Windows 11: Backup Files to External Hard Drive in 3 Easy Ways

You can easily learn 3 methods to backup files to external hard drive in Windows 11. They are built-in tool “File History”, “Backup and Restore”and a free backup software “AOMEI Backupper”.


By Clytze / Updated on February 15, 2023

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Windows 11 File Backup User Case

“I’m looking for a way to backup some files to an external hard drive. I started using a software to backup most of my hard drive, but I also want to backup selected files to an external hard drive (around 500 GB). Are there any other options I should be looking into? I’m using Windows 11 by the way.”

Backup Files to External Hard Drive

From this case, it is easy to see the user wants to find a piece of software to run Windows 11 backup to external drive. For this reason, this article will provide three solutions. Users can use the file backup function of the built-in software or the third-party software to solve this problem.

Why Backup Files to External Hard Drive in Windows 11?

Nowadays, more and more people need to store all kinds of files and data. However, as we all know, the more data there is, the greater the security risk of data loss. Therefore, it is very important to backup data in advance to avoid data loss. Well, why should you backup your files to an external hard drive? This article summarizes the following common reasons:

  • Expand storage space
  • Avoid data loss due to system crashes, computer viruses or malware intrusion, etc.
  • Prevent important documents from being deleted by mistake
  • Access files and data you want anytime and anywhere

Automated Backup to External Drive in Windows 11: Step-by-Step

If you need to backup files to external hard drive free in Windows 11, then you can use any of the 3 methods below to help you.  You can choose the built-in tool that comes with Windows or reliable backup software.  Then I'll introduce you the three different methods in turn.

1. Backup to External Hard Drive in Windows 11 with “File History”

The first method is to use the built-in software File History for Windows 11 file backup. It regularly backups files in the documents, music, pictures, videos, and desktop folders. Over time, you will have multiple backup copies. If the original files are lost, damaged, or deleted, you can restore them. You can follow the steps below.

Step 1. Connect an external hard drive to your computer first. Next, open the System > Storage > Advanced storage settings > Backup Options. Then click  Add a drive option under Back up using File History.

Add A Drive

Step 2. Click “on” under the“Automatically back up my files” option.

Automatically Back Up My Files

Step 3.  Then you can select “More options”  to configure how often File History backs up, how long it keeps those backup copies, and which files it backs up.

▶ Back up my files: By default, File History backs up your files every hour, but you can change this setting. You have the different options of doing it from 10 minutes to 24 hours.

▶ Keep my backups: It is set to keep backups forever by default, but you can change this setting to keep them from one month to two years before deleting them.

▶ Back up these folders: You can view the full list of folders in this window and add more folders you want to backup by selecting "Add Folder". You can also choose a folder here and use the "Delete" button to prevent Windows from backing it up.

Backup These Folders

Step 4. When you’re done, save and exit. Then click Back up now. Windows 11 will automatically backup your files to the drive when you connect it to your computer.

★ Extra Tip: How to Restore the Backup Using File History

To restore files from your external drive using File History, you can follow the steps below:

Step 1. Go to Backup options window of File History again and select “Restore files from a current backup” at the bottom.

Step 2. Click the left or right arrows below to find the backup version you want to restore. Also, you can search the files in the search box.

Step 3. Click the “Restore button”. you can also click the gear icon, and then select “Restore to” .

Restore Backup Files Window 10


  • If you want to restore to the original location, please click the restore button below.
  • If you would like to restore to a new location, you can click the gear icon, and then select “Restore to” to do so.

2. Backup Files to External Hard Drive in Windows 11 with “Backup and Restore”

The second method is to use another built-in tool - Windows 11 Backup and Restore for backing up files. It will backup data files saved in libraries, on the desktop, and in default Windows folders. These items will be backed up on a regular schedule. It can also create a backup image of your entire system, including the operating system, applications, and settings. Learn how to backup computer to external hard drive in Windows 11 below.

Step 1. Go to Control Panel > System and Security > Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

Backup Restore Win 11

Step 2. Select the Setup Backup option under the “Backup” section.

Set Up Backup

Step 3. If prompted, enter your admin password.

Step 4. Select your Backup Drive and click Next.

Select Backup destination

Step 5. Select Let Windows Choose option and click Next. It will backup files about users, such as files saved in libraries, on the desktop, and default Windows folders.

Choose Next

Note: You can choose the second option to select libraries and folders and whether to include a system image in the backup. The items you choose will be backed up on a regular schedule.

Step 6. Click Save settings and run backup button.

change Schedule

Note: By default, it will automatically backup files at every Sunday 7 p.m., but you can change this setting to suit your needs by clicking Change Schedule.

★ Extra Tip: How to Restore the Backup Using Backup and Restore

If you end up losing files, you can restore your files and data by following the steps below.

Step 1. Go to Settings > Update & Security > Backup > Backup and Restore (Windows 7). 

Step 2. Click on Restore my files button under“Restore”section.

Restore My Files

Step 3. Click Browse for folders button to select the Folders from the Backup that you want to restore. After selecting Folders, click Next to start the process of restoring.

  • Browse for files: You can select the files that you want to restore and click add files.
  • Browse for folders: You can select the folders you want to restore and click add folder.
  • Search to add files: You can search directly to find the file or folder you need to restore.

Browse Or Search For Files

3. Backup Files to External Hard Drive in Windows with A Quick Way

The mentioned built-in tool is convenient, but there are some minor drawbacks that cannot be ignored, such as File History drive disconnected, Windows 11 backup cannot add folder, File History not working, and The system cannot find the file specified so on.

Therefore, you can choose a more secure and stable third-party file backup software. AOMEI Backupper Standard is a good choice, which can backup any files and make sure their security by compressing to an image file. Here are some advantages of it:

  • It supports not only file backup, but also partition backup, system backup and disk backup.
  • You can write comments to your backups and set up email notification.
  • It offers different backup modes (intelligent sector backup or exact backup) and different compression levels (high/normal/low).
  • You can backup your files at fixed intervals (daily/weekly/monthly) and choose a way to perform a scheduled backup, both full backup and incremental backup are available.
  • It supports various storage devices, such as USB, HDD, SSD, etc.
  • It has great compatibility with the operating system (Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, 11, XP, Vista, etc.)

Step 1. Download AOMEI Backupper, install and open it. Connect the external disk.

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

Step 2. Select “Backup” > “File Backup”.

File Backup

Step 3. Click “Add File” or “Add Folder”, then select the files or folders to be backed up.

Add Folders Files

Step 4. Choose the external hard drive as the backup destination.

Select Destination

Tips: You can choose “Options", "Schedule Backup” or "Backup Scheme" to get more settings.

  • Options: You can enable email notification, choose the compression level for the backup file and select splitting ways you want, etc.
  • Schedule Backup: You can set the file backups to run automatically at fixed intervals as daily, weekly or monthly.
  • Backup Scheme: You can choose different backup methods: full/incremental/differential backup. Both of the latter methods can save you storage space on the target disk. But differential backup is only available after upgrading to AOMEI Backupper Professional. You can also delete old backups automatically so that you won't be bothered by insufficient disk space due to multiple backups.

Step 5. Click “Start Backup”.

Start Backup

Tip: Try the Cloud Backup feature if you want to backup a large number of files to a cloud drive. It supports AOMEI Cloud, a cloud drive released by AOMEI Tech, which offers 1TB of free storage from the time you sign up for an AOMEI account until 15 days. 

★ Extra Tip: How to Restore the Backup Using AOMEI Backupper

If you have lost your data, you can use the restore function of this software to restore your previously backed up files. Here are the specific steps.

Step 1. Connect the external disk containing backup image first. Then open the software. Go to Restore > Select Image File to find backup files.

Select Image File

Step 2. Choose the backup which you want to restore in the Backup List, after that click “Next”.

Select Image

Step 3. Select the files or folders you need to recover and click "Next".

Select Folder From Image

Step 4 . You can choose Restore to original location, or choose Restore to a new location and specify the path you want. Then Start Restore.

Restore To New Location


I believe that you have mastered three ways to backup files to external hard drive in Windows 11 by reading the passage. You can choose the built-in tool “File History” or “Backup and Restore” which comes with Windows system.

You can also choose the reliable and free file backup software AOMEI Backupper as well. To be honest, I prefer to recommend AOMEI Backupper, because it has all the features that the built-in tool has and other advantages.

It can safely backup all kinds of files to external hard drive. For people who like doing schedule backups, it supports daily, weekly and monthly backup. What’s more, it’s able to backup files to different devices (USB, HDD, SSD, Network, Cloud, etc.) in multiple OS (Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, 11, XP, Vista, etc.).

In addition to backup files, you can also backup boot disk, specific partitions or the Windows OS. It supports all kinds of storage devices and operating systems. What’s more, it enables differential backups (available in advanced version), which the built-in tool doesn’t support. If you want to enjoy these features, download AOMEI Backupper now!

Clytze · Editor
Clytze is an editor from AOMEI Technology. She writes articles about AOMEI’s major products—AOMEI Backupper. She expects that everyone can benefit from her modest efforts to keep their data safe through computer backup and recovery, disk cloning, and file synchronization. She is passionate about travel, sports, and photography.