How do I make a backup of Windows 8?

  • FiveO

    Coming from MacOS X (with Time Machine) back to Windows 8, I'm wondering how I can make good (useful) backups of Windows 8 and my data?

  • Answers
  • George Duckett

    The windows 8 equivalent is File History, below is a very good article on what it is and how to set it up:

    File History is a backup application that continuously protects your personal files stored in Libraries, Desktop, Favorites, and Contacts folders. It periodically (by default every hour) scans the file system for changes and copies changed files to another location. Every time any of your personal files has changed, its copy will be stored on a dedicated, external storage device selected by you. Over time, File History builds a complete history of changes made to any personal file.

    It’s a feature introduced in Windows 8 that offers a new way to protect files for consumers. It supersedes the existing Windows Backup and Restore features of Windows 7.


    What happens when you upgrade to Windows 8 from Windows 7?
    If Windows 7 Backup was active, i.e. it was scheduled and the schedule was active, then it will continue running as scheduled after the upgrade. File History will be disabled by default and users will not be able to turn it on as long as the Windows 7 Backup schedule is active. To turn it you will have to first disable the Windows 7 Backup schedule.

    Can Windows 7 users use File History?
    Windows 7 users cannot use File History. However, they can restore files from a drive used by File History by browsing the volume in the Windows Explorer and selecting a specific file. Files on the File History drive are stored in the same relative location, and use the same name. The specific version can be identified by the time stamp appended to the file name.

    Does File History protect the operating system and applications?
    File History only protects user libraries, desktop, favorites and contacts. Other files, such as operating system files, applications, and settings, are not backed up.

    Can File History be used with cloud storage?
    No. File History is designed specifically for consumers and does not support cloud storage in this release. Windows 8 Server offers a backup feature that can back up files to a cloud. This feature is available on the Server version of Windows and is designed for small and medium businesses.

    Can File History be used by enterprise customers?
    Yes. However, enterprise customers should be aware that File History may not comply with their company security, access, and retention policies. For that reason, we offer a group policy setting that allows enterprise administrators to disable the feature for an entire organization.

    Will File History protect files stored on a file share?
    No. File History only protects file stored on a local drive.

    If you use offline folders and folder redirection, your folders (like My Documents or My Pictures) are redirected to a network share and will not be protected. If you add a network location to any of your libraries, this location will not be protected.

  • HackToHell

    Windows 8's backup system differs from Windows 7's one. Windows 8 has File History that stores ca copy of your data. You can read more about it in HowToGeek's article here.

    Be aware that Windows 8 only supports the backup of userdata.

    There’s been a major philosophical change in Windows 8. You can no longer create full system images, nor can you back up everything on your hard drive. Instead, you can only back up files in your libraries, files on your desktop, your contacts, and your browser favorites.

    You can still use the old system image backup tool of Windows and schedule disk images backup, instructions here.

    To schedule backups follow instructions as per this post.

    In Task Scheduler, click Create Task. Click the Actions tab. Click the New button.

    Leave Action on "Start a Program." In the "Program/script" field, type in WBADMIN. Then under "add arguments," type in:

    START BACKUP -backupTarget:X: -include:c:

    where "X" is the drive letter of your backup drive, and "c" is your primary hard drive.

    Set the triggers, settings, and conditions to whatever you like.

    Image Backup does an incremental "ghost" of your HD, adding any changes since your last Image Backup, and keeping all previous backups available as well.

  • Svish

    Personally I use CrashPlan for all my personal data. Everything up to their cloud storage and a subset to an external drive for faster recovery (would have everything both places if the drive was big enough :)

    In addition it's a good idea to regularly create an image of your system drive like HackToHell suggests for those cases where you do something stupid, create a complete mess of your OS and really wish you could take a fairly quick step back in time :p Haven't set this up myself yet in Windows 8, but had this as a nightly scheduled task in Windows 7. Saved me from having to reinstall everything a couple of times...

  • Related Question

    Windows 7 Backup & Restore makes backup of external hard drive partition although unchecked in backup settings
  • donodarazao

    I ran into a strange problem with Windows 7 Backup & Restore.

    I've got the following setup:

    • Internal ssd with c: (system), 80GB
    • Internal hard drive e: (data), 320GB, 100GB used
    • External hard drive (3TB) with three partitions: g:, h: and I:

    g: and h: have data (mainly movies), I: is my backup partition for Windows Backup & Restore.

    In the Backup & Restore control panel, under 'change settings', g: and h: are unchecked (--> no backup for g: and h:). Nevertheless, when I choose 'restore my files', g: and h: appear in the files that can be restored, with many movies that are on those two partitions. Consequently, my backup file is ~500GB and I almost reached the limit of my backup partition. Also, backup takes ages (~1 hour, without system image) to complete.

    So here are my questions:

    1. How can I exclude partion g: and h: from being backuped? What else could I try, except unchecking these participions under 'change settings'?
    2. I wouldn't like to have a 500GB backup file for my 100GB data disk (e:). How can I delete all the movies from g: and h: without deleting the backups of e:?


    • 'Include a system image of drives: System reserved, C:' is unchecked in the backup settings.
    • I'm sure that on neither g: nor h: are any programs, system files or installed services. Data consists of exclusively movies and music.

    Edit 2:

    Thanks for all the answers. None of the proposed solutions worked in my case. I finally solved the problem by formatting partition h: of my external hard drive. I then chose this partition as my backup drive, with exactly the same settings, and everything worked as expected (~150GB backup size, 10-15 minutes for incremental backup). Why? No idea...

    I marked Nick Josevskis answer as the right one, because it might help others with the same problem.

    PS: Sorry, don't have enough reputation to up-vote your answers.

  • Related Answers
  • Nick Josevski

    As a separate answer to other one I posted:

    Have you created any symbolic links / junctions from folders on drive C: that maps to your other drives?

    For reference see:

    After a quick search I found this tool to help find them, there may be others (note: I have not used this tool so proceed with caution).

  • Nick Josevski

    I had a similar issue and posted this question:

    How to stop Windows 7 Built-in-Backup creating a System Image of too many drives?

    My problem was due to a service/application installed on the other drives, in my case it was other backup software.

    So my advice is to search for anything that's possibly installed on the other drives, including checking for services in 'Computer Management > Services and Applications > Services>'

  • Abraxas

    Do you have any system files on those partitions, such as page files?

    It is possible that something crucial is on those drives. Do they have any programs installed there? If so, they will need to be moved to the system partition. There is no advantage to installing programs elsewhere since they wold all need to be reinstalled anyway if you reinstalled Windows, and it is simpler to back them up at the same time from the system drive.