How To Backup Entire Windows 11 or Windows 10 Computer To External Hard Drive - Zinstall
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How To Backup Your Entire Windows 11 or Windows 10 Computer To An External Hard Drive

Among the many different ways to backup a computer, backup to external drive remains one of the most efficient options – especially when it comes to backing up an entire computer, not just a few files.

External hard drives are relatively cheap (about $50 per 1TB, compared to about $100 annual for Cloud options), have plenty of space, and are the fastest backup option available.

In this tutorial, we’ll see:

  • How to easily backup your entire Windows 11 or Windows 10 to an external hard drive
  • How to make sure that your backup is always up to date, automatically (without “babysitting” it)
  • How to be able to restore everything from your backup, not just files – programs, settings, profiles, accounts, favorites, passwords, emails, and, of course, all files.
  • How to eliminate the only downside of external hard drives compared to Cloud backups

If you are not looking for an overview, and are just looking for the instructions on how to backup to an external drive, click on How to backup your entire computer to external hard drive here:

Just want the instructions on how to backup your entire computer to an external drive? Click here to skip to that part

What should a full computer backup cover?

First, let’s define that a “full” or “entire” backup actually means. A common misconception is that if all of your documents and photos are backed up, you are all set.

A backup of all of your documents is of course much, much better than no backup. However, it is often not enough.

What about your emails? Favorites? Accounts and passwords?

What about the data from your tax software? Reports from your accounting apps?

What about the actual programs that you use?

Again, having a file backup is great, and is a giant step in the right direction. It’s just that there is much to your computer than just files, and without that – it won’t feel like “home”.

A backup of your entire computer should thus include:

  • Programs and apps – such as Office, Outlook, Quickbooks, Quicken, Photoshop, Lightroom, and any other software packages that you have.
  • All data that is used in your programs.
  • Accounts, profiles, settings, passwords.
  • Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music.
  • Any other user files, even if not stored in “standard” locations.

How to backup your entire computer to external hard drive

The product we will be using here is Zinstall FullBack Pro. It creates a full backup of your entire computer on your external USB hard drive. That backup is then updated automatically, so you are protected at all times.

Here is how to set it up:

  1. Download and run FullBack Pro (you can get a free trial of the backup software here).
  2. Click the “On” button.
  3. If you have a USB external hard drive connected, FullBack will locate it automatically, and just start the backup. If not, you can connect it later.
  4. That’s it! Everything is automatic from now on.

It really is that simple to keep your entire computer safe.

Video: How To Backup Entire Computer to External Drive

Click here to get a free trial, and make a full backup of your entire computer on a USB drive

So what happens once the backup is installed?

Once FullBack starts to run, it performs a complete backup of your entire computer, including programs, settings, accounts, profiles, email, favorites, documents, photos, and all files.

Once that backup is complete, FullBack keeps it up to date, by backing up any changes made to your computer. To save storage space, those backups are incremental, i.e. only the actual changes are stored in your backup – without unnecessary data.

You do not need to manage backup schedules and do not need to remember to make a backup (who can remember this stuff?). It’s all automatic, and always up to date.

Of course, the real reason you have a backup is the restore part. How do you restore a single file that you’ve misplaced? And how do you restore everything, including program files, if your computer crashes? Read on to find out.

How to restore a file that I’ve accidentally deleted?

So you were working on an important document, and now it’s gone. Fear not – that’s exactly why you have set up an automatic backup of your entire Windows 11 or Windows 10! Here is what you do:

Restore files

  1. Open your Zinstall FullBack’s Restore wizard.
  2. If you remember the file’s name, just type it into the search box. It will appear below.
  3. If you don’t remember what the file was called, but do remember where it was, you can browse your backup files, and find your file like that.
  4. You can choose to restore from the most recent backup, or go “back in time” – using older versions of your backup, such as yesterday, a week ago, a month ago or even farther back.
  5. Once you have the file, just hit restore – and it will appear exactly where it was, up to date!

That’s it – your file is back, safe and sound.

My computer crashed. How do I restore everything from my Windows 11 or Windows 10 backup, onto another computer?

This is something you can only do if you have used Zinstall FullBack. It can actually restore all the stuff from your backed up computer (programs, settings, files, emails, accounts, password, favorites, documents, pictures, music, etc.) onto a completely different computer and completely different Windows. Even if you’ve backed up a Windows 10 32bit Dell, and your replacement PC is a Windows 11 64bit HP, Zinstall will still restore everything you’ve got.

Restore programs

To do that, install Zinstall FullBack on the replacement computer. Open your original backup, and follow the prompts for complete restore. When finished, just restart the computer, and you’ll see all the programs, settings and files from your crashed computer.

Video demo – restore from Windows 11 or Windows 10 backup

But shouldn’t I use Cloud instead of a hard drive?

Using an external hard drive is cheaper, faster than any Cloud solution. There is one downside, however – in the unlikely event that both your computer and your hard drive are destroyed, you would have no backup. This kind of “survivability” the the main advantage of using Cloud backups.

A good rule to follow is the 3-2-1 rule of backups: 3 copies of your data, stored in 2 locations, 1 of them off-site.

FullBack Pro allows you to comply with the 3-2-1 rule by storing your backups both on your local drive, and on a Cloud storage of your choice.

This way, you can keep two separate backups of your computer – one local, and one on the Cloud. In total, you have 3 copies of your data (computer itself, local drive, Cloud), in 2 locations (your home / office and the Cloud), 1 of them off-site (in your Cloud storage).

This is of course entirely optional. You don’t have to use Cloud, and many people indeed prefer to keep their backups local due to cost and privacy concerns. But if you do, FullBack has got you covered.


Backup to an external hard drive is one of the most common and efficient ways to keep your stuff safe.

It is very important to keep that backup up to date, automatically – so that it is all there when you suddenly need it. It is also important to backup everything, not just parts of your stuff.

We believe that the approach outlined in this guide provides the optimal combination of a easy setup (no technical skills required), and an exceptional backup performance and reliability.

You can literally set up a full backup of your entire computer in 5 minutes, and basically forget about it after that.

The next time you’ll have to think about your backup is when you lose a file, or when your computer crashes. When that happens, you’ll thank yourself for spending those 5 minutes on getting a great backup for your computer.

Ready to backup your entire computer to an external drive?

Get Zinstall FullBack here