How To Set Up & Use Windows 7 Backup & Restore Feature

Tina Sieber 12-10-2011

windows 7 backupIt’s hardly a secret when I tell you that sooner or later you will need a backup of your personal data. Do you have one right now? What keeps most people from preparing regular backups is convenience.


Windows 7 features its own backup tool, also known as the Backup & Restore Feature. Windows 7 Backup has many strong points, but its strongest one yet is convenience. No need to download and install a third party software, and if you know your way around Windows, you’ll have no trouble setting it up. If you are unsure and require step by step instructions, this article will guide you through the entire process.

What Does Windows 7 Backup & Restore Do?

It creates a backup of your personal files and you can also include a system image to back up system settings and program files. Per default, the backups runs on a weekly schedule, but the schedule can be customized or turned off. Should disaster strike, you can use the backup to restore personal files to a new installation of Windows.

What Do I Need?

You need a backup medium. Ideally, this is an external hard drive or a network drive, but it can also be a second hard drive or partition within your computer. Regardless of which medium you choose, it requires enough free space to hold your backup.

How Can I Set It Up?

Setting up a backup with the Windows 7 Backup and Restore feature is straightforward, taking only a few easy steps and approximately three minutes.

To launch Windows 7 Backup and Restore :

  • Go to > Start and type > Backup into the search field.
  • From the results select > Backup and Restore and hit > Enter.

windows 7 backup

  • In the Backup and Restore window, click > Set up backup in the top right. As you can see from the screenshot below, I presently do not have a Windows backup set up. For my custom backups I use Cobian Backup.

windows 7 backup and restore

  • You will have to wait a moment, while Windows launches the backup tool.

windows 7 backup and restore

  • Once the Set up backup window loads, you will see a list of backup destinations.

windows 7 backup and restore

  • If you wish to connect to an external hard drive, connect the drive now and then click > Refresh.

windows backup and restore

  • Once the desired backup destination appears in the list, select it and click on > Next in the bottom right.

windows backup and restore

  • On the next screen, you can choose what to back up and you can either decide to > Let Windows choose or > Let me choose, i.e. choose yourself.

windows backup and restore

If you have private data saved outside your user profile, then you should go with the second option and set up a custom backup, which is what I will guide you through now. Note that you can always change your choices later on, by changing the backup settings.


After clicking > Next in the previous window, you can check the drives, partitions, and folders you want to back up. Note that Backup and Restore does not back up Program Files or system files, even if you include the system drive in your backup. However, you can > Include a system image in your backup, provided there is enough space available on your backup destination.

create system image

  • In a final step you can review your settings and manage the schedule of your backup.

review backup settings

Just to mention it, if you selected the first backup option, i.e. > Let Windows choose, you will be taken straight to the above screen where you can review your backup settings and manage the backup schedule. Creating a system image will not be an option.

  • Click on > Change schedule to create a custom time for your backup.

manage backup schedule

  • Click > OK to confirm the schedule, then click > Save settings and run backup in the > Review your backup settings window. This will take you back to the initial > Backup and Restore Control Panel window. The backup you just confirmed will start immediately, but you can stop it by clicking on > View Details. and then > Stop Backup (twice). and either wait for the next scheduled backup, or launch it manually by clicking the > Back up now button.

backup and restore overview

The Backup and Restore window will now list your backup and you can change your backup settings here, for example change what you want to back up or adjust the schedule. At the bottom of the window, there is a small section called > Restore. To restore backups, click > Select another backup to restore files from and browse for a previous backup you wish to restore.

windows 7 backup

If you wish to pause the backup for a period of time, you can click on > Turn off schedule in the top right. A > Turn on schedule link will then appear under > Schedule. And that’s it! That wasn’t hard, was it? The only thing you have to remember now is to attach the backup drive when it’s time for the backup to run and you’re set.

If you enjoyed this article, I also recommend the Windows 7 Backup and Restore Guide The Windows Backup and Restore Guide Disasters happen. Unless you're willing to lose your data, you need a good Windows backup routine. We'll show you how to prepare backups and restore them. Read More . I recently wrote an article on 5 Signs Your Hard Drive Lifetime is Ending & What To Do 5 Signs Your Hard Drive Is Failing (And What to Do) Since a majority of people today own laptops and external hard drives, which get dragged around quite a bit, a realistic hard drive lifetime is probably around 3 - 5 years. This is an extremely... Read More . If you have lost files, you might be interested in How To Recover Deleted Files Using Windows 7’s Restore Previous Versions Tool How To Recover Deleted Files Using Windows 7's Restore Previous Versions Tool We all know the importance of backups. If we've it heard once, we've heard it a million times. Always have backups, always save after every change, always use Dropbox (or something similar) to save previous... Read More .

What do you find most challenging about setting up and maintaining regular backups?

Related topics: Data Backup, Restore Data, System Restore, Windows 7.

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  1. Mike
    December 19, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    Initially I chose the files to back up in windows 7.
    How do I add additional files for the next backup?
    I.e. how do I edit the initial backup set-up and include a new file or folder?
    Is there a way to review the files I originally chose and then add to it.

    • Tina Sieber
      December 20, 2016 at 10:01 am

      I'm afraid I'm no longer on Windows 7, so I can't check, but can't you go back to the backup you set up and review what you selected, then change the selection?

  2. Red95
    December 12, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    Tina, the 2 links to your Backup and Restore Guide are both dead.


    • Tina Sieber
      December 13, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      Thanks for the heads-up! We changed the site structure, so the URL changed. I fixed the link above, and you can find the guide here.

  3. Anonymous
    December 30, 2015 at 3:37 am

    Backing up takes 45 seconds, but restoring takes 19 hours. This is with SSD drives. Why is restore so slow?

  4. Anonymous
    October 14, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    How many backup sets do I need to keep on the external drive?

  5. Daud Khan
    January 2, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Really helped me out, Thank you so much

  6. PhilosopherDog
    November 19, 2011 at 3:49 am

    It's a piece of total crap. Has anyone actually tried to restore installed programs after a fresh install from a backup? It can't do it! What a nightmare. Timemachine is completely awesome. You can restore your whole machine in a matter of hours from a fresh install. Everything is there when you're done. Or you can just recover a directory or file. Microsoft really does suck.

    • Tina
      November 19, 2011 at 8:56 pm

      I can't confirm that restoring programs doesn't work and I'm not sure what went wrong for you. However, you're totally right about TimeMachine. Sounds like an awesome program.

    • AfricanWildDog
      December 15, 2011 at 5:03 pm

      I cannot get restore to work either.  I'm trying to restore files backed up from another computer.  I've tried my USB port, which I learned restore will not read from USB.  So, I backed up onto a disc.  When I hit restore from another device (whatever the wording is) or restore all users, NOTHING shows up.  I get a message that says "Connect the drive with the backup" .  No idea what this means.  I'm inclined to agree with Philospher Dog..this sucks.  Can anyone help here?

      • Tina
        December 16, 2011 at 1:55 pm

        Maybe I'm missing something, but why would Windows not be able to read the backup from a USB? And could you copy the backup to the local drive or is it too large?

  7. ethnic clothes for women
    November 4, 2011 at 5:53 am

    Precisely what I was looking for, thank you for posting .

  8. Dturk
    October 14, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    How can you add a password to your backup external hard drive so someone doesn't just pick that up and use your data?

    • Tina
      October 15, 2011 at 8:03 am

      You can not set a password. To protect your data, you would need to encrypt them beforehand.

  9. Bansidhar9
    October 13, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Me too realized this, but in addition I felt windows7 itself is slower then its predecessors.

  10. Yang Yang Li
    October 13, 2011 at 12:35 am

    Windows backup is extraordinarily slow. That is one of the biggest cons. Compared to Mac's Timemachine, Windows needs some more work.

    • Tina
      October 13, 2011 at 6:32 am

      Unfortunately, that's true.