Easily Backup Files to External Hard Drive in Windows 11, 10, 8, 7

In this article, you are going to learn how to backup computer files to external hard drive in Windows 11, 10, 8.1, 8, 7, XP, Vista? For detailed steps, please keep reading below.


By Ivy / Updated on October 17, 2022

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Why do I need to backup computer files?

It is a nagging question while some users still don't attach importance to files backup. They always think "data loss will never happen to me". But I have heard too many tragedies of people who lost all files because of system crashes, hard disk failure, power surge, or natural disaster, and get badly influenced. So, if you spend much time on your computer, a backup should be a must-have job during your computer experience.

Files backup can help you return things to normal when disaster strikes. By backing up files, you have a copy of your files. In this way, if your computer crashes or is attacked by a virus, you are still able to restore files from backup images to your computer. Unlike disk backup, file backup only backup the files which are of the most important to you or cannot easily be replaced, such as financial information, digital photos, music, videos or programs.

Backup Files to External Hard Drive

Should I save backup files to external hard drive?

There are many possible locations for backing up your computer files such as CD/DVD, external hard drive, NAS device, and online storage. But why backup files to an external hard drive? Here are some explanation in the following.

  • Separately from your computer. As mentioned above, computer-related issues, such as, system crashes, will result in data loss. So, you’d better choose a storage device outside a computer.

  • The price is affordable. Nowdays, external hard drive is very reliable and reasonably cheap nowadays. The price of CD/DVD is also acceptable, but its storage space is not big enough.

  • The device is portable and can take everywhere. This is very important for users who need to use backup files at different places, such as, home, office.

  • Save backup time. Compared with NAS or online storage, backing up your files to external hard drive does not require a good internet connection. So, the backup time will be less.

How to backup files to an external hard drive (3 ways)

Speaking of how to backup all files on external hard drive in Windows 11, 10, 8.1, 8, 7 and older version, you may think about using Windows built-in tool, such as, Backup and Restore, File History. And I’ll introduce you how to use them later. However, in the first of place, I’ll introduce the easiest way first.

Note a single backup only backup files at a certain time point. To include all the changes made later, you need to create a schedule backup to protect your files continuously.

Method 1: Backup all files to external hard drive with free backup software (Easiest)

AOMEI Backupper Standard is a free backup software, which allows you to backup files to external hard drive in Windows 11, 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista, XP. It also supports backup system, disk and partition if you need it. And you can enjoy the following advantages in this software:

Backup files automatically: You must not want to lose any data due to unexpected disaster or forgetting to backup files. You can enable daily backup, weekly backup, month backup to backup them automatically at a regular time.
Backup only changed files instead of full copy: Your backup disk may be fulfilled soon due to accumulated backups if you backup all files every time. To slow down this issue, you can choose only backup changed files with incremental backup.
Other useful features: If you are worried that your computer may fail, you can choose to create a boootable USB or CD/DVD in advance.

Then, download this software and install it on your computer. Please connect your external hard drive to the computer and make sure it can be accessible.

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

(PS: This version only supports Windows 7/8/10/11. If you are currently using server system, try AOMEI Backupper Server.)

1. Launch this software, choose "Backup" and "File Backup" subsequently.

File Backup

2. Click “Add File” or “Add Folder” to select files you want to backup. Also, you can type a new task name in the box if you want to distinguish it from other backups

Add Folders Files

3. Click the folder shaped button and then select the connected external disk to store file backup image.

Select Destination

4. To backup files to external hard drive automatically, click “Schedule Backup” > "Enable Schedule Backup" and select "Daily", "Weekly", "Monthly", "Event trigger", "USB plug in".  The last two options are only available on the professional version.  

Schedule Settings General

5. Afterward, click "Start Backup" to back up files to external hard drive. It will backup changed files per day if you select daily backup in the previous step. By default, this software use Incremental Backup, which backup only changed files since last backup.

Start Backup

Now, you can disconnect your external hard drive and put it in a safe location. If you replace your computer with a new one, you can also connect the external hard drive and restore files.

✍ Helpful tips:

👉 You may feel good at the beginning, but in the long run, your backup disk may be fulfilled. To resolve this problem completely, you can choose to delete backup files using By quantity, By time,  By daily/weekly/monthly cleanup method. You need to upgrade the professional or other advanced editions to enjoy it. 

Backup Scheme Cleanup Methods

👉 Cloud drive is also a good backup location. It doesn't require a physical connection and it won't be affected by hard disk damage. AOMEI offers users its own cloud - AOMEI Cloud. After you sign up for an AOMEI account, you can use 1TB storage for free within 15 days. 

Cloud Backup

Method 2: Backup file to external drive with File History

File History is a free built-in file backup tool, which was launched in Windows 8. This tool allows you to backup all the default and custom Libraries (including Public Folders), plus Contacts, Desktop and Favorites folders. And Windows add a new feature called “Add Folders” in Windows 10, which can help you backup specific folders.

To backup files with file history, use the steps below:

1. Connect the external drive to your computer, and ensure it can be detected.

2. Click “Start”, type backup in the search box and select it.

3. Click "Add a drive" and select an external drive. Then, it will turn on the slide button under “Automatically back up my files” link.

Add A Drive

4. Click “More options” to set up backup settings. Scroll down to “Back up my files”, “Keep my backups”, “Exclude these folders” and select any setting you like. After that, go back to the top of backup options and click “Back up now” to backup your files immediately.

More Options

Method 3: Backup files to external hard drive with Backup and Restore

In Windows 7, there is still a free backup software named “Backup and Restore”, which allows you to backup individual files or entire system as you like. And this tool is kept in Windows 8 and later version.

To backup files with “Backup and Restore”, follow the detailed steps below:

1. Connect your external hard disk, and then type backup in the search box and select it.

2. Then, click “Set up backup” to add the first backup task.

Set Up Backup

3. Select the connected external drive, and click Next.

4.  Tick “Let me choose” and click Next.

Let Me Choose

5.  Check the folders you want to backup and click Next.

Select Data Files

6.  Click “Change schedule” to modify the backup settings. After that, click “Save settings and run backup” to start this task. You just need to wait patiently until the operation is completed 100%.

Note: The schedule backup is set to 7:00 PM every day. If you are not convenient at this time, you can change it to another time.

Tips on how to backup files to external hard drive in Windows 11:

If you are currently using Windows 11, the entrance to access File History and Backup and Restore may be a little difference. You have two ways in the following.

Way 1: Go to Control Panel > System and Security > File History or Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

Way 2: Go to Settings -> System -> Storage -> Advanced Storage options > Backup options, then scroll down to Back up using File History or Looking for an older backup.

Backup Options

Written in the end

About how to backup files to external hard drive in Windows 10, 8, 7, you can use Windows built-in tool, such as, Backup and Restore, File History. Also, you can consider using free backup software like AOMEI Backupper Standard and it's the easiest way. 

It has an intuitive interface, so users can easily and quickly understand the operation. And you can backup only changed files per day/week/month if you want to protect your system continuously, which greatly reduces the pressure of running out of disk space. Besies, you can also eliminate this problem completely by automatic backup cleanup methods in the advanced version. Just try it!

Ivy · Editor
Ivy is an editor of AOMEI Technology, she covers backup & restore,hard disk & partitions management and cloud files transfer and so on for AOMEI. She is an outgoing girl and enjoys helping people find solutions to their problems. She loves traveling, eating, reading and so on. She usually hangs out with friends at her leisure time.