By AOMEI / Last update July 1, 2021

Can I Backup Windows 10 to External Hard Drive?

“I’d like to create a full backup in Windows 10 to external hard drive, and later an incremental backup or differential backup would be better. Tried to use Windows 10 backup and restore utility to backup but it seems like the drive cannot be recognized. Is there any simpler way to backup my Windows 10 operating system on Dell laptop to external drive easily when Windows 10 backup to external drive not working? Any advice would be appreciated.”

It’s a common situation to backup Windows 10 OS to external hard drive while using Backup and Restore (Windows 7) in Windows 10 computer. Especially creating a system image to external USB flash drive, you may get the drive is not a valid backup location, even the USB formatted with NTFS file system, create a system image still not working for USB drive.

The Drive is not a Valid Backup Location

To backup to external hard drive successfully, please make sure the USB flash drive is larger enough to save the Windows 10 system image, like 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, 256GB, or more. Or choose another official external hard drive, like Seagate, Western Digital, Samsung, Adata, Buffalo external hard drive, to backup Windows 10 to external hard drive easily.

Why Backup Windows to External Hard Drive?

Backing up Windows 10 means make an exact copy of the Windows 10 operating system files, boot configuration and installed programs, and then you can restore to previous system state if the system crashed. Windows 10 backup to external hard drive helps you to prevent data loss effectively in the event of:

  • Hard drive failure.

  • System crash.

  • Virus, or Ransomware like WannaCry, etc.

  • Human error.

In addition, backup computer to external hard drive in Windows 10 reduces the risk of backup image corruption, and it's safer than backup to local disk.

How to backup computer to external hard drive in Windows 10?

AOMEI Backupper Professional is comprehensive and robust Windows 10 backup software devoted to prevent data from being lost. It is not only backup Windows 10 OS but also backup entire Windows 10 computer to an external hard drive easily. Moreover, AOMEI Backupper allows you to automatic backup Windows 10 to external hard drive with Daily, Weekly, Monthly, USB plug-in, and Event-trigger modes.

To automatically backup files to external hard drive, you can also do Real-Time Sync. Thus if the files are changed or added since the last backup, you could create Windows 10 incremental backup or differential backup to protect your data. Get the 30-Day Free Trial and have a try.

Download Free Trial Win 10/8.1/8/7/XP
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How to backup Windows 10 to external hard drive? See the following step by step guide:

Before backing up your Windows 10 PC to an external hard drive, please:

  • Connect the external storage to your Windows 10 computer and make sure it can be detected by Windows 10.

  • Install and launch AOMEI Backupper Professional.

1.  Click Backup on the left side of the interface and then choose System Backup.

System Backup

2. The Windows 10 OS (system drive (C:) and its boot related partitions) have been selected by default. 

Select Destination

Tip: Edit the Task Name to distinguish from other backups if you want to.

3. Click where the arrow point to select the destination path. And then choose This PC and double-click the external hard drive you prepared.

Backup This PC

Tip: You are allowed to backup Windows 10 to USB flash drive, internal disk, NAS, network share, Cloud drive as well.

4. Confirm all operations and then click Start Backup to backup Windows 10 operating system to external hard drive.

Start Backup

✍"Options" (optional) can be set based on your own needs. It includes the functions of adding comments for image to distinguish it from other images, compressing, encrypting and splitting image file, etc.
✍"Schedule" (optional) enables you to automatically backup Windows 10 via daily, weekly, monthly, event triggers or USB plug in.
✍"Scheme" (optional) allows you to delete older backups automatically to save backup disk space.

Do not remove the external hard drive from your Windows 10 computer before the backup is completed. If you want set up an automatic backup job to external hard drive, you need to make sure the drive letter of external drive remain unchanged. It is suggested to permanently assign drive letter to external drive. If you intend to upgrade hard drive from HDD to SSD, please try clone HDD to SSD without reinstalling everything.

Backup Windows 10 to external hard drive using AOMEI OneKey Recovery

AOMEI OneKey Recovery is a reliable one key recovery software, which allows you to create a factory recovery image and then reset your computer to the default settings. It supports backing up system to AOMEI OneKey recovery partition or other location, such as, external hard drive.  The first option is recommended, because it will save the backup image to a real partition but not specify drive letter to avoid  any unwanted deletion.

In addition, it still supports adding boot menu as well as specify fast key (F11 or A) to access AOMEI recovery environment. In this case, you can directly press F11 or A key to during the system startup process without creating  a bootable USB or disc first. And it can be used to all brands of computers(all Windows PCs and Servers), such as, Lenovo, Dell, HP, Acer, etc. 

And if your system occupies too much disk space, you can compress image with normal or high compressional level. Also, if your computer has sensitive data that you don't want others to see, you can choose to enable encryption for backups and set a password for it.  Then, download the demo version to have a try!

Download Demo Win 10/8.1/8/7/XP
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1.  Launch one key recovery software AOMEI OneKey Recovery, click OneKey System Backup.

Okr Backup

2. Tick Backup system to other location and click Next.

Backup System to Other Location

If you want to set compression level or password for the backup image, click Backup Options at the lower location.
If your system disk has enough space to store your backup image, it's suggested to backup system to AOMEI OneKey recovery partition. Because it's much safer.

3. Click Browse and select external hard drive on the computer. If you don't connect your external disk, please connect it first.

Select Other Location

The selected partition in the Advanced option is to store boot files and we call it recovery partition. 

4. Confirm all the info and click Start Backup. The process will run into reboot mode. please wait patiently and don't stop it.


Backup to External Hard Drive via Windows 10 built-in Backup Utility

If you prefer to use Backup and Restore utility in Windows 10 and find a suitable external hard drive, you could create a system image for Windows 10 PC easily. By the way, File History will help you to backup Windows 10 files to another location. Here is how to backup Windows 10 to external hard drive with Backup and Restore (Windows 7):

1. Input backup and restore in Windows 10 search box. And then select Backup and Restore (Windows 7).

2. Click Create a system image on the left side.

Create System Image Windows 10

3. Choose the external hard drive at the page of “Where do you want to save the backup?” and click Next.

Where to save the backup

4. Click Start Backup to backup Windows 10 to external hard drive and wait for the process to complete.

Tip: It may prompt to create a system repair disc which is used to boot computer and troubleshoot the problems when disaster happen. You can create one to realize bootable backup Windows 10.

In the End

Usually, backing up Windows 10 to external hard drive in advance is a good way to rescue your crashed system, but if when the disaster happens and you don’t backup your system, you can use both of them to create bootable media on any normal computer and then use it to enter your crashed system to backup the important data and troubleshoot problems.

If you want to protect unlimited computers within your company, you can pick AOMEI Backupper Technician. With the inbuilt AOMEI Image Deploy tool, you are also allowed to deploy/restore system image file on server-side computer to multiple client-side computers over network.