Home Tech How to Back Up Your Digital Life

How to Back Up Your Digital Life

0 comment
How to Back Up Your Digital Life

Even within brand names, some external storage drives are better than others. Many of us here on the Gear team have had great success with Western Digital hard drives. I like this 5TB model ($120 at Amazon, $135 at Best Buy), which will be backing up this article later tonight (it’s being backed up to the cloud as I type, but more on that later). If you don’t mind a larger design, there’s a Western Digital 8-TB desktop version that isn’t much more ($160 at Amazon).

The nice thing about buying a drive to back up your data is that you don’t have to worry about drive speed. Even a slow 5,400 rpm drive is fine. These slower drives are cheaper, and because the backup software runs in the background, you probably won’t notice the slower speed. That said, I now keep two backups of external hard drives: one on a traditional spinning drive and one on a more expensive SSD flash drive. It is extremely unlikely that a traditional spinning drive and SSD, even if purchased at the same time, will fail at the same time.

Buy the largest backup drive you can afford. Incremental backups (which is how all good backup software works) save disk space by backing up only the files that have changed since the last backup. Still, for backups you’ll need a larger drive than what’s on your PC. A good rule of thumb is to buy a backup drive that is two or even three times the size of the drive in your computer.

Set it and forget it

A good backup system runs without you having to do anything. There shouldn’t even be a backup process; it should just happen automatically. If you must to make a backup, probably not. That’s when the phrase “data loss” will enter your life.

Nowadays there is software that can automate all your backup tasks so that you only have to do the setup once and never have to think about it again. As with checking disk health, backup automation tools vary by operating system (and if you’re concerned about mobile data, read on, we’ll get to that below).

Mac users should create automatic backups using Time machine. It’s a wonderfully simple piece of software and possibly the best reason to buy a Mac. Apple has good instructions on how to set up Time Machine to make daily backups to your external hard drive. Time Machine is smart too; it only backs up the files that have been changed so it doesn’t take up all your disk space.

Windows 11 deals Windows backup, which backs up most of your data to your Microsoft account, but it’s not intended to completely restore your system if a hard drive fails. A WIRED reader tipped me off to Windows 10’s File History features, which automatically performs incremental backups on any folder you designate. While File History works quite well in my tests (and can take the place of something like Time Machine if you go through and set it up for each folder you need to back up), it’s a hassle to set up, and even more more confusing in Windows 11. Unfortunately, Windows doesn’t have a utility like Time Machine.

You may also like