How to Back Up Your Digital Life: Hard Drives, Cloud-Based Tools, and Tips

Even within brand names, some drives are better than others. Many of us here on the Gear Team have had luck with Western Digital hard drives. I love this 4 TB model ($ 90 at AmazonAnd the $ 95 at Target), Which will be backing up this article later tonight (it’s being backed up to the cloud as I write, and more on that in a minute). If you don’t mind a bigger form factor, there’s a 6 TB “desktop” Western Digital version that isn’t much more than that.$ 141 at AmazonAnd the $ 155 at Walmart).

One of the good things about buying a drive to backup your data is that you don’t have to worry about driving speed. Even slow driving at 5,400 rpm is okay. These slow drives are cheaper, and since backup software runs in the background, you likely won’t notice the slow speed.

Get the largest backup drive you can afford. Incremental backups – the way all good backup software work – saves disk space by backing up only files that have changed since the last backup. But even so, you do need a larger backup drive than any other drive on your computer. A good rule of thumb is to have a backup drive that’s more than twice or even three times the size of the drive in your computer.

Set it and let it go

A good backup system works without you having to do anything. If you had to make a backup, you probably wouldn’t. These days there is software that can automate all of your backup tasks.

Mac users must use Time Machine. It’s a great simple program and it’s probably the best reason to buy a Mac. Apple has it Good instructions On how to set up Time Machine so you can make daily backups to your external hard drive. A very smart time machine. It will only backup the changed files, so it won’t take up all of your disk space.

Windows 10 comes with what Microsoft calls “Backup,” but it lacks the polish of the Time Machine interface, and it doesn’t seem like it’s meant for everyday backups. While many of Time Machine’s features are in backup, discovering them is not for the faint of heart. To get Windows Time Machine-level simplicity, you’ll need to turn to third-party software. I have had good luck with you Macrium inverting, Which has a free option that does most of what you need.

Off-site backups: all-in-one

The second backup I suggest is off site. In the “cloud” as marketing departments call it – it’s just another way to say “on someone else’s computer.” In this case, I mean a server in a data center away from your home. This is a backup that covers this terrible scenario of physical destruction. For example, I lost a laptop once due to a lightning strike (yes I had a surge protector, it’s pretty much liquefied), but since my data was backed up to the cloud, I’ve managed to restore everything.

What you don’t want is something like Dropbox, Google Drive, or These are all great ways to share and sync documents, but they are not good for backups. Whenever you change a file on your computer, those changes are then synced with Dropbox. This means if a file gets corrupted, the damage is then sent to Dropbox and it streamed through all of your backups. This is not what you want. A good backup never changes. You copy the file and then don’t touch it again.

Fortunately, there are tons of cloud backup solutions available. Some are all-in-one: you can register, download the service app, and you’re done. This is what we suggest for newcomers.

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