How to backup a Windows 10 PC; time machine for Windows

A good backup strategy is critical. Your personal files, documents, photos and more are all stored on your PC, and you certainly don’t want to lose these. In this article we walk you through how to use the built in tools on Windows 10 to back up your files and automatically keep revision histories.

Apple’s OSX has had a backup utility as part of the operating system for some time now. This is actually a really good system that tends to just work. For a while Windows was lacking a simile tool, although 3rd party tools went quite some way to addressing that.

Windows 10 has a very effective backup solution built in, which is now comparable to Apple’s time machine. For most people Windows 10 is a free upgrade, click here to find out more.

File History is a Windows backup application, that comes as standard in Windows 10, and can be found in the Control Panel (search for Control Panel in Cortana, once in the Control Panel just search for File History in the top right search box).

File History does two things:

  1. Keeps a backup of your files – this is necessary incase your hard disk catastrophically fails.
  2. Keeps a revision history of your files (every hour or so) – this is important because it protects against you accidentally deleting files or making changes that you want to undo.

When you open up File History for the first time you will need to select a secondary hard disk to back your files up to. We’ve had success with two different options:

  1. A small hard disk that plugs into a USB socket. This is probably the fastest option but not great if you move around the home a lot. We use this in our office. It is worth selecting a good reliable brand. click here for the Western Digital USB drive we recommend.
  2. A network hard disk. This option connects to your network so that your laptop can back up over your wireless network. Most often you put the hard disk next to your router and plug them in together. We do this at home so we can move about the house. We like the Western Digital disks as they are reliable, but also if you want to use them as a media server then this is possible too. Click here for the Western Digital network drive we recommend.

The File History control panel allows you to select which files you want to backup (or exclude from the backup). Once you have configured your backup disk, File History will do an initial backup. From that point on (assuming your backup disk is plugged in or on the same network) it will monitors your files for changes and keep them backed up too.

If you want to access files from the backup, File History allows you to scroll back in time to find the version of the file you are after. You simply select this file and restore it to your primary hard disk.

It’s also worth noting, that this backup solution is often used in combination with cloud services such as Microsoft Onedrive. It is not one or the other. These give you a good option for off site backup, but you are not in control of it. We would recommend running both a cloud backup for smaller, important documents, but also keep your own backup for peace of mind and big files.

If you want to understand more about antivirus software for Windows 10, check out this post: Answered: Do I need anti-virus software for Windows 10?