By Ivy / Last update February 10, 2022

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Can I use a flash drive to backup my computer?

 

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

Backup Computer to USB Flash Drive

USB flash drive is very portable, so many users want to backup computer to USB flash drive and you can definitely do this. Afterward, you don't need to worry about system failure, program and data loss (you can easily recover files from a crashed computer) due to reinstallation. And this process is tedious and time-consuming. 

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

In a computer, there are two important things - system and personal data, thus you need to create 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. 

How do I backup computer to flash drive in Windows 10/11

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

Then, how to backup computer to flash drive in Windows 10/11? You have three methods and all of them are also applicable to windows 7/8/XP/Vista. Honestly, the second one is more flexible and the third one is suitable for users to create a factory image. 

  • Built-in backup software - Backup and Restore(Windows 7).
  • Free backup software - AOMEI Backupper Standard. 
  • One-key recovery software - AOMEI OneKey Recovery. 

Method 1: Backup computer to USB using Backup and Restore

To backup 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 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 image 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 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 computer to USB.

Notes ✎... 
◕ If you want to transfer files from computer to a flash drive, you could use 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 on-screen instructions.
◕ This software is still applicable to Windows 7/8, but the interface and operation will be somewhat different.

Method 2: Backup Windows 10/11 to USB via AOMEI Backupper

To backup entire computer to flash drive with AOMEI Backupper Standard, you will use "System Backup" feature that will include everything required to boot Windows. Thus, it minimizes the risk of boot failure. And here are some advantages of this software.

Backup system automatically: It provides 3 backup frequencies (Daily, Weekly, Monthly), so you can backup system according to how often you may change files on the system partition. More precisely, you can set backup date, backup time and backup intervals.
Backup only 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 drive (eg: SanDisk, Kingstone). Except for USB drive, you can still backup computer to 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
Secure Download

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 entire computer to flash drive, 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 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, Monthly. The last two features - Event triggers and USB plug in (To backup computer to 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 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 computer to USB flash drive. 

Start Backup

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

Method 3:  Backup computer to flash drive for factory image 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 computer to flash drive, and later use it to factory reset your computer in the event of a disaster.

Anyway, you need a 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, Monthly Scheduler, you can backup system at a proper frequency.
Factory reset 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 USB drive (eg: Lenovo, Dell, HP, ASUS, etc) are supported.

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

Download Demo Windows PCs & Servers
Secure Download

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 other 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. And 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

★Tips:
To recover your computer, you just need to press 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.

Wrapping things up 

It's essential to backup computer to USB flash drive, because a system image backup could protect your computer from system issues and data loss. No matter what happens, you can restore computer to an earlier date

This article provides you with 3 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.