By Ivy / Last update October 18, 2021

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Can I use a flash drive to backup my computer?

How to backup computer to flash drive in Windows 7/8/10/11? How do I transfer files from my computer to a USB? How big a flash drive do I need to backup my computer? What is the best flash drive for computer backup? Many users may have these doubts, just like the following scenario. You my encounter similar problems. Now, let's have a closer look at it.

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

The system image backup fails, probably because there is not enough space to hold everything on system. 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).

Then, for Windows 10 backup USB, you could consider the branded manufacturers, such as, SanDisk Extreme PRO, Sandisk Extreme Go, Kingston DataTraveler SE9 G2, Samsung Bar Plus, Kingston Data Travel Vault, PNY Pro Elite Series etc. Take transfer speed into consideration, USB 3.0 will be the best choice.

What should I backup on my computer? 

In Windows 7/8/10/11, the most important part is the system partition and other related boot partition, so it's necessary to create a system image. Why do I say so? 

First of all, system crash will lead to boot failure of a computer and everything on it will disappear, including personal files, installed apps, system settings, etc. Then, only when you have a system backup, the computer can return to normal in a short time. More so, you are allowed to restore files from system backup if you mistakenly delete the files in use.

In addition, you can consider adding an extra layer of your important files by creating a file backup. There is no doubt that all personal data are unique and cannot be downloaded from anywhere. They deserve to be backed up separately.

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

In general, you could backup computer to external hard drive, cloud drive or other storage devices. But today, I strongly recommend you backing up Windows 10 OS to flash drive, that’s because it’s very portable to take, the price is relatively inexpensive, and the device itself is fairly durable. Almost everyone could afford one.

Without further ado, let's get started. You have three options, built-in Backup and Restore, free backup software AOMEI Backupper Standard, or one-key recovery software AOMEI OneKey Recovery, all of them are applicable to windows 7/8/10/11. Honestly, the second one is more flexible and the third one is suitable for users to create a factory image. 

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 drive does not have big enough space to store system image in the earlier dates. 

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 3. Click 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 and click Start backup to run the pending operation.

Notes ✎... 
‚óē 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.
‚óē 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 minimize the risk of boot failure. And here are some advantages of this software.

  • Recognize any detected device in Windows, such as, flash drive, external hard drive, network drive, NAS etc.
  • Compatible with all Windows system, including Windows 7/8/10/11/XP/Vista.
  • Support all backup solutions, namely system backup, disk backup, partition backup and file backup.
  • Support basic schedule backup, including daily backup, weekly backup, monthly backup,¬†incremental or differential backup¬†etc.
  • Have multiple backup options, three compression level, email notification, splitting, pre-command/post-command etc.

All of these features mentioned above are free of charge. And more advanced features are included in the advanced version, such as, AOMEI Backupper Professional, namely backup flash drive automatically when plugged in with "USB plugged in", encrypt image files to prevent unwanted access, delete old backup when backup disk full with "Backup Scheme" etc.

Step 1. Download and install AOMEI Backupper Standard. Launch this software, 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.

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

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 point and click This PC in the next window, then find your flash drive on the computer and select it as destination path.  

Select Destination

Step 3. (optional) Set backup options and schedule backup by clicking Options or Schedule. 

Daily Backup

Step 4. Confirm everything is OK and click Start Backup to run the pending operation. 

Start Backup

Notes ‚úé...
‚óē If you want to backup computer to flash drive automatically when plugged in, you could consider using "USB plug in" feature. It's available on¬†AOMEI Backupper Professional at least.
‚óē 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.
‚óē Don't want to backup everything on system partition, you could enable incremental backup or differential backup to backup changes only. The scheduled differential backup task requires payment.

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. 

AOMEI OneKey Recovery allows you to create factory image backup of your computer and then use it to quickly factory reset desktop computer or laptop when it fails to boot.  It adds a boot menu of this software in the Windows boot manager and  you can access it immediately via a special key (here is F11 or A ).  It supports Windows 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP/Vista and Windows Server 2003/2008/2011/2012/2016. And it can be used to all branded computer, such as, Lenovo, Dell, HP, ASUS, etc. Follow the steps below.

Step 1. Download, install and launch AOMEI OneKey Recovery. Then, you will see its main page. Click on  OneKey System Backup at the left side.

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

OKR Backup

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

Backup system to AOMEI OneKey Recovery Partition

Step 3. In the Backup to other location window, click Browse and select a backup destination to store the system image.  Then, click  Start Backup to create a factory image.

Choose Path

When the backup is complete, the boot menu will be added to your system. You can then specify F11 or A as the key to enter AOMEI recovery environment, and set the standing time for it. 

Boot Menu Key

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.

Plus: why backup computer to USB flash drive?

For computer users, there are various reasons why you use USB flash drive for computer backup. One of the most common reasons is that you hate reinstalling system and installed programs, settings, etc. And this task is tedious and waste too much time and effort. 

Besides, you couldn’t afford data loss caused by reinstallation. And recovering files from a crashed computer is complicated and not guaranteed. So, a system backup will be the best choice to get your computer back without download time. What's more, you are able to restore files from system image by "Explore Image" utility in AOMEI Backupper. 

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. 

If you want to use built-in tool, you can choose to backup Windows 10 to USB with Backup and Restore(Windows 7). But the second way is more flexible and has many useful features, such as, disk backup, system clone disk clone, universal restore, create bootable USB, clone MBR disk to GPT, etc.  If that's what you want, select it. In addition, some users want to create a factory image when they get a new computer or after reinstallinng. At this time, you could consider using the last one. Don't wait and have a try right now!