How to Backup Your PC Easily (Digital Organizing)

If you don’t know how to backup your PC, you’re tempting fate. Who has time for a computer crash and all the pain of losing email, documents, and pictures? Not you. Not me.*

Fortunately, backing up your PC couldn’t be easier with just 3 steps.

  1. Plug in an external hard drive. (explained below)
  2. Type Backup in your PC’s search bar. (explained below)
  3. Click “backup now.” (explained below)

Take 10 minutes today to read this, start your PC backup, and go on about your life.

How to Backup Your PC easily

Computer Backup Basics

Let’s start at the beginning with some basic terminology:

  • A personal computer (PC) can be either a desktop or laptop. In both cases, you are most likely using Microsoft Windows operating system (OS). This is different from Microsoft Office and Microsoft 365 apps, which can be used on both PCs and Macs.
  • When you backup your computer, you are usually backing up your data, like your files and photos.
  • A Mac can also be either a desktop or laptop. Macs use the Apple operating system (OS). If you are a Mac user, I’ll share more in a tomorrow’s article.


How to Backup a PC

To complete an on-site backup of your PC, you’ll need an external hard drive (I explain what an EHD is and make a recommendation on the one to buy here.) You probably already have one, or you can buy a new one. I recommend using an external hard drive (EHD) and not a USB drive (also sometimes called a thumb drive or a stick).

Plug in the EHD, check your Microsoft File Manager (looks like a little yellow file icon) to be sure you see your EHD listed on the left, and then follow these instructions. You really only need the first part of that linked article, and I’ll even simplify those steps for you here:

  1. Get to the Backup Settings menu. There are several ways to do this, so follow whichever ONE of the instructions below that work best for you.
    • On Windows 10, the actions are to click on the Window icon > Settings > Backup > (under Backup Using File History) click More Options > Backup Now.
    • -OR-
    • Another way to get to the same place is just to type “backup” without the quotes into the “type here to search” window on your PC’s taskbar, lower left corner. It will autofill “Backup Settings”.
    • NOTE- You only need to do ONE of the three options above to get to the Backup Menu! If you are still on an older version of Windows, this same app is called Backup and Restore under the Control Panel.

How to backup your PC-digital organizing (1)


2. Do one of the following:

    • If you’ve never used Windows Backup before, or recently upgraded your version of Windows, select Backup Using File History>> + Add a drive, Set up backup, and then follow the steps in the wizard.

    • If you’ve created a backup before, you can wait for your regularly scheduled backup to occur, or you can manually create a new backup by selecting Back up now. OR just leave your computer and drive powered up and wait until the top of the hour, when Windows will start your backup automatically. I’ve checked, and this app doesn’t have a way to automate backups for other times. It’s either Backup Now or wait until the top of the hour. Simple.

    • If you’ve created a backup before, but want to make a new, full backup rather than updating the old one, select Create newfull backup, and then follow the steps in the wizard.

How to backup your PC-digital organizing

3. Check your data. Navigate back to your EHD in your File Manager and click down into your File History to verify that your data was backed up. It can take many clicks before you see the folders that you are used to seeing in your File Manager. Mine looks like this; yours might be a shorter or a longer file path:


    • File History
      • Darla
        • Desktop-18A
          • Data
            • C
              • Users
                • Darla

That’s it. You just backed up all of your data, including your Word, Excel, Powerpoint files, as well as photos and videos that are stored on your PC. You probably did not back up data that you have stored in cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Apple iCloud. You generally have to go through a couple more steps to get those storage locations backed up.

Your backup just sits there, and hopefully, you’ll never have to use it, but if you do, you’ll be glad for that 10 minutes you just spent. The rest of the Microsoft article linked above explains how to restore your data from the backup you just made.

Frustratingly, this very simple Microsoft backup utility doesn’t re-date your backup file each time it completes. You have to look at the Backup Settings screen to see when it last backed up. It also doesn’t create multiple copies of older backups. It’s just a single snapshot of the last backup. But if you aren’t backing up at all today, you don’t need features…you need SIMPLE!


Don’t Wait to Backup

Folks, I make this offer every time I talk about backup…if you aren’t backing up your computer today, please contact me directly for a free 10-minute phone call so I can help you. If it’s important to you, then it’s important to me.


That Time My Computer Exploded

*Did you see that little asterisk at the top of this article? Here’s the footnote to this story. On Friday, January 8 at about 8:30 am, my computer exploded on my desk. **POW** This article has been written for weeks in advance. I remind you every first of the month in this article to back up your computer. I talk about this so much because it’s not a matter of IF your computer will fail, but when. If an organizer’s computer can give it up like that, yours can, too.

I had three sets of data: the backup that I just described above for you. I have a subscription. And there’s the working hard drive from my broken computer. Without going into detail, there were problems with each of the backups, making it more difficult than it should have been to set up on a replacement computer. I’m fine, everything is put back together, and I’ll spare you the details. But I’m sharing this because you really do need to check your backups, and you need to have an idea of how to recover your data when the time comes, or know where to get help if you need it.

If you are a business owner, and you don’t have your computers backed up, or worse yet, if you are operating entirely from your phone, you need a backup, too. You aren’t just protecting against hardware failures. Cyber attacks can cripple a business, too, putting 60% of small businesses out of business six months after being attacked. Ouch.

So, if you are in business and haven’t checked your backups, do it today. If you need to upgrade service to be able to restore service easily, do it. It can save you hours, days, weeks, and months of your life.

If you are just a regular person (not a business owner), check your backups. Although you might fantasize about starting your digital life with a clean slate, it’s really traumatic if it happens to you. Don’t think you are safe with a Mac. I’ll tell you another hard luck story AND tell you how to avoid becoming a statistic in tomorrow’s article.

If all this tech talk freaks you out, and you’d just like someone to take care of it for you, aren’t you lucky? That’s exactly the kind of thing we’ll do in a one-hour virtual organizing session that you can schedule right here.

See all of my January 2021 organizing articles in one place.