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How to Backup Windows 11 to External Hard Drive

Windows 11 has a built-in option to backup the entire OS to an external hard drive. Once backed up, you can use it to restore your computer to a known good state if something goes wrong. For example, a recent system crash corrupted a few system files irrecoverably and system restore didn’t help. However, thanks to the Windows 11 external backup, I got to restore the system in just a few minutes without the headache of reinstalling the OS.

This quick and easy tutorial shows where to find the backup option and the steps to take a full Windows 11 backup to an external drive.

Backup Windows 11 to an External Hard Drive

Ensure you have the external hard drive ready and that there is no data in it and follow the below steps to backup Windows 11 to it.

Step 1: Plug in the external hard drive.

Step 2: Press the Start key, type Control Panel, and click on the top result to open Control Panel.

open control panel in Windows 11

Step 3: Click on the Backup and Restore (Windows 7) option.

open backup and restore in Windows 11

Step 4: Press the Set up backup link under the Backup section.

click set up backup to backup Windows 11 to external hard drive

Step 5: Select the external hard disk from the list of available drivers and press Next.

select external hard drive

Step 6: Choose the Let Windows Choose option and press Next.

select let Windows choose option

Note: The default recommended option will backup all the user accounts, user folders, and the system image. If you want to backup additional files in other drives or specific folders, choose the “Let me choose” option and select what you want to backup. Do keep in mind that selecting custom folders will increase the backup size and time it takes to create the backup.

let me choose options

Step 7: Press the Save settings and run backup button.

click start

Step 8: The Control Panel will start the Windows 11 backup to the external hard drive.

Windows 11 backup to external hard drive in progress

Depending on the backup size, it will take time to complete the initial backup. For example, in my case, it took around two hours to back up around 150 GB to a mechanical external hard drive. If your external device is an SSD, the backup will be done in less time. While the backup is running in the background, you can do your other work. To check the current backup status, click on the “View Details” button in the Backup and Restore (Windows 7) window. It shows the current file that is being backed up.

Windows 11 backup progress detailed view

Change backup schedule

By default, the backup schedule is set to once every week. If you plug in the external device at the scheduled time, Windows 11 will automatically backup the changes since the last backup. If you want to change the backup schedule, click the “Change Settings” link in the Backup and Restore (Windows 7) window and set the new time, date, and frequency.

change backup schedule Windows 11

Restore Windows 11 from an external backup

To restore Windows 11 from external backup, plug in the drive, go to Control Panel > Backup and Restore (Windows 7), click on the “Restore all user files” option under the Restore section, and follow the on-screen instructions.

That is all. I hope this guide helped you fully back up Windows 11 to an external device.

If you are stuck or need help, send an email, and I will try to help as much as possible.

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