Best free methods to back up your files in Windows 10

Windows 10

Not having proper backup routines means that you are highly likely to lose important files at some point. Both hardware and operating systems can and do break. Devices are lost, stolen, or infected with malware. These and other bad things do occasionally happen, and the situation will be far worse if you also lose your important data in the process.

Fortunately, to a Windows 10 user, there are multiple ways to back up your files easily and with minimal expense, save for a few minutes of your time. 

Back up to the cloud or to an external drive?

Why not both? Having at least two routes for keeping your files safe is not a bad idea. You can keep complete backups at home or at the office, while also keeping copies of your most important files in the cloud. That way, losing access to one of your backup options for whatever reason is not the end of the world.

There are lots of cloud services with which to store your files and backups. The free or freemium alternatives include Google Drive or Dropbox. However, the easiest alternative for Windows users is likely Microsoft OneDrive, not least because it is already fully integrated into Windows 10.

Another way to store your backups is using local options such as network-attached storage, an external hard drive, or an SSD. Choosing the latter means that each of your backups will take the least time to complete, and the same goes for restoring said backups. The downside is a higher cost, but today there are reasonably priced options that don’t compromise on speed.

Back up your files with File History

File History is Windows 10’s built-in backup solution, which will regularly back up files and documents in the background without user intervention. But you must configure the tool first and add a drive that will house your backups.

This configuration is found in the Settings menu, under ‘Update & Security’  ‘Backup’. Once a drive is added, the files in your user folders will be backed up automatically as long as the drive remains attached to the system. Under ‘More options’, you can also add or remove folders based on your personal preferences.

Create a system image – a full PC backup

Keep in mind that, while your user directories are most likely the most important by far, File History backups do not include your apps and settings. To make a full system backup, you may instead create a so-called system image, which is an exact copy of your entire computer as it is today.  

This alternative is found in the Control Panel, under ‘Backup and Restore (Windows 7)’  ‘Create a system image’. Much like in File History, you select an external drive on which to store the image. Note that you cannot select which individual files to back up here – it’s all or nothing.

Other free backup tools

While the backup tools built into Windows are serviceable, there are other free alternatives that are arguably easier to use. One is EaseUS Todo Backup Free, which is a free download compatible with all Windows versions from 7 to 11. It allows both file/folder backup as well as full system backup in a single interface. Since it’s a free download and comes with mostly glowing reviews, you have nothing to lose by giving it a try.