How to Backup Computer Files to External Drive

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Whether it be music, movies, photos, films, data files, or projects, it is very important that you back up all your files. Although the amount of storage inside a laptop or desktop has increased greatly along with its decrease in cost over the last few years, having all your files saved in just one place – your computer – is highly frowned upon.

In a fast-paced world, there are so many ways that you can lose some, if not all, of the data that you have invested so much time to accumulate and create. To avoid losing valuable files, you should have a good backup strategy.

There are many various ways to backup your computer files. These multiple forms of backup can and will definitely minimize your risk of losing all your valuable files. Having an external drive to back up all your data is one of the best and easy ways to prepare for the unexpected.

Backup: Why is it necessary?

Despite the availability of ways to back up files and data, many people still believe that a disaster will never happen to them or to their workplace or business. Thus, there are still many people, even businessmen, and businesswomen, who are negligent about the necessity of an appropriate technology to support their businesses.

It is of utmost importance that you save a copy of your most important files and documents in a separate location other than your computer because there are several ways your files can be lost unexpectedly. Below are some of the possible issues that may occur, which explains why you need to backup your data and files:

  • Computer crash – this often happens very unexpectedly and can lead to loss of some, if not all, your valuable data.
  • Virus Infection – malicious and destructive viruses can corrupt files and even cause your computer to stop working.
  • Physical computer damage – if you are using a laptop, your files are at more risk since they are very sensitive especially when you drop them or spill a drink over them.
  • Theft – computers are very attractive to theft nowadays. Especially when you are traveling, you cannot assure your computer’s security.

According to National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, 93% of companies filed for bankruptcy within one year after losing their data center for ten days or more due to a disaster. Meanwhile, 50% of businesses filed for bankruptcy immediately after finding themselves without data management.

In addition to the statistics above, a study conducted by the University of Texas last 2007 revealed that 43% of businesses that undergone major data loss never opened again. In fact, many of these companies ended up closing their doors just a couple of years after the disaster.

People are not foolproof. In fact, all are capable of making flaws and usually, mistakes are made quite often. Frequently, emails containing viruses are opened every day which resulted in important files being erroneously deleted. Mozy Online Backup stated that in the United States alone, there are 140,000 hard drives that crash every week, and a simple drive recovery, though success is not guaranteed, can cost up to $7,500 and beyond. Thus, investing in a good backup technology is really important if you are to survive in your business or even at school.

In case you’re wondering, here’s a study conducted about how people will react physically when they lose an important data:

Just goes to show how damaging important data loss is and how important creating a backup is.

How to Backup to External Drive

On Windows

Backup On Windows

1. The first thing that you need to do is get a backup drive. Below are guidelines that you need to consider when buying a hard drive that will fit your needs:

  • Storage capacity – choose a hard drive that is at least twice as much as the space of your computer’s built-in drive.
  • Transfer speed – revolutions per minute (RPM) is an important factor in determining a performance of a consumer-level HDD. HDDs with higher RPMs transfer data to and from the drive faster.
  • Cache space – a special area of embedded memory called the cache or buffer is utilized whenever a hard disk needs to transfer data from one section of the drive to another. Therefore, an HDD with a larger cache permits faster data transfer because more information can be stored at one time.
  • Access times – although traditional HDDs’ read/write speed can influence performance, there is no definitive way to compare access times. And because most hard drives execute at similar degrees these days, you need not worry about this particular detail.
  • Failure rate – HDDs are mechanical devices so a wear and tear are expected over time. However, not all HDDs wear at the same rate. Some models fail within 1 year while others have a lifespan that exceeds 6 years. Do research first before you make a purchase.

2. After plugging in your new drive for the first time, you will receive a prompt asking you where you want to use the drive as a backup or not. However, in case you didn’t get a prompt, simply head to the Start Menu, then type “backup” in Windows’ search box. Afterward, click “Backup and Restore”.

3. After that, click “Set up Backup”. Choose your newly plugged in drive then click “Next”. You can just go on with Windows’ default settings and click Next up until the last screen.

4. When you reach the last screen, click “Save Settings and Run Backup”. After that, Windows will create your drive’s first backup. It’s important not to shut down your computer. After the process, your backup drive will make regular backups automatically. It will work silently in the background, so you don’t have to worry about any interruptions when using your computer.

If for example, you lost a file and that you need to restore it, simply head to Start Menu, enter the word “backup” in the search box, and click “Backup and Restore”. Afterward, click “Restore my Files” to recover those files in no time.

On a Mac

Backup On a Mac

1. As usual, you need a backup drive. The same guidelines for buying an HDD for Windows apply to Mac systems.

2. Like Windows, you will receive a prompt when it’s your first time plugging in your backup drive to your Mac. Once it appears, click “Use as Backup Disk”. If there’s no prompt, head to System Preferences and click Time Machine so you can set it properly.

3.After that, click “Select Backup Disk” then select your external drive from the Time Machine’s preferences.

4. Lastly, do not turn off your Mac as OS X will then create the first back up. After that, even without you doing anything, it will automatically backup all your data from time to time.

If for example, you will need to bring back a file, simply click on the Time Machine icon in your Menu Bar and hit “Enter Time Machine”. You can then search through your old backups and restore the file that you lost back to your hard drive.

Pros and Cons

External hard drives are so popular that they’re widely used as the number one backup storage device today. However, with all their wonders, there are pros and cons associated. Let us first start with the cons:

  • Prone to Theft – it is easier to steal a hard drive than it is to steal desktops or laptops. Laptops at least have passwords, while hard drives don’t. Though hard drives can be encrypted, only a few people are willing to go through the hassle of encrypting theirs.
  • Set to Fail – unless you are planning to make good and frequent backups, this can be a big problem. It’s because hard drives will eventually fail over time, and only a few of them are adequately backed up. Though most HDD manufacturers measure a drive’s lifetime via something called Mean Time between Failures (MTBF), that can be made shorter if you drop your hard drive or get it wet.
  • Power Necessity – oftentimes, an external hard drive needs an extra plug. Unless you are at home, this can be frustrating. If you are 100% depending on your external hard drive, it could still be of no use without an extra plug.
  • Incompatibility – many external hard drives are incompatible with older computers, particularly the ones that require a type of connection that is only a few years old, also referred to as eSATA connections. Moreover, even hard drives that require USB 2.0 might work slowly on computers that only support 1.0 USB.
  • Battery Hog – there are external hard drives that do not require an extra plug. However, they drain laptop batteries. They can draw about 20% of the total battery output in some laptops, thus cutting an hour or more off your battery life.

Despite the cons, however, there are pros in using hard drives. They are as follows:

  • Great for backups – using an external hard drive as a backup media is easy to do. Simply plug it in, copy some files, or use the Windows backup wizard to safely back up your files.
  • Versatile – with external hard drives, you can work on several computers regardless of what operating system the computer runs. It will work on Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows.
  • Makes travel easier – since external hard drives are small, you can travel with all your music collections, documents, important files, and movies anywhere you go.
  • Space Saver – external hard drives do not take up too much space. It can fit into your purse while carrying all of your valuable files and data.
  • Makes sharing computers more fun and safer – if you are sharing your computer but you have some files that you don’t want other people to access, saving those files in the external hard drive will make you feel safer sharing your computer with friends and/or family.

Two, or Even More, is Better than One

Ideally, you need more than just one backup. Using a backup drive isn’t actually enough. You’ll need both onsite and offsite backups.

An onsite backup is a backup that is stored in the same physical location where you are. Hence, if you back up your files to an external HDD, then store it at home together with your home PC, it’s called onsite backup.

An offsite backup, on the other hand, is when you store your backups in a different location. For example, backing up your files to an online server, likewise called cloud storage, you call it an offsite backup.

What’s the difference? And why is having two backups necessary?

Why two backups needed

First of all, onsite backups tend to be faster and less complicated. It’s often the first means used by most organizations to secure important data against data loss, and you should too. This is because the moment your data or files are lost, you can simply restore them from your backup drive. However, this alone isn’t enough. Several factors can cause you to lose all your files. Some good examples include fires, theft, water damage, and hardware failure.

Meanwhile, an offsite backup stores your files in an online server. There are several sites that offer such service for an affordable monthly subscription fee, although there’s a number of them that offers it for free. However, it doesn’t always mean storing your backup on an online server. Storing your files in a hard drive, then keeping them in a bank vault can still be technically called an offsite backup. However, it’s a bit more inconvenient.

Sites like Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive are just some of the many services when you can backup your files online.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, it is wiser to protect all of your valuable and precious information from sudden data loss or corruption. Though it is easy to say that some works can be redone, other lost works can be extremely time-consuming. Moreover, the loss of cherished files like family and travel photos is permanent, so saving a copy other than the ones on your computer is a wise decision.

However, an external hard drive is still a drive that is subject to wear and tear. You will need to replace it frequently. You may need to move your files to your new drive if it is still possible, or backup your files using a cloud service unless you want to start all over again. Always keep in mind that a regular backup is very necessary.

Short of money, but still in great need of doing backup? Check out our less expensive solution for your needs: Hard drive enclosure or docking station

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