Can You Back Up Programs to External Hard Drives?

By Kevin Boone

Portable external hard drives don't require a separate power supply.
i Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

Yes, you can back up your programs to external drives. Backing up to external drives is an excellent way to back up your programs. You should also back up your financial information, personal files, music and videos at least once a week.


Since hard drives can fail at some point, backing up your programs to an external drive is essential for proper computer maintenance. You can run your programs from the external drive.


Hard drives break down due to power surges, equipment failure and natural disasters; they also sustain cumulative damage from daily use. Backing up your programs to an external drive reduces time spent on disaster recovery.

Windows Backup Utility

Windows XP Professional has a built-in backup utility called Backup, located in the System Tools folder. Windows Vista and 7 operating systems also have a built-in backup program, accessible through the Control Panel. Home Edition users will need to install NTbackup.msi from the original installation CD.

Backup Utility Features

The Windows backup utility allows you to copy entire folders, including program and system folders, to an external hard drive. The backup wizard allows you to choose which disks, files and folders to back up with self-explanatory instructions.


Make sure the disk you back up to can hold all your programs. For instance, if the programs you are copying total 50 GB, the external hard drive should be at least 50 GB.