How to Backup Computer to USB Flash Drive on Windows 10

Read this post and learn 4 ways on how to backup computer to USB flash drive on Windows 10. Plus creating a recovery drive to make system file backup. All brands of USB are supported in the following methods.


By Ivy Updated on May 10, 2024

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Can I backup the computer to a USB flash drive on Windows 10?


Hi, everybody. I have a Lenovo desktop running Windows 10 Home version. I just want to create a system image of Windows 10 on my 4 GB USB flash drive but it fails. What went wrong? How to backup the computer to a USB flash drive on Windows 10? What is the best flash drive for backing up a computer? Thanks.

Backup Computer to USB Flash Drive

Just like the scenario, many people would like to know how to backup a computer to a USB flash drive on Windows 10 due to system failure, program, and data loss (you can easily recover files from a crashed computer). 

But sometimes the system backup fails, probably because there is not enough space to hold everything on the system partition. Then, what size flash drive do I need to back up my computer? Indeed, the actual size of a fresh Windows 10 is around 15 GB. That's to say, if you want to create a Windows 10 system image backup, you need a bigger flash drive(at least 16 GB)

Besides, considering data security and transfer speed, you need to use a reliable USB 3.0 flash drive for backup. All of the branded USB drives are affordable and have different sizes, such as SanDisk Extreme PRO, Sandisk Extreme Go, Kingston DataTraveler SE9 G2, Samsung Bar Plus, Kingston Data Travel Vault, PNY Pro Elite Series, etc.

What should I backup from my computer to the USB flash drive? 

In a computer, there are two important things - system and personal data, thus you need to create a system image and file backup. Here are some of the reasons why I say this: 

Ensure secure boot and data security: If you create a system image, you can return your computer back to normal in a short time while the system crashes. And you can restore all of your files. If not, your computer will fail to boot and everything on it will disappear, including OS, personal files, installed apps, system settings, etc. 

Avoid accidental data loss: Creating a system image backup only includes files on the system partition and no files on the other partitions. Thus, if you don't want to lose any data, it's suggested to create a file backup. They deserve to be backed up separately. There is no doubt that all personal data are unique and cannot be downloaded from anywhere. 

In these two cases, knowing how to backup a computer to a USB flash drive becomes a must-learn lesson. Read the following post for the four methods to help you make proper backups.

How do I backup the computer to a USB flash drive on Windows 10?

USB flash drive is good for backup, it’s very portable to take, the price is relatively inexpensive, and the device is fairly durable. Almost everyone could afford one.

Then, how to backup the computer to a USB flash drive in Windows 10? You have four methods and all of them are also applicable to Windows 7/8/XP/Vista.

Method 1: Backup computer to USB using Backup and Restore

To backup the system with the built-in tool, Backup and Restore (Windows 7), you need to create a sub-folder in the USB drive at first. If not, you may receive an error message, saying, "The drive is not a valid backup location". That's because most flash drives do not have big enough space to store system images in the earlier dates and Microsoft does not allow you to use it for backup. 

Step 1.  In Windows 10, type Backup in the search box and select Backup settings from the result list. Then, you will see the following interface, scroll down to Looking for an older backup and click Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

Backup and Restore Windows 7

Tip: If you want to create a system image backup in Windows 11, go to Start > Settings > System > Storage, then select Advanced storage settings and Backup options. Here you will see all the backup options, scroll down to Looking for an older backup and select Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7) to continue.

Step 2. Click Create a system image at the left panel.

Create A System Image

Step 3Click the drop-down menu under "On a hard disk" section, select your USB drive as the destination path, and then click Next.

Select Usb

Step 4. Confirm the backup settings. Click Start backup to backup the computer to USB.

Notes ✎... 
◕ If you want to transfer files from a computer to a flash drive, you could use the Let Me Choose option that allows you to select personal files as needed. To make it, click Set up backup instead of Create a system image, then follow the on-screen instructions.
◕ This software still applies to Windows 7/8, but the interface and operation will be somewhat different.

Method 2: Backup Windows 10 to USB flash drive via AOMEI Backupper

If you want to backup the entire computer to a USB flash drive on Windows 10 with AOMEI Backupper Standard, you will use the "System Backup" feature that will include everything required to boot Windows. Thus, it minimizes the risk of boot failure. Here are some advantages of this software.

Backup system automatically: It provides 3 backup frequencies (Daily, Weekly, Monthly), so you can backup the system according to how often you may change files on the system partition. More precisely, you can set a backup date, backup time, and backup intervals.
Backup changes in the system partition: By default, this software will backup only changed files with its incremental backup method.
 Have great compatibility: It supports Windows 7/8/10/11/XP/Vista and all brands of USB flash drives (eg: SanDisk, Kingstone). Except for the USB drive, you can still backup the computer to an external hard drive, network drive, NAS, etc.

All of these features mentioned above are free of charge. Please download this software to have a try right now!

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
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Step 1. Open AOMEI Backupper Standard. Click Backup and System Backup to backup Windows 11/10 OS. To transfer files from my computer to a USB, click File Backup to replace it.

System Backup

Note: To backup the entire computer to a USB flash drive on Windows 10, it is suggested to select "Disk Backup" if your target drive is big enough. In the meantime, you can backup multiple hard drives at a time if you have more than one disk installed on this computer.

Step 2. Click where the arrow points and select your flash drive as the destination path.  

Select Destination

Helpful features you may want to use: 

Schedule Backup: It will backup all of the changes since the last backup, thus you will never miss any change in the system partition. 

Click Schedule Backup > Enable Schedule Backup and then select Daily, Weekly, and Monthly. The last two features - Event triggers and USB plug-in (To backup the computer to a USB flash drive automatically when it's plugged in, without any human intervention) are available at least on the professional version of this software.

Schedule Backup

Backup Scheme: It supports 3 different backup and cleanup methods, you can choose any of them in the following picture.

>> Backup Method: It supports Full Backup, Incremental Backup (Default), Differential Backup. The last two feature backup only changes and the last one is not supported in the free version.

>> Backup Cleanup: Besides, you can delete old backup images with one of the cleanup methods if you upgrade. It is the most effective way to avoid backup disk full issues due to the increasing number of backup images.

Backup Scheme Cleanup Methods

Step 4. Confirm everything is OK and click Start Backup to backup the computer to a USB flash drive. 

Start Backup

Notes ✎...
◕ If your system is very big, you could compress with normal or high compression levels. Please note that a high compression level requires more backup time and less disk space.

Method 3: Backup Windows 10/11 to USB via 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, USB flash 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!

FREE DownloadEasiest Enterprise Backup Software
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Solve how to backup the computer to a USB flash drive on Windows 10, follow these steps:

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

Step 2. Click Source Device Windows Add Windows Device to add the Windows 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 USB flash drive as the backup target. Finally, click Start Backup to run the task.

Choose Backup Target

Method 4: Backup computer to USB flash drive using AOMEI OneKey Recovery

To create a factory image, the best time is when you get a new computer, and at this time, your computer only has all the preinstalled apps and settings. You can choose to backup your computer to a USB flash drive, and later use it to factory reset your computer in the event of a disaster.

Anyway, it would help if you had reliable one-key recovery software like AOMEI OneKey Recovery. Below are some advantages of it:

Create factory image backup on USB drive automatically: It supports Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Scheduler, so you can backup the system at a proper frequency.
 Factory reset the desktop computer or laptop quickly, without booting into Windows.
 Support all of Windows systems, including Windows 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP/Vista and Windows Server 2003/2008/2011/2012/2016/2019/2022.
 All brands of the USB drive (eg: Lenovo, Dell, HP, ASUS, etc) are supported.

It is not free software, but you can download its demo version and try it before you purchase it.

Download Windows PCs & Servers
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Step 1. Launch AOMEI OneKey Recovery, then you will see its main page. Click on OneKey System Backup on the left side.

OKR Backup

Step 2. In the System Backup window, choose  Backup system to another location and click Next.

Backup System to Other Location

Step 3. In the Backup to Other Locations window, click Browse and select a backup destination to store the system image. 

Choose Path

Step 4. Click  Start Backup to create a factory image for your computer. The boot menu will be added to your system automatically when the backup is complete. You can then specify fast recovery key F11 or A to enter this software as well as the standing time for it. 

Boot Menu Key

 To recover your computer, you just need to press the F11 or A key to access the recovery environment, click "OneKey System Recovery" in this software, and then follow the on-screen instructions.
 If you want to protect unlimited PCs or customize UI, you need to upgrade to Technician or Customization Edition.

Bonus: backup system files to USB flash drive via Creating a Recovery Drive

Sometimes when you look up "how to backup Windows 10 to USB", you will find that some answer might point to another Windows tool to make a Windows 10 recovery drive. If your PC runs into trouble, like not starting up, this recovery USB can help fix problems or reset the PC.

Here's how to make a Windows 10 recovery USB:

Step 1: Search for "create a recovery drive" on your Windows 10 desktop and open the utility that pops up.

Step 2: You'll see the Recovery Drive screen where you can choose to back up system files to the recovery drive if you plan to reinstall Windows later. Click "Next" to move forward.

Backup Windows 10 to USB

Step 3: Wait for the wizard to detect your USB flash drive and select it.

Step 4: Now, Windows 10 is creating the recovery USB drive. Just hang tight until it's done.

The Benefits of Backing Up a Computer to a USB Flash Drive

Besides how to backup the computer to a USB flash drive on Windows 10, many people may also wonder why. Well, it does provide many advantages. Here are some benefits of making computer to USB flash drive backups:

  1. Portable Protection: Backing up Windows 10 to a USB flash drive offers unparalleled portability. You can easily carry your important files with you wherever you go, ensuring that your data is always within reach.

  2. Quick and Easy Access: USB flash drives provide swift access to your backed-up data. With just a plug-and-play, you can retrieve your files in seconds, making it convenient for on-the-go access or transferring files between devices.

  3. Space-Efficient Storage: Despite their small size, USB flash drives boast impressive storage capacities, allowing you to store a significant amount of data in a compact device. This makes them ideal for backing up essential files without taking up much physical space.

  4. Protection Against System Failures: By backing up your computer to a USB flash drive, you create a safeguard against potential system failures or data loss. In the event of a computer malfunction, you can rely on your USB backup to restore your files and minimize downtime.

Knowing how to backup a computer to a USB flash drive on Windows 10 is crucial. It offers portability, quick access, space-efficient storage, and protection against system failures, making it a smart choice for ensuring the safety and accessibility of your important data.

Wrapping things up 

As you can see, knowing how to backup the computer to a USB flash drive on Windows 10 is crucial because it shields your system from potential issues and data loss. With a system image backup, you can always restore the computer to an earlier date, ensuring that your important files and settings remain intact no matter what happens. This means if your computer encounters problems or you accidentally delete important files, you can easily restore everything to how it was before. 

This article provides you with 4 different helpful ways. You can select one of them to create a system image for your computer. Please don't forget to create a file backup if your important files are on the other partitions.

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.