Back up and restore: frequently asked questions


Here are answers to some common questions about backing up and restoring files.

Show all

What backup tools does Windows provide?

Windows provides the following backup tools:

Tool Description
Tool

File backup

Description

Windows Backup allows you to make copies of data files for all people that use the computer. You can let Windows choose what to back up or you can select the individual folders, libraries, and drives that you want to back up. By default, your backups are created on a regular schedule. You can change the schedule and you can manually create a backup at any time. Once you set up Windows Backup, Windows keeps track of the files and folders that are new or modified and adds them to your backup. To set up file backup, see Back up your files.

Tool

System image backup

Description

Windows Backup provides you with the ability to create a system image, which is an exact image of a drive. A system image includes Windows and your system settings, programs, and files. You can use a system image to restore the contents of your computer if your hard drive or computer ever stops working. When you restore your computer from a system image, it is a complete restoration; you can't choose individual items to restore, and all of your current programs, system settings, and files are replaced. Although this type of backup includes your personal files, we recommend that you back up your files regularly using Windows Backup so that you can restore individual files and folders as needed. When you set up scheduled file backup, you can choose whether you want to include a system image. This system image only includes the drives required for Windows to run. You can manually create a system image if you want to include additional data drives.

Tool

Previous versions

Description

Previous versions are copies of files and folders that Windows automatically saves as part of system protection. You can use previous versions to restore files or folders that you accidentally modified or deleted, or that were damaged. Depending on the type of file or folder, you can open, save to a different location, or restore a previous version. Previous versions can be helpful, but should not be considered a backup because the files get replaced by new versions and will not be available if the drive were to fail. For more information, see Previous versions of files: frequently asked questions.

Tool

System Restore

Description

System Restore helps you restore your computer's system files to an earlier point in time. It's a way to undo system changes to your computer without affecting your personal files, such as e‑mail, documents, or photos. System Restore uses a feature called system protection to regularly create and save restore points on your computer. These restore points contain information about registry settings and other system information that Windows uses. You can also create restore points manually. For more information about System Restore, see What is System Restore?

How much storage space do I need to back up files?

That depends on the size of the files you back up. We recommend that you save your backup on an external hard drive that can hold at least 200 GB. Windows Backup keeps track of the files that have been added or modified since your last backup and then updates the existing backup, which saves disk space. You can manage the disk space that is used for your backups by doing the following:

  1. Open Backup and Restore by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Backup and Restore.

  2. Click Manage space. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

    Note

    • If you haven't set up backup, you won't see Manage space.

  3. To delete older file backups, under Data file backup, click View backups.

    You can then select the file backups that you want to delete, which will free up disk space. Deleting an entry in the list will not have an impact on other backups. If you think that you don't need a version of your files from a certain backup period, you can delete that backup. We recommend that you always keep the most recent backup.

  4. To change the amount of space that is used by system image backups, under System image, click Change settings.

    You can then choose to have Windows save older system image backups or just the most recent system image backup.

How do I view the contents of my backup?

You can view the contents of your backup by opening the Restore Files wizard.

  1. Open Backup and Restore by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking System and Maintenance, and then clicking Backup and Restore.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • To view your files, click Restore my files.

    • To view all users' files, click Restore all users' files. Administrator permission required If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.

  3. Do one of the following:

    • To browse the contents of the backup, click Browse for files or Browse for folders.

      When you are browsing for folders, you won't be able to see the individual files in a folder. To view individual files, use the Browse for files option.

    • To search the contents of the backup, click Search, type all or part of a filename, and then click Search.

How do I restore files?

You restore files using the Restore Files wizard. You can restore individual files, multiple files, or all files in a backup. You can also restore just your files or files for all people that use the computer. To restore files, see Restore files from a backup.

Can I recover files that I have accidentally deleted?

Yes. There are two ways that you can recover files:

  • If you have a backup that contains the file, you can restore the file from the backup. For more information, see Restore files from a backup.

  • If you don't have a backup that contains the file, you might be able to restore a previous version of the file. Windows automatically saves copies of files that are modified (including files that are deleted) with restore points; these files are called previous versions. To use previous versions to restore a file, see Recover lost or deleted files.

How do I get my files back if my computer stops working?

It depends on the type of backups you have made and what files you want to restore.

  • If you have a system image backup, you can restore Windows, your programs, and your files. For instructions about restoring your computer using a system image backup, see Restore your computer from a system image backup.

  • If you have a file backup, you can restore your files on another computer or have your computer repaired and then restore your files on it. For instructions about restoring your files, see Restore files from a backup.

Article ID: MSW700055