By Ivy / Last update October 20, 2022

Why Backup C Drive in Windows 10?

Sometimes you have to backup C drive in Windows 10, 8, 7 to external hard drive to avoid the following situations:

  • Virus attacks.

  • Improper operation cause system crash.

  • Blue screen Of Death (BOSD)or black screen of death.

  • Physical disasters, flood, earthquake, storm, etc. 

  • Disk bad sector problem occur, etc.

Once you backed up C drive, you could restore system files if the system boot failure to avoid the system reinstallation. How to backup C drive to external hard drive? Before that, you have to figure out the difference between boot partition and system partition.

Boot Partition vs System Partition

The system partition is an active primary partition that contains the boot loader to boot the operating system and store the boot sector. The boot partition is the disk partition that contains the Windows operating system and related system files.

The system partition and boot partition is the same before Windows 7, signed for C drive letter. And you could input the %systemroot% in Windows File Explorer to locate the Windows system folder C:\Windows. Since Windows 7, system partition (hidden, no drive letter) and boot partition (C:\) is separated created by Windows Setup. Hence, there may be some other hidden system partitions like EFI system partition, Recovery partition, System Reserved partition, etc.

System Partition Vs Boot Partition

Therefore, please open disk management to check if there other hidden system partitions on your Windows 10 computer. If there only one C partition (C:\), back it up now; or you have to backup all the hidden system partitions and C drive to protect your Windows 10.

How to Backup C Drive for Windows 10 (3 Ways)

To backup C drive in Windows 10, you can’t directly copying all files and applications in C drive to another destination, because this way cannot ensure system will be bootable and may cause data loss.

As a matter of fact, there are three ways to create a system backup in Windows 10:

If you want to backup C drive in Windows 11, you could refer to create system image in Windows 11.

Backup C Drive with Backup and Restore (Windows 7)

Fortunately, Windows 10 built-in a backup software named Backup and Restore (Windows 7). you could perform Windows 10 backup C drive. Here is the step-to-step guide to backup C drive to external hard drive:

1. Connect the external hard drive to your Windows 10 computer and please go to the path:

Start -> Settings -> Update & Security -> Backup -> Go to Backup and Restore (Windows 7) -> Create a system image.

Create A System Image

2. Select the backup destination. It's recommended to backup Windows 10 to external hard drive.

Select Destination

3. The C drive, EFI system partition, Recovery partition will be choose by default, click Next button.

Choose C Drive

Tip: At this moment, you could choose other partitions to backup.

4. Confirm the settings and Press Start Backup to create system image Windows 10 C drive.

Start Backup

Sometimes, you may get the drive is not a valid backup location error while backing up Windows 10 to USB flash drive, even the USB flash drive is formatted as NTFS, create a system image still not working for USB drive. It’s probably because the USB drive storage space is not enough. Please try a larger enough USB flash drive, 128GB, 256GB, or 1 TB. Or backup Windows 10 to OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.  

Note: You cannot restore files from the image file created by Windows backup and restore.

Wbadmin Backup C Drive in Windows 10

If there only C partition, no other hidden system partitions in your Windows 10, you could try Wbadmin to backup C drive with the following steps:

1. Input CMD into the Windows Search box, and run Command Prompt as administrator.

2. Type the below command to backup C drive to D partition:

Wbadmin start backup -backuptarget:D: -include:C:

Wbadmin Backup C Drive

That’s it.

Backup C Drive with free Windows 10 backup software

Another option is trying the professional yet free Windows 10 backup software - AOMEI Backupper Standard. Other PC systems like Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, and 11(32-bit and 64-bit) are also supported.

Now, you could download AOMEI Backupper Standard to have a try. The guide below will show you how to take backup of C drive in Windows 10 with the System Backup feature.

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

1. Choose Backup tab and then select System Backup on the main console of AOMEI Backupper.

System Backup

2. All the system partitions (including C drive) will be selected automatically for backup. Choose a destination location to save Windows 10 image backup file.

Backup Setting

3. Click the Schedule Backup option to automatically backup Windows 10 OS to external hard drive or other locations as you wish.

Schedule Settings General

4. Press Start Backup to backup C drive and other system partitions easily and safely.

Start Backup Scheduled

5. Click Finish to complete the process for system backup Windows 10. Then you will get a Windows 10 image backup file on the destination.


◑ To perform selective file restore with the Windows 10 image backup file, you can go to Tools > Explore Image. It's available in AOMEI Backupper Professional or higher.
◑ To restore to dissimilar hardware computer, you can make use of the Universal Restore feature in advanced versions.

Now please create a WinPE bootable media. If the Windows 10 computer refuses to boot, you could use the bootable media to boot up the Windows 10 computer, and then restore Windows 10 system files with the system image file created before. There is no need to reinstall Windows operating system, and everything will be fixed.

★ More efficient way to backup C drive in Windows 10

If you want one key system backup & recovery solution for your PC, you can turn to AOMEI OneKey Recovery. It allows you to backup C drive to a recovery partition created by yourself. When your computer fails to boot, you can launch the program by pressing "F11" or "A" during startup (Legacy boot) or choosing "AOMEI OneKey Recovery" in boot menu (UEFI boot). No bootable media are needed to perform system restore from Windows PE.

OneKey System Backup

Brief Summary

This article introduced how to backup C drive in Windows 10, which is an effective way to protect your operating system in case of system failures. Find the most suitable way to create system backup in Windows 7, 8, 10.

As for server users, please try AOMEI Backupper Server to enjoy more advanced features, like AOMEI PXE Boot Tool, command line utility, System Clone to migrate Windows 10/11 to SSD without losing data, Real-Time Sync to sync files as soon as possible, etc.