By Ailsa / Last Updated April 9, 2020

Full Backup, Incremental and Differential Backup

Full backup, incremental backup, and differential backup are the most common three basic backup types. What’s the difference among these backup types?

1. Full Backup

A full backup is a complete backup for all data in the designated folders, files or drive, and represents the data at the time of backup completion, and it has the minimal time to restore data quickly. However, it will take a longer time to backup than other backup types and occupy a lot of storage space. And the most important thing is that the full backup is the baseline for any other backups, like incremental, differential, synthetic full backup, etc., which means you have to create a full backup before creating an incremental or differential backup.

Full Backup

2. Incremental Backup

Incremental backup will only backup files that have been created or modified since the last backup (full, differential or incremental backup). The restore process will need the last full backup and all the incremental backups for a full recovery.

Incremental Backup

3. Differential Backup

Differential backup will backup all the created or changed files since the last full backup, and it does not copy all of the data every time. You will need the last full backup and the latest differential backup to create a full restoration. That means you could not restore differential backup without a full backup.

Differential Backup

4. Synthetic Full Backup

Besides, there are some other backup types, like synthetic full backup (assemble a full backup with subsequent incremental backups), mirroring, etc.

Synthetic Full Backup

All the mentioned backup types usually used in SQL Server database, Exchange 2013/2016/2019, home and work environment, etc.

Tips: Full backup stores all files and folders, frequent full backups result in faster and simpler restore operations. When you choose other backup types, the restore process may take longer.

Tools to Create Full Backup in Windows 10/8/7 and Their Limitations

A full backup could be the complete backup for a disk, partition, file(s) or Windows operating system depending on your demands. There are different ways you could use to make full backup nowadays: File History (backup files in library, desktop, contacts, favorites), Windows Backup and Restore (backup files in library, Windows folder, system image), command prompt. However, you have to use different tools to create full backup for disk, partition, or file(s). And there are some limitations that you have to pay attention to:

  • Backup and Restore does not restore individual files;

  • File History could not backup other data on your hard disk or partitions.

  • File History, Windows Backup and Restore both of them could not backup data to cloud.

  • The command prompt is complex to operate for freshman and ordinary people.

Easier Way to Create Windows 10 Full Backup

Is there any other better way to create full backup to protect your Windows 7/8/10 computer? Definitely. The best free Windows full backup software - AOMEI Backupper Standard, designed for Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10, will satisfy you with the comprehensive features, such as create full backup, incremental backup for files, partitions, Windows operating system to protect your Windows computer, restore individual file from the backup image file.

It’s easy to create full backup for Windows 7/8/10 computer with AOMEI Backupper Standard, please download AOMEI Backupper Standard first and install, and we take example to create a full system image for Windows 10, here it is:

1. Select Backup - > System Backup on the main window.

System Backup

2. Choose a destination to save the Windows 10 full backup image.

Select Destination

Tip: It’s highly recommended to backup to external hard disk, SSD, USB flash drive, CD/DVD, NAS, etc.

3. Hit Schedule -> Advanced -> Full Backup, and click General to set intervals to run this backup, and then click OK.

Scheduel Full Backup

Schedule Settings General

4. Click Start Backup -> Add the schedule and start backup now to create a full backup of Windows 10.

Start Backup Now


  • If you create a file backup or partition backup, you could create an incremental backup to backup created or modified data.

  • You could choose Only add the schedule option to add the task and run it at the specified time set in Schedule -> General option.

5. Wait for a few minutes, and press Finish after the backup completed.

You will get an full system backup image for Windows 10, suffix with .adi, on the destination path. Please DO NOT modify or move it to other destination manually. To change the target path, you could go Home -> find the full backup, and choose the three bars symbol -> Edit Backup, and choose another location for this full backup, the full backup image file created before will automatically move to the new target.

If you created a full backup for files, and now you could create an incremental or differential backup. Besides, you could realize selective file restore to restore individual file instead of the entire folder/partition/disk.


It’s easy to create full backup for Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10 as long as find the best free Windows full backup software: File History, Windows Backup and Restore, AOMEI Backupper Standard. Compared with other backup tools, AOMEI Backupper could be your best choice. If you are running on a Windows Server 2003/2008/2012/2016/2019 (including R2), try AOMEI Backupper Server to enjoy more advanced features, such as real-time sync files as soon as the file changed, restore to dissimilar hardware computer, etc.