Windows 11

How to Backup and Restore Windows 11 to an External USB Drive

A detailed guide on how to backup and restore Windows 11 to external USB drive

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Securing your data and ensuring you can recover from any unexpected events such as malware infections, hardware failures, or accidental deletions is critical to many Windows users, and one way to ensure this is by learning how to backup and restore Windows 11 to an external USB drive.

This guide will provide various ways to easily backup and restore Windows 11 to an external USB drive. Ensure to stay with us till the end to get all the information necessary to successfully carry out this process.

1. Use File History to backup and restore Windows 11

Using the built-in program File History for Windows 11 file backup is the first approach you should try. Files in the desktop, audio, photo, video, and document folders are routinely backed up by it. You will accumulate several backup copies over time, and you can easily restore the original files if they are destroyed, lost, or damaged by following the steps below.

  1. First, connect your external hard drive to your computer.
  2. Next, navigate to System > Storage > Advanced storage settings > Backup Options.
  3. In the Back up using File History section, select Add a drive.
    backup and restore Windows 11 to external USB drive
  4. Turn on the Automatically back up my files toggle.
    backup and restore Windows 11 to external USB drive
  5. You can also click More options to set up how often backup takes place, how long it keeps backup files, and which files to back up.

1.1 Restore backup files with File History

  1. Navigate to System > Storage > Advanced storage settings > Backup Options.
  2. Select the Restore files from a current backup option.
  3. Use the left and right arrows below to look for the backup version you want to restore. You can also use the search box to locate these files.
  4. Click the restore button to get your chosen files.
    backup and restore Windows 11 to external USB drive

2. Use the Backup and Restore feature

You can also make a full backup of your system with Windows 11’s Backup and Restore function, which includes your operating system, programs, files, and settings. In the event of a system breakdown, hardware malfunction, or other problem, you can then utilize this backup to return your device to a previous state. Use the steps below to use this feature.

  1. Go to Control Panel > System and Security > Backup and Restore (Windows 7).
  2. Click on the Set up backup link.
  3. Enter your admin password if prompted.
  4. Next, choose your Backup Drive and click Next.
  5. Click the radio button for the Let Windows choose option, and select Next.
    backup and restore Windows 11 to external USB drive
  6. Finally, select the Save settings and run backup option.

2.1 Restore backup files using the Backup and Restore feature

  1. Navigate to Settings > Update & Security > Backup > Backup and Restore (Windows 7). 
  2. Select the Restore my files button.
    backup and restore Windows 11 to external USB drive
  3. Click the Browse for folders button to get the folders you want to restore, then click Next.

3. Backup Windows 11 using wbAdmin

One command-line utility for managing Windows backups is called wbAdmin, and a full system image backup, which is a replica of your computer’s hard disk that includes your operating system, programs, files, and settings, can be made with it. If there is a hardware malfunction, system failure, or other problem, you can utilize this backup to get your computer back to its previous condition. Follow the steps below to do this.

  1. Hold Windows + R simultaneously to open the Run dialogue, input cmd in the text field, then hold Ctrl + Shift + Enter to open the command prompt in administrator mode.
    backup and restore Windows 11 to external USB drive
  2. Input the command below to create a full backup with wbAdmin, then hit Enter. Replace E with the drive letter you want to use for the backup.
    wbAdmin start backup -backupTarget:E: -include:C: -allCritical -quiet
  3. To create a full backup that includes all the drives connected to the device, enter the command below, and press Enter. Replace C D and F with letters matching the device’s drives.
    wbAdmin start backup -backupTarget:E: -include:C:,D:,F: -allCritical -quiet
  4. After running this command, the backup will be stored in the external drive you specified.

3.1 Restore Windows 11 using wbAdmin

  1. Go to Settings> SystemRecoveryRestart now.
  2. Next, go to TroubleshootAdvanced optionsSee more recovery optionsSystem Image Recovery.
  3. Select Use the latest available system image in the Select a system image backup window.
  4. Click Next, then choose Finish to complete the process.

Concluding Remarks

We have gone over three effective ways to backup and restore Windows 11 on an external USB drive, so feel free to start with any option of your choice since the list has not been compiled in any particular order. If you have any other questions, drop them in the comment section below. Lastly, if you would also like to know how to restore permanently deleted files on Windows 11, check out the linked article.

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David Ogbor
David is a tech guru with extensive knowledge in technical articles. He is passionate about writing and presents technical articles in an easy-to-understand format for easy comprehension. He aims to present easy solutions for day-to-day problems encountered while using PC. In his spare time, he likes traveling, playing sports, and singing.