So in this article I am going to show you how to backup Windows 10. But why? Surely this is a blog about Linux?
Whilst it is true that this is a blog about Linux, anybody thinking of switching from Windows 10 to Linux would be advised to make sure they have backed up their current system in case the worst should happen and everything goes incredibly wrong.
In this guide I will show you some useful techniques and tools for backing up your system for recovering important files and also how to create a full system image in case you ever want to get your system back to its original state.
Step 1 – Backup all of your important files such as photos, music, videos and documents
Windows has a number of folders which are easily accessible and which are commonly used for storing important files such as photos, music files, videos and documents.
Open Windows Explorer by pressing the Windows key and E at the same time.
The list down the left side of the screen shows key locations available to you. Click on the link called “This PC”. The view on the right side of the screen will change and at the top you will see the following folders:
These are the folders that you will almost definitely want to back up. You may wish to check the contents of each folder because you probably won’t want to backup everything on the desktop and there may be some downloaded files that you don’t need either.
Choosing A Backup Device
There are a variety of methods for backing up your important files including storing them in the cloud, copying them to a network storage device, creating a batch of DVDs, using USB drives or a portable hard drive.
Your choice of backup medium will be determined by the amount of data that needs to be backed up.
I like to cover all bases when it comes to personal photos, videos and documents as these are things that you can never get back.
Music and films can usually either be bought again and there are a large number of media streaming services so I tend to only back these up to portable hard drives or network storage.
You can get a basic portable hard drive for around £45 such as this one on Amazon.
(Toshiba Canvio Basics 1TB Portable External Hard Drive 2.5 Inch USB 3.0 – Black – HDTB310EK3AA)
Portable hard drives usually store up to around 5 terabytes of data and is suitable for most people. Other options include network storage devices which are more expensive than portable hard drives but they allow you to access your files from any device on your home network.
If you don’t have much data and you want to go for a cheaper option then you can back up to a USB drive or a series of USB drives and for the really cheap option buy a spindle of blank DVDs.
To copy all of your files to a portable hard drive or USB drive insert the hard drive into your computer using the USB port.
Open Windows Explorer and drag all of the files and folders to the portable hard drive. This can be very time consuming, especially if you are copying large files.
If you are backing up to DVDs then you can either use the same method or you can use a specialist DVD writing tool. Most computer manufacturers include one as part of their software suite.
Backing Up To The Cloud
There are a number of cloud storage services including Google Photos for your images and Dropbox for everything else. You can also use Microsoft’s OneDrive but as you are thinking of moving away from Windows you might decide against this option.
You can sign up for a Dropbox account by visiting https://www.dropbox.com/en_GB/.
To sign up for a Dropbox account enter your full name, an email address and your desired password.
Accept the terms and conditions by placing a tick in the box and click the “Sign up for free” button.
Click the “Download Dropbox” button to download Dropbox to your computer.
Click on the setup file that downloaded and Dropbox will install itself.
A Dropbox folder will now appear in Windows Explorer.
You can now drag and drop the files you wish to upload to your Dropbox folder.
By default you get 2 gigabytes of data for free. At the point of editing the prices range from £6.58 per month for 1 terabyte of data storage, £10 per month for 2 terabytes or £15 per month for as much space as required.
How To Create A System Image Using Macrium Reflect
Macrium Reflect is a free piece of software which will create a system image of your computer at a point in time so that you can recover your computer to the exact state it was in when the backup was taken.
Whilst Windows provides recovery software to do the same thing it doesn’t work very well when partitions change and Zorin will undoubtedly create multiple partitions so you will want a tried and trusted solution if everything goes wrong or you just don’t like Zorin and want Windows back to the way it was before.
The great thing about Macrium is that it works on Windows 7, 8 and 10 and works regardless as to whether your computer has a UEFI or BIOS bootloader. (We will come to that later on).
I have previously written a guide showing how to backup Windows using Macrium Reflect which you can find here:
How To Install Macrium Reflect For Free
You can download Macrium Reflect from https://www.macrium.com/reflectfree
To download the free version click on the “Home Use” button.
A setup file will be downloaded. Click on the downloaded file.
When the setup screen loads keep the default settings in place unless you need to change the download location. To start the installation click the “Download” button.
In order to work properly, Macrium requires you to download the WinPE component. Click “Yes” to continue.
After the download completes the installer should start straight away.
When the installer appears click next.
Click “Next” to start the setup wizard.
Accept the license agreement and click “Next”.
Click “Home” as the license type and click “Next”.
You can either fill in your name and email address and register your product or click “no” to bypass registration. Click “Next” to continue.
Leave the default options checked on the custom setup screen and click “Next”.
Finally click “Install”.
How To Use Macrium Reflect
The Macrium interface has a toolbar at the top and the key options on this bar are “Disk Image” and “Restore”.
The “Disc Image” option provides 2 ways to create an image. You can either create an image container the information from all partitions or you can create an image big enough to restore Windows.
To be able to create a disk image you ideally need a drive big enough to store all of the data required. I recommend using an external hard drive which connects via a USB drive.
To create an image of all of your drives click “Image selected disks on this computer”.
A window will appear with a checkbox next to each of the partitions on your drive. The amount of data to be backed up will be displayed.
You can choose to backup to DVDs if you so wish but I recommend backing up to an external hard drive.
Click on the folder icon next to the folder radio button and navigate to your external hard drive and then click “Next”.
A backup plan window will appear and this is used if you continue to run disk images in the future. It basically determines how many backups to keep before purging the oldest one.
You can click “Next” to skip past this screen.
Click “Finish” to create the backup.
Finally click “OK” to start the backup.
When the backup is complete a message box will appear telling you so.
If you want to just backup the Windows partitions so that you can restore Windows then you can choose the “Create an image of the partitions required to backup and restore Windows”. This will create a much smaller backup.
Create Rescue Media
Rescue media makes it possible to boot your computer and recover it to a previously good state using the disk images you created previously.
To create rescue media click on “Other Tasks” and click “Create bootable rescue media”.
The rescue media will enable you to boot into a tool which will allow you to restore the backup you created previously.
When the “Rescue Media Wizard” appears click “Next”.
You will now see a list of drivers which are required for the rescue media.
Click “Next” to continue.
The next step is to choose which Windows PE image to use. Generally you will just leave the default options set and click “Next” to continue.
You can choose to burn the rescue media onto a DVD or a USB device such as a USB pen drive or even the external drive that you put the backup image on to.
Click “Finish” to continue.
Backing up your computer doesn’t sound like the most exciting of tasks and indeed it isn’t but you will be glad you did it the first time your hard drive fails, spill coffee all over your machine or drop the laptop down the stairs.
Whether you plan to install Linux or not, do this and do it today.