Automatic Incremental Backup to External Hard Drive (Free Way)

You can do automatic or scheduled incremental backup to external hard drive in Windows 7/8/10 with free backup software, AOMEI Backupper Standard.


by Delia Updated on October 18, 2022

Share this: instagram reddit

Advantages of automatic incremental backup

Whether you use a computer in your business or in your personal life, data backup is an essential step to avoid unwanted loss. However, not everyone can remember to back up manually after a busy day. A set-and-forget automatic backup solution is always a better choice.

The only problem is that when you backup system or even entire disk regularly, the huge backup files can easily fill up the target device. Therefore, you may want to perform incremental backup which only makes a full backup the first time and back up only the changed data later on.

Incremental Backup

Also, given the risk of keeping critical backups on the local disk, it's a relatively smart and secure way to create automatic incremental backup to external hard drive.

How can you auto run incremental backup to external drive

Microsoft's native backup tool introduced since Windows 7, Backup and Restore is claimed to have the ability to make incremental backup. You can launch this app via Windows Search and then "Set up backup" or "Create a system image" according to your needs.

After configuring the source data and destination, you can click "Change Schedule" to modify the frequency, as thus Windows will perform the automatic backup in an incremental manner. 

Start To Backup

But there are 2 main issues of this method:

It may not create incremental backups as you expect. If you do a search on this, you will find many users complaining that after setting a schedule, the subsequent backups are still full backups. So far, Microsoft has not provided specific instructions on this backup mechanism.

There are limited items you can customize. Windows Backup and Restore doesn‘t give you many options whether it is the frequency of automatic backups or a specific strategy for performing incremental backups.

If you have some exact backup strategy to implement, then you may consider using a more robust and intelligent backup solution.

Best freeware to create automatic incremental backup

To set up a secure and efficient backup policy on your computer, AOMEI Backupper Standard is a good choice. It's a free backup solution that supports all Windows OS (Win 11, 10, 8.1/8, 7, Vista, XP) and all detectable devices (internal/external drive, USB flash drive, network share, NAS, cloud, etc).

With it, you can customize an automatic incremental backup of your files/partitions/disk/OS easily. And to further save your storage space, you can also configure the compression level, or create a backup retention policy (available in Professional edition).

Download the freeware to have a try:

Download FreewareWin 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Automate incremental backup to external hard drive (step-by-step)

Connect the external hard drive to your computer and make sure it can be detected. This tutorial will take system backup for example.

1. Install and launch AOMEI Backupper Standard. Select Backup, and then click System Backup.

System Backup

2. The System Partition and System Reserved Partition are selected by default. Just select the external hard drive as the destination location.

Select destination path

3. Check Schedule Backup underneath. Set the frequency as you like.

- Daily/Weekly/Monthly: 3 basic options based on time. You can also specify the exact time point or period to execute the backup, wake the computer to run scheduled task, etc.

- Event triggers/USB plug in: 2 more options available in Pro edition. By Event triggers, you can auto execute the task at startup/shutdown, login/logout; By USB plug in, you can auto execute the task once the USB detected.

- Advanced: If you need to move the external hard drive sometimes, you can tick "Run missed backup at next system setup" box to make up for the missed backup.

Schedule Backup

Then click Backup Scheme, here you can choose the Backup Method as you like.

- Full Backup: Create a full backup at each scheduled time point.

- Incremental Backup (default): Create a full backup for the first time, and copy only changed data since the last backup in the subsequent backups.

- Differential Backup (available in Pro): Create a full backup for the first time, and copy only changed data since the last full backup in the subsequent backups. You can refer to incremental vs differential backup.

Backup Method

4. Click Start Backup, and it will run backup automatically at your designed time.

Start Scheduled Backup


  • If you need to encrypt and compress backup images, then you can set them up by clicking Options.

  • If you want to delete backup files that exceed the time or storage space limits automatically, you can Enable Automatic Backup Cleanup in Backup Scheme.


With automatic incremental backup to external hard drive, you will save a lot of time and effort for data protection. No need to worry about system crush, hardware failure, or hacker attack any more. If something bad really happen to your PC, you can easily restore system image from the external hard drive to your computer.

Delia · Editor
Delia owns extensive experience in writing technology-related blog posts, and has been a part of AOMEI since 2020 to provide expertise in data security and disaster recovery. She works with Windows operating systems, SQL databases, and virtualization platforms such as VMware and Hyper-V, specializing in troubleshooting and advising on data protection and migration.