How to Backup Windows 11 to External Hard Drive (3 Free Ways)

You can learn three methods of backing up Windows 11 to an external hard drive, including built-in tool and third-party tools.


By Clytze Updated on April 9, 2024

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User Case

“Hello! What is the easiest/fastest way to backup my Windows? I am using Windows 11 and seriously consider to start making a full backup to external hard drive in case of a serious hardware or software problem. So, is there a perfect way to backup system safely and easily? Thank you!”

For users who need to backup Windows 11 to external hard drive, this article will introduce you three simple, quick and safe ways. One is built-in tool “Backup and Restore” and the other two are third-party software “AOMEI Backupper” and “AOMEI Cyber Backup”.

Why Have Windows 11 Backup to External Drive?

Backing up Windows 11 means making an exact copy of Windows 11 operating system files, applications, data, etc. so that users can recover to the previous system state in time if they encounter system crash, hard drive failure, virus, human error, etc.

Besides, backing up Windows 11 to external drive has the following benefits:

  • It is more secure than an internal disk for it reduces the risk of backup image corruption.
  • It is more cost-effective than cloud backup solutions, especially for large amounts of data.

How to Backup Computer to External Hard Drive on Windows 11

In this part, I will show you 3 methods to backup Windows 11 to external hard drive. You can choose the one that suits you best.

Method 1: Backup Windows 11 to External Hard Drive using Built-in Tool

The method most people think of first in their mind, is to use the built-in tool that comes with Windows called “Backup and Restore”. The built-in software can backup Windows 11 OS to external hard drive by creating a system image. If you have a problem with your system, you can restore the system backup and then use it again without installing anything. The following are specific steps.

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

Backup Restore Win 11

 Step 2. Click Create a System Image option.

Create System Image Windows

Step 3. Choose the external hard drive where you’d like to store the system image backup and click Next.

On A Hard Disk

Step 4. Confirm your backup settings, and click Start Backup.

After that, you’ll be prompted to make a system repair disc. It needs a CD/DVD as storage device. If you don’t have a CD/DVD, you can make a bootable USB using built-in Recovery Drive tool or a third-party bootable media creator. Since it can help you start your computer if your Windows OS encountered any boot problem.

Create A System Repair Disc

Method 2: Windows 11 Backup to External Drive using AOMEI Backupper🔥

When you use the built-in tool to backup system to external hard drive, you need to pay attention to the following points:

  • It doesn’t support differential backup.
  • If you created a system image on a large disk, you can’t restore it to a smaller SSD.
  • It only supports to restore the whole system, so you cannot restore a single file from the image.

Therefore, if you are looking for a more secure and reliable software to backup and restore your system, you can choose AOMEI Backupper Standard. It has a powerful system backup function as well as features of partition backup, file backup,  and disk backup. Besides, it provides some additional functions.

AOMEI Backupper
Easiest Windows 11 Backup Software
  • 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 with fixed intervals (daily/weekly/monthly) and choose a way to perform the 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 in the operating system (Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, 11, XP, Vista, etc.)

In addition, It offers various backup schemes (professional version), which can greatly meet your multiple needs and help you save time and disk space by deleting old backups.

Take Windows 11 as an example, you can easily follow the graphic tutorial below.

Step 1. Connect external hard drive and choose the System Backup option

Connect the external hard drive to your Windows 11 computer and make sure it can be organized. Install and open AOMEI Backupper Standard. Click Backup > System Backup.

System Backup

Step 2. Choose where to save the system image

Click where the arrow points to select the backup destination.

Select Destination

Step 3. Begin Windows 11 backup

Confirm your operations and click Start Backup.

Start Backup

Notes: You can use “Options, Schedule Backup, Backup Scheme” to enjoy more features.

▶ Options: It supports a variety of functions such as adding comments for system image, compressing, encrypting (supported by professional version) and splitting image files, etc.


▶ Schedule Backup: You can use it to set up daily, weekly, monthly, event triggers or USB plug in to automatically backup Windows 11.


▶ Backup Scheme: You can choose Backup Method and Enable Automatic Backup Cleanup to automatically delete old backups to save backup disk space. (Backup deletion is available in professional edition.)

Backup Scheme

When the backup task is completed, you will have a system backup. If your computer fails, you can restore system backup to a new disk and then use it to boot your computer.

In addition, you can create a bootable USB to boot your computer in case it ever fails. If you do not have a USB or CD/DVD, you can choose to create Recovery Environment on your current computer. You can then access this software directly in the Recovery Environment without the device the next time you boot the system.

Create Recovery Environment

Method 3: Backup Windows 11 to External Hard Drive using AOMEI Cyber Backup👍

The best enterprise backup software - AOMEI Cyber Backup provides a convenient and reliable solution for centralized backup management of all Windows operating systems.

  • It enables you to create system/disk/partition backup for a bunch of Windows PCs, supporting Windows 11/10/8.1/8/7.
  • 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 daily/weekly/monthly using the full/incremental/differential backup method.
  • It also allows you to backup VMware, Hyper-V and SQL databases.

Download AOMEI Cyber Backup now to try it out!

Download FreewareEasiest Enterprise Backup Software
Secure Download

To backup Windows 11 to external hard drive, follow these steps:

Step 1. Connect the external hard drive to the computer with AOMEI Cyber Backup installed. Run and log in AOMEI Cyber Backup.

Step 2. Click Source Device Windows Add Windows Device to add the Windows 11 device that you want to backup.

Add Windows Device

Step 3. Click Backup Task on the left menu bar and select Backup Task Create New Task.

Create New Task

Step 4. Choose System Backup as the Backup Type.

Step 5. Set other details. Here you need to choose the external hard drive as the backup target. Finally, click Start Backup to run the task.

Choose Backup Target

🌟 Notice:

If you don’t know how to choose between AOMEI Backupper and AOMEI Cyber Backup, check the comparison table on page Windows PC Backup.

Bonus Tip: How to Backup Windows 11 Files on External Hard Drive

In addition to creating a full system backup, you may also want to backup individual files. The following steps show you how to backup files to external drive in Windows 11 with AOMEI Backupper:

Step 1. Run AOMEI Backupper and click Backup > File Backup.

File Backup

Step 2. Click Add File or Add Folder to select the files or folders to be backed up.

Add Folders Files

Step 3. Choose the external hard drive as the backup destination and click Start Backup to launch the backup process.


System backup is an effective way to protect your data. If you need to backup Windows 11 to an external hard drive, you can choose any of the methods mentioned above.

I prefer to choose AOMEI Backupper, because it is more stable and secure than the built-in tool. It can backup Windows and create an image of system partition. You can also make more detailed settings, such as write comments, set up notification, schedule backup and backup mode, etc.

In addition, you can also use this software to create disk image and partition image. If you want to know more about these features, go to download and use!

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.