attach it to your computer before your backup is scheduled.

Destination Type

Writeable CDs or DVDs

Advantages
  • Many newer computers have CD or DVD burners installed in them.

  • CDs and DVDs are relatively inexpensive and are easy to find in most department and electronics stores.

  • You can store the CDs or DVDs in a location that's separate from your computer, such as a fireproof safe.

Disadvantages
  • You can't save scheduled system image backups on CDs or DVDs.

  • Depending on how much data you have, it might take several CDs or DVDs to hold your backup and you would need to store and keep track of all of them.

  • CDs or DVDs can become corrupted over time.

Destination Type

USB flash drives

Advantages
  • USB flash drives are relatively inexpensive and can hold a fair amount of data. To save a backup on a flash drive, it must be able to hold more than 1 GB.

  • You can store a flash drive in a location that's separate from your computer, such as in a fireproof safe.

Disadvantages
  • You can't save a system image on a flash drive.

  • Depending on the size of your flash drive, it could fill up quickly, which means you won't be able to keep copies of older backups.

Destination Type

Network locations

Advantages
  • If your computer is on a network, a shared folder or drive on the network can be a convenient place to save your backup as it doesn't require you to have storage space on your computer.

Disadvantages
  • You can only save your backups on a network location on Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, and Windows 7 Enterprise.

  • You'll need to provide a user name and password so that Windows Backup can access the network location. If you can access the network location from the Computer folder on your computer without having to type a user name or password, type the user name and password that you used to log on to the computer into the Windows Backup UI. If you aren't able to access the network location from the Computer folder on your computer, you'll need to create a user account on the network computer and type the user name and password for that user account into the Windows Backup wizard.

  • The network location must be available at the time the backup is scheduled to occur and the user name and password that you provided when you set up your backup must still be valid for the network location.

  • Other people who have access to the network location might be able to access your backup.

  • If you create a system image, Windows will only keep the latest version of the system image.

When you choose a destination to save your backup to, the wizard searches your computer and displays a list of all destinations that you can use. If the destination that you want to use doesn't appear in the list, it could be due to one of the following reasons:

  • The destination is a tape drive. You can't save backups to tapes.

  • The destination is the drive that you're trying to back up. You can't back up a disk to itself. For example, you can't back up the contents of Drive E: to Drive E:.

  • The destination is a CD-ROM drive or a DVD drive. You can't use a CD drive or a DVD drive to make a backup; you must use a CD or DVD burner, also known as a CD-R/CD-RW or DVD-R/DVD-RW drive.

  • The destination isn't formatted as NTFS, FAT, or Universal Disk Format (UDF) (also called Live File System). Backups can only be saved to disks that are formatted using the NTFS, FAT, or UDF file systems. For more information, see Convert a hard disk or partition to NTFS format.

  • The destination is either the drive that Windows is installed on or the system drive (the drive that Windows uses to start your computer—also called the startup drive).

  • The destination is a recovery partition. This is a special partition created by your computer manufacturer that contains files and tools that you can use to return your computer to the manufacturer's settings if it stops working correctly.

  • The destination is locked by BitLocker Drive Encryption. If the drive is encrypted using BitLocker, it must be unlocked before you can store a backup on it.