Backup Files to External Hard Drive in Windows 11 (3 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 April 3, 2024

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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, malware intrusion, etc.
  • Prevent important documents from being deleted by mistake
  • Access files and data you want anytime and anywhere

Here is a real user case:


I'm looking for a way to backup some files to an external hard drive. I started using 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. Luckily, 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.

👉 How to Backup Files to External Drive in Windows 11🔥
👉 How to Backup Windows 11 OS to External Drive🔥
👉 Bonus Tip: Best Enterprise Data Backup Solution
👉 FAQs about Backing up Files on Windows 11

How to Backup Files to External Drive in Windows 11

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 to the three different methods in turn.

1. Backup Files to External Hard Drive with Free Backup Software

While Windows 11 comes with some native backup tools, 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, The system cannot find the file specified, and 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 ensure their security by compressing to an image file. Here are some advantages of it:

AOMEI Backupper
Easy Windows 11 Backup Software
  • 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 notifications.
  • 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. Install backup software and connect the external disk.

Install AOMEI Backupper after downloading and open it. Connect the external disk to your computer and make sure it is detected.

Step 2. Select the “File Backup” option

Select "Backup" and then select "File Backup" from the right panel.

File Backup

Step 3. Select the files or folders you want to backup

Click "Add File" or "Add Folder", and then select the files or folders to be backed up.

Add Folders Files

Step 4. Select backup destination

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 automatic backup on Windows 11 at fixed intervals, such as daily, weekly, monthly, event trigger, or USB plug in.

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. Run the backup task

Confirm your operation and click "Start Backup" to launch the backup process.

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 that 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

If you are still interested in how to backup files on Windows 11 to external drive using File History or Windows 11 Backup and Restore, you can explore the following two methods.

2. Backup to External Hard Drive in Windows 11 with "File History"

You can use the built-in software File History to backup Windows 11 to external drive. 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 to automatically backup files to an external hard drive on Windows 11, 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.

3. Backup Files to External Hard Drive in Windows 11 with "Backup and Restore"

You can also 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 Set up 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

How to Backup Windows 11 OS to External Drive

Besides files, it’s also important to create a full system backup. Learn how to backup Windows 11 to external drive via two easy ways below.

1. Backup System to External Drive via AOMEI Backupper

Step 1. Run AOMEI Backupper. Choose Backup > System Backup.

System Backup

Step 2. Choose the external hard drive to save the system image and click Start Backup to execute the operation.

Select Destination Path

2. Backup OS to External Hard Drive with "Backup and Restore"

Step 1. Open Backup and Restore (Windows 7) and click the Create a system image option from the left pane.

Create a System Image

Step 2. Choose your external hard drive to store the backup image and click Start backup to launch the process.

Select Destination

Bonus Tip: Best Enterprise Data Backup Solution

If you are an enterprise user who has multiple Windows 11 devices that need to be backed up, you can try the best enterprise backup software - AOMEI Cyber Backup. It offers you all-around enterprise data backup solutions:

  • It enables you to create system/disk/partition backup for a bunch of Windows PCs from one central console.
  • You are allowed to save backup images on a local disk, external hard drive, network share or NAS device, etc.
  • You can schedule a backup task to run every day/week/month using the full/incremental/differential backup method.

Download this powerful enterprise backup software now to have a try!

Download FreewareEasiest Enterprise Backup Software
Secure Download

To make backups for client computers, just log in AOMEI Cyber Backup, and add the Windows device that you want to backup. Then click Backup Task on the left menu bar and select Backup Task Create New Task.

Create New Task

FAQs about Backing up Files on Windows 11

#1. What is the difference between File History and Windows Backup on Windows 11?

File History is designed for backing up personal files, while Windows Backup provides a system image and additional options. File History is recommended for most users.

#2. Can I back up files to the cloud on Windows 11?

Yes, you can use cloud services like OneDrive or third-party solutions to back up files on Windows 11. OneDrive is integrated into the system and offers seamless cloud backup.

#3. What happens if my external drive is full during a Windows 11 backup?

Windows 11 will prompt you to free up space on the external drive or choose another drive for the backup.

#4. Does Windows 11 back up my entire system by default?

No, by default, Windows 11 focuses on backing up your personal files. You need to use additional tools for full system backups.

#5. What is the best way to backup files in Windows 11?

To backup specific files/folders on Windows 11, you can choose File History; to create Windows 11 system image, Windows Backup and Restore is a better solution. Or, you can use the all-in-one free backup software - AOMEI Backupper, to create system backup, disk backup, partition backup, or file backup to external drive, network drive, cloud, and various locations easily.


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, an editor at AOMEI Technology, is passionate about safeguarding your digital world. She dedicates her expertise to empower users like you in data security and recovery. She firmly believes that everyone should have the tools and knowledge to protect their digital assets through computer backup, seamless disk cloning, and efficient file synchronization. Clytze is your trusted guide on the journey to data safety.