The Best Way to Back up Laptop to External Hard Drive in Windows


Summary: Is your laptop under the threat from ransomware attack? Facing the risk of data loss or system corruption? Looking for laptop backup solutions to protect your laptop? Here, MiniTool Programs are helpful to back up laptop to external hard drive for data protection in Windows 10/8/7.

Laptop Backup Is Necessary

"My question is how do you backup the data on the laptops... In the old days it would be easy to back up the "user" folder on the desktop, but how do I guarantee a backup of all of the laptops is being done? Is there backup software that I can install on all of them that will automatically wake up a sleeping laptop and execute the backup?"

- tomshardware

Surprisingly, few people take seriously the simple act of backing up laptop data. There are many reasons for this: perhaps you are one of them thinking that system corruption never happens to your laptop, or there is too much hassle.

However, actually, it is difficult to avoid hard drive failure, losing documents, videos, photos or other important files. Seriously, there is always the rising threat of ransomware attacks, encrypting data on your laptop or desktop until a ransom is paid for. Besides, some mistaken operations, sudden power outage and more can cause data loss or system corruption. If you take some time to back up your system or hard drive data on a regular basis in Windows 10/8/7, all of those accidents can be avoidable.

To help you, we have put together this comprehensive guide showing how to effectively create system backups of your laptop so as to restore it to a normal status in the event of system failure. Also, we lay out some useful methods for laptop hard drive data backup.

How to Back up Laptop in Windows 10/8/7

What kind of backup do you need? In a nutshell, a variety of backup methods are on offer and here we will show three main laptop backup solutions.

Copy & Paste

When referring the backup methods, some of you will consider Copy & Paste method. This is the simplest way to back up files on your laptop. You are required to plug a removable drive into your computer, enter Windows Explorer/File Explorer to copy files from your laptop and paste them into a removable drive. But this is completely manual and limited. If you need to create a backup for your laptop on a regular basis or back up Windows system, this way really won't take effect.

Best Way to Back up Laptop - Image Backup

Disk imaging refers to copying the contents on your hard drive to another hard drive with the compressed file format. Namely, all source data including programs, system, setup and personal files are compressed into an image which contains an exact duplicate of a laptop hard drive. This method can save much disk space and help to restore your laptop quickly in case of some accidents. Commonly, this method is used for system backup or the entire disk backup. How to back up your laptop in Windows 10/8/7? The details are as follows.

Best Laptop Backup Software - MiniTool ShadowMaker

MiniTool ShadowMaker, a piece of full-featured backup software for laptop or desktop, can help to back up system, partition or the entire hard drive. During the backup, all files are compressed into an image. Moreover, a regular backup can be created by this free imaging backup software. Although you forget to back up your laptop, this program can protect it by itself. What’s more, an ideal backup solution should also support incremental backup and differential backup. Fortunately, MiniTool ShadowMaker permits you to create these two kinds of backups.

Hot article: 3 Types of Backup: Full, Incremental, Differential

Are you interested in this free backup software? Now, free download MiniTool ShadowMaker to Windows 10/8/7 and have a try.

Guide on How to Back up Laptop

After downloading and installing MiniTool ShadowMaker Free Edition, now, it is time for you to do laptop backup. The step-by-step guide is here.

Step 1: Choose a computer to manage.
Run MiniTool ShadowMaker Free Edition installed on your laptop. Then, click Connect button on the left side to start the local backup.

Note: Free Edition forbids you from creating a remote backup. If you click the second Connect, a window will pop out, as shown below. Please get MiniTool ShadowMaker Beta 3.0 to manage a remote computer.

Step 2: Click the corresponding button.
Under Home tab, if there is no backup yet, this laptop backup software will prompt you to set up backup for data protection. Follow the instruction accordingly.

Step 3: Select backup source drive and destination drive.
Then, you will enter Backup interface. Here, two sections are offered and you need to enter the corresponding section to determine the backup source and storage path.

  • Backup Source: This backup software allows backing up laptop system, partition, and hard drive. By default, all system partitions for Windows to run are checked. If you only attempt to create a system image backup, skip to the next tip. To back up hard drive for laptop, we recommend selecting a source disk and then checking all drives on it.

  • Destination Path: When entering the backup destination section, you can see there are two options for you.

    a). This Computer: All detected disk partitions are listed. We strongly recommend you to back up laptop to external hard drive since it is offline and relatively safe from ransomware attacks.

    b). Shared Folder: Click Add new button, then back up your laptop to a network by inputting certain parameters.

Step 4: Make advanced settings.(optional, not necessary)
After completing the selections of backup source and storage path, MiniTool ShadowMaker will return to the Backup interface where you can see three additional features. With them, some advanced settings can be made.

Schedule: It can help to specify a certain time point so that a regular backup can be performed. In Free Edition, only three schedule settings are included, such as Daily, Weekly, and Monthly. If you need to back up laptop on Event for Windows 10/8/7, try its Beta 3.0.

Scheme: As you know, common backup types contain full backup, incremental backup, and differential backup. Thankfully, this professional laptop backup software can help a lot since it has Scheme feature which allows creating those three types of backups and performing disk space management. But note that only Incremental is included in the Free Edition and the other two schemes are included in Beta 3.0.

Options: With this feature, you are able to choose image creation mode, add a comment to your laptop backup, set file compression mode, etc.

Step 5: Begin a backup.
Next, click Back up now button on the Backup tab to start the backup process which can be observed later on Manage page.

In addition to the third-party tool, some of you may choose Windows snap-in backup tool to create a system backup for your laptop. This post - How Can You Create a Windows 10 Image Backup shows you how to back up Windows 10 system and the differences between MiniTool ShadowMaker and Windows tool.

The Best Way to Back up Laptop - Disk Cloning

When reading here, maybe you will ask: in addition to the above laptop backup solutions, is there any other way? The answer is positive. To back up laptop, you can choose the disk-cloning method which means creating an exact same copy of the source partition/disk by transferring them to another hard drive. Usually, an external hard drive is used to store the copy. Well then, how to back up laptop to external hard drive via disk cloning? Actually, MiniTool ShadowMaker also supports disk cloning. See the following steps.

Step 1: Go to Tools page, and then click Clone Disk feature.

Step 2: Choose a source disk you want to clone and a target disk for the copy storage.

1. This computer backup software adopts sector-by-sector mode. Hence, the destination disk should be big enough so that it can hold all source data.
2. Cloning process will destroy all data on the target disk. Please ensure no important files are saved to the disk.

Step 3: Next, you will enter the cloning process interface. Here, you can see some information about the disk cloning, such as source disk, destination disk, cloning progress bar and more.

Step 4: After completing the disk cloning, you will see the following pop-out window, informing you that you should disconnect either source disk or target disk since Windows will mark one disk as offline.

If you clone disk for backup, do these operations: shut down your laptop, remove the external hard drive containing the disk copy and put it in a safe location.

MiniTool ShadowMaker is quite helpful to back up your laptop by copying disk data to another hard drive. Additionally, there is another piece of PC cloning software that is MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition. It is designed to copy partition, clone disk and migrate OS. To make a laptop backup, we will use its Copy Disk feature which enables you to quickly back up hard drive for laptop.

Step 1: Run MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition to its interface. Then, choose the disk you need to copy and click Copy Disk in the left panel.

Step 2: Choose a disk so as to copy the source data to. Similarly, you should make sure the target disk is large enough for source data storage and no important data exist in the target disk.

Step 3: Choose one copy option from the following interface.

Step 4: Then, this cloning software will tell you how to boot your computer from the target disk.

Step 5: Make all operations effect by clicking Apply.

Both MiniTool ShadowMaker and MiniTool Partition Wizard are the best laptop backup software. With one of them, you can easily back up laptop to external hard drive with ease for computer protection. Want to have a try? Get them from the buttons below.

Copy & Paste VS Disk Imaging VS Disk Cloning

Now three laptop backup solutions are introduced to you. But, some of you don't know what the differences among them are. Next, we will walk you through some information.

  • Copy & Paste: This is the most common method to back up few personal files. When copying and pasting files from one location to another, only files are copied but some additional data like file allocation table and master boot record are abandoned. If you use this way to back up the system, your computer will be unbootable.
  • Image Backup: This way can save much disk space since files are compressed into an image. But note that the image can only be used by the program that created it to restore your laptop in case of accidents.
  • Disk cloning: it is suitable for moving all disk data to another hard drive for disk upgrade and backup. If you choose to clone system disk, you can directly boot your Windows from the target disk holding the identical copy.

Which one is the best way to back up laptop? Relatively speaking, image backup and disk cloning are both good options. Please choose a proper one according to your needs.

What You Have Learnt

Now we come to the end of this post. In this article, we show you the necessity of laptop backup, how to back up laptop to external hard drive via three common laptop data backup solutions, as well as differences among these backup methods. Hope these are helpful to deal with backup issues. Now, it's your turn to make a backup for your laptop to protect your Windows and data when there is a necessity.

If you have any questions towards using MiniTool software, please leave us comments in the below area or email to Besides, any suggestions to backup solutions for the computer protection are welcome. Thanks.