Over the years, several friends have asked about the best way to backup their computer. Here’s the short answer:
Download CrashPlan and backup to their online backup system. After the 30 day free trial, it’s a few dollars a month. It works on Macs and PCs. If you want, you can also set it up to backup to an external hard drive. CrashPlan is free if you’re only backing up to external hard drives, but I’d use the online option.
Here’s the long answer:
- If you’re computer is running low on storage space, upgrade to the biggest hard drive you can. I just upgraded my laptop hard drive to a 1 TB version for about $100. If you have a desktop computer, they have 3 and 4 TB hard drives in the $100-$200 range. Eventually, your hard drive will fill up. Fortunately, they keep releasing bigger hard drives. When your drive fills up, upgrade to the biggest drive on the market. Rinse, repeat.
- At some point, your hard drive will crash and you’ll lose some (probably all) of the data it had. Recently, my hard drive didn’t crash, but the operating system suddenly became corrupted. My computer wouldn’t do anything other than say “Reinstall everything”. How bad would it be if you couldn’t access any files on your computer? All those pictures. All those videos. Fortunately, I had backups, and within a few hours, I was up and running as if nothing had happened.
- When thinking about where to save your files, try to think in terms of “primary” and “secondary” storage. “Primary” storage is the place where the original versions of your files are saved. “Secondary” storage is backups. You’ll want at least one “secondary” copy of all “primary” files.
- I have a bunch of stuff stored on my laptop’s hard drive (photos, music, work stuff, etc). That’s “primary” storage. I backup my laptop to the cloud using CrashPlan. CrashPlan is “secondary” storage.
- I have a bunch of digital movies which don’t fit on my laptop, so I save them on a specific external hard drive. Since that’s where I actually save all my videos, even though it’s an external drive, it’s “primary” storage.
- I have an additional external hard which I use to backup both my laptop and the video external hard drive. This additional hard drive is “secondary” storage. (And yes, I backup my latop both to CrashPlan and this additional hard drive.)
- The hardest part of backing up your computer is usually finding the right backup software. The right backup software should involve a “set-it-and-forget-it” process. Once you’ve initially set things up, the software should automatically work its magic behind the scenes, diligently saving all your stuff without you having to think about it. You should never have to manually be involved with backing up your computer.
- If you only chose one place to backup your stuff, choose an online backup option. It’s easier and (probably) cheaper to get started, and you’re protected from natural crashes like fire, flood, and theft.