- To create a full backup of Windows 11, open the System Image Backup settings, and click on Create a system image.
- Select the backup external storage destination and start the process.
- You can also use the wbAdmin command to create a Windows 11 backup with Command Prompt.
On Windows 11, a full backup to external USB storage creates a security copy of the entire system, including from secondary hard drives (if specified), which allows you to restore your computer in case of critical system problems, malware attacks like ransomware, hardware failure, or when you are upgrading the primary drive.
In addition, a backup can help you roll back to a previous installation after upgrading to a new feature update or an entirely new version, for example, after upgrading from Windows 10 to Windows 11.
Although Windows 11 does not include a modern tool, you can still use the legacy “System Image Backup” tool to save a backup to an external USB drive that has everything from the Windows installation files, device drivers, applications, settings, and your files.
It’s worth noting that “Backup and Restore” is a deprecated feature on Windows 11, which means that it is currently not being maintained, and Microsoft can choose to remove it in future releases. However, you can still use it to create temporary backups to upgrade the system drive, protect your previous installation before updating to a new release of Windows, and more.
In this guide, you will learn the steps to create a full backup of Windows 11 to an external USB hard drive.
- Create full backup on Windows 11 with System Image Backup
- Create full backup on Windows 11 with wbAdmin command
- Restore full backup on Windows 11 with Advanced startup
Create full backup on Windows 11 with System Image Backup
To create a full backup of Windows 11 to a USB drive, use these steps:
Open Start on Windows 11.
Search for Control Panel and click the top result to open the app.
Click on System and Security.
Click on File History.
Click the System Image Backup option from the left pane.
Click the Create a system image option from the left pane.
Select the external drive to save the Windows 11 backup.
Click the Next button.
Click the Start backup button.
Click the No button.
Click the Close button.
Once you complete the steps, a full backup of the Windows 11 device will be created with the installation files, settings, applications, and personal files.
You will also be prompted to create a repair disk, but you can ignore this option since you can use the Windows 11 bootable media to access the recovery settings to restore the backup.
See also this video tutorial on the 10Alert YouTube channel with the steps to complete this task.
Create full backup on Windows 11 with wbAdmin command
To create a full backup on Windows 11 with the wbAdmin command-line tool, use these steps:
Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
Type the following command to create a full backup with wbAdmin on Windows 11 and press Enter:
wbAdmin start backup -backupTarget:E: -include:C: -allCritical -quiet
In the command, change “E” in the “-backupTarget” option with the drive letter for the external storage you want to use for the backup.
(Optional) Type the following command to create a full backup that includes all the drives connected to your device, and press Enter:
wbAdmin start backup -backupTarget:E: -include:C:,D:,F: -allCritical -quiet
In the command, replace the drive letters on the option “-include:C:,E:,F:” with letters reflecting the device’s drives.
After you complete the steps, the backup will be saved to the external drive you specified in the command.
Restore full backup on Windows 11 with Advanced startup
Since both methods process the backup identically, you can use the instructions to recover a device using a previous backup. If you don’t have access to the desktop, use these steps to boot the device in the recovery environment to use the System Image Recovery tool.
To restore a backup on Windows 11, use these steps:
Click on System.
Click the Recovery page on the left side.
Under the “Recovery options” section, click the Restart now button for the Advanced startup setting.
Click the Restart now button again.
Click on Troubleshoot.
Click on Advanced options.
Click on See more recovery options.
Click the System Image Recovery option.
Select the “Use the latest available system image” option to restore the Windows 11 backup.
Click the Next button.
Click the Next button again.
Click the Finish button.
After you complete the steps, the wizard will restore the computer’s full backup, restoring the OS installation, settings, apps, and files since the last backup was created.
While a full backup is an essential part of any recovery plan, remember to be proactive in making them because a backup can only restore data since the last backup. Also, if you want to keep an up-to-date backup of files, you should be using File History or a cloud storage service like OneDrive.