While Windows 10 doesn’t actually add any new backup or recovery tools, it provides great upgrades to the tools it previously offered in Windows 7 and 8. As important, full system image backup and restore capabilities are no longer squirreled away and hard to find or use.
Note: the content in this article is condensed from the Backup and Recovery chapter in Windows 10 Field Guide, which is currently in development. I’ll announce the plans for the publication of this new e-book soon.
Windows includes a number of technologies for replicating and backing up documents and other files on your PC, wiping out the PC to start over from scratch, and imaging the drive so that you can recover in the event of a hard drive failure. Which of these technologies you choose will depend on your needs.
Here are the backup and recovery tools available in Windows 10.
File History. File History can be configured to automatically backup your most important files to a separate hard drive or network location. But it’s better than a basic backup: File History also lets you retrieve earlier versions of a file, so that if you make a change to a document or other file, you can “go back in time” and return to any earlier versions. The Windows 10 version backs up more locations automatically and works almost completely from the Settings app, bypassing the need to access the legacy control panel interface.
PC Reset. The “push button reset” tools that debuted in Windows 8—PC Reset and PC Refresh—have been condensed into a single tool that lets you return your PC to the condition it was in the day you first bought it. You can optionally do so non-destructively—where you retain all of your documents and other data, as well as many of your installed apps—if desired. And you can securely wipe the PC, too, which is nice when you want to give away or sell a PC and not worry about anyone gaining access to your personal data.
System image backup. In Windows 10, the full Windows Backup toolset has been restored, and you can now create a full system image backup—and restore your entire PC from it—but also begin a backup regimen that will keep your PC backed up over time. Additionally, you can use this tool to access the files in any backups you previously made in Windows 7 or 8.x.
Windows Recovery Environment. Windows 10 lets you optionally boot the PC into a Windows Recovery Environment that can be used to perform various troubleshooting and system restore activities using advanced recovery tools. This environment hasn’t changed since Windows 8, and it can be very useful if something goes wrong with your PC. It provides access to tools like System Restore, System Image Recovery, Startup Repair, a command prompt, and selective startup.
Here again, Windows 10 strikes a nice balance between the old and the new, giving users the tools they expect regardless of which Windows version they previously used.