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BACKUP & RECOVERY GUIDES

How to back up your computer

Why should I back up my entire computer?

There are many ways you can lose data, including theft, power outages, storms, floods, fires, and the greatest threat of all: you. That's right, human error is the number one cause of data loss. Think coffee spills, accidental deletions or simply forgetting to back up a file. The method you choose to back up your computer will determine how secure files are from being lost, and how simply you can recover them if you do lose them, for any reason.

What is computer backup?

Computer backup is a process that copies all your files, data and information to effectively create two versions – one on your original devices and one backup. It is designed to protect all of your important files and pictures, even the ones you save to an external hard drive.

Did you know that even if you're already using Windows backup software on your PC or Apple Time Machine on your Mac, you still need additional cloud backup to make sure all your important files and pictures are secure from the major causes of data loss? Learn how to back up files on your PC or Mac — and how to back up external hard drives — in this quick computer back up guide.

Computer backup options

There are many options for computer backup, but not all provide the same level of protection or ease of use. Some are good for security but make recovering files a hassle, while others are easy to use but not secure enough. The best computer backup is one that protects your files from all of the major risk factors, is easy to use, and helps you recover exactly what you want with minimal hassle. 

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Cloud backup

Cloud storage

External hard drive (EHD)

Thumb, USB or flash drive

Description

Offsite backup option that automatically protects all your files and data

Offsite backup option that lets you share and connect your files from multiple devices

Semi-portable backup solution that is easy to use but has limited storage capacity

The most portable backup solution that also has the most limited storage

Pros

  • The most comprehensive backup solution.
  • Automatic backups protect your data even if you forget to make a copy.
  • Manual backup is easy to use – usually using a drag and drop method.
  • You choose which files to back up, which can save space.
  • Semi portable solution.
  • Compatible and easy to use with most devices.
  • The most portable backup solution.
  • This is the cheapest backup option.

Cons

No downsides – this is the safest and most secure way to back up all your files.

  • Your most recent data is at risk when you forget to make backups.
  • Your files might be out of date or obsolete by the time you need them.
  • Small storage space limits the amount of information it can protect.
  • Susceptible to disasters like flood, fire and theft.
  • While it’s easy to throw in your bag but it’s also easy to lose.
  • Small storage space limits the amount of information it can protect.
  • Susceptible to disasters like flood, fire and theft.

Automatic cloud backup

PROTECTION: COMPLETE
RISK FACTORS: None

It's easy to confuse cloud storage with cloud backup, but the differences are significant. Both services store your files at an offsite location, protecting them from local outages, fires, floods and other disasters. But unlike cloud storage, cloud backup is a software-based solution that automates the backup process for you. So, even though your files are backed up to the cloud, the software lives on your computer, working silently in the background and backing up files, even while you’re working on them.


How to back up your computer to the cloud
To back up pictures and other files using cloud backup, install the software on your computer or laptop. The first time you launch the application, you choose which files and folders you want to back up. Your initial backup, depending on how many pictures and files you have on your computer, may take anywhere from a few hours to several days. Once completed, the software continuously scans your computer or laptop and uploads only the changes. It also saves previous versions of files for a period of time, usually up to 90 days. This offers protection against computer viruses and ransomware because if your system ever becomes infected, you can revert to prior versions of files as they existed before you were attacked.


Cloud backup pros and cons
Automating the back up of important pictures and files reduces your risk for human error. People accidentally delete or overwrite files all the time. Or they simply forget to upload them to an external hard drive, thumb drive or cloud storage service. With cloud backup, once your initial backup is completed, every file and folder you’ve selected stays protected continuously and automatically. And, if you ever accidentally delete or overwrite a file, you can recover it from backup easily.

Cloud storage or file sync and share

Cloud storage and file sync and share are two similar, often identical, options for backing up computer files. Examples include Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, and Sugar Sync. These services mainly offer two features: cloud space to back up files and the ability to access or share them from a connected device.


How to back up your computer to cloud storage
To back up your files and data to the cloud, you’ll first need to pick a cloud storage backup solution. With many options to choose from, it’s best to look for an industry leading service that has experience working with businesses and families alike. Once you choose a partner, you’ll be able to get started on the process.


Manual cloud storage pros and cons
The good things about these services are that the files you upload are stored in a remote or offsite location (the cloud, which protects them from local disasters like fires, floods, and power outages). But much like backup or external hard drives, thumb drives and USB drives, cloud storage and file sync and share are manual forms of backup. You must choose the files and you want to upload, and only those files are backed up. Cloud storage and file sync and share services will not protect against deletion or file overwriting.

External Hard Drive (EHD)

PROTECTION: PARTIAL
RISK FACTORS: Not automatic, subject to loss and damage

 

One of the most used forms of backup has been around for many years. External hard drives are popular for computer backup because they're portable, easy to connect to your laptop or PC, and relatively inexpensive. And since they've been around for a long time, people are comfortable using them.

To backup your files using an external hard drive, you typically connect the drive to your computer or laptop with a USB cable. Once connected, you can choose individual files or folders to copy onto the external hard drive. In the event you lose a file or a folder, you can retrieve copies from the external hard drive.

 

How to back up your computer to an external hard drive
To back up your files using an external hard drive, you typically connect the drive to your computer or laptop with a USB cable. Once connected, you can choose individual files or folders to copy onto the external hard drive. In the event you lose a file or a folder, you can retrieve copies from the external hard drive.


External hard drive (EHD) pros and cons
As popular as external hard drives are for computer backup, they will only protect you in a few of the scenarios where you're likely to lose files. The first challenge to using external hard drives as backup is that they will only protect the files or folders you choose to upload. Any large-scale file loss caused by things like a computer crash or disk failure could make you lose more files than just the ones you remember to upload. You should also know that when you back up manually, you could lose anything that's changed between backups.

 

Most people keep their external hard drives close to their computers, either right next to it or somewhere else in the home or office. That means the original files and any backup copies are vulnerable to theft, fires, floods and other proximate dangers. If you're using an external hard drive for backup, the best way to make sure your files are protected from all major risks is to back up both your computer and your EHD with cloud backup.

Thumb, USB or flash drive

PROTECTION: PARTIAL
RISK FACTORS: Not automatic, subject to loss and damage, limited space

Thumb drives and their similar counterparts act almost the same way as external hard drives, just with less storage room. They work as a limited backup option that can store some of your files and information. What they lack in size, they make up for in portability.

 

How to back up your computer to a flash drive
These small devices are relatively easy to use. You just drag and drop files or folders for safekeeping. They should plug directly into your computer through one of the USB ports or one of your other connectors. They hold a static backup – they don’t continually update their files as you work on and change them on your main device.


Flash drive pros and cons
A thumb or USB drive has a lot of the same benefits, and weaknesses, as an external hard drive. And because of their extreme portability, they're even easier to connect to a computer. But that same portability also makes them easy to lose and unreliable for backup. With USB or thumb drives, backup is a manual process that could easily lead to accidental deletions or file overwriting. And like external hard drives, thumb drives are subject to the same local catastrophes such as fires, floods, and theft. They're also more limited than external hard drives, in terms of space, so there's a good chance you won't be able to fit all the files from your computer onto a thumb or USB drive.

Best way to back up your computer

The best solution, and the one that relieves you from having to worry about losing your files, is cloud backup. Why?

Reliable protection
It offers the most reliable protection from local disasters like storms, floods, fires and outages.


Automated backup process
It automates the backup process for you, so you never have to worry about backing up individual files or folders.


Recovery from a virus
It also saves previous versions of your files so you can recover from a virus or ransomware attack without having to pay the bad guys to get your stuff back.


Carbonite® is a powerful tool to backup pictures and files because it’s designed specifically for file recovery. You can restore a single file or folder just as easily as you can restore all of them. For large-scale file recovery, such as a computer crash or hardware replacement, a cloud backup solution like Carbonite will save you hours of time and frustration with the click of a button.

Computer backup best practices

When businesses get serious about preventing data loss, they formulate a disaster recovery strategy that includes one or more of the backup options above. Personal users should do the same. The best solution, and the one that relieves you from having to worry about losing your files, is cloud backup. It offers the most reliable protection from local disasters like storms, floods, fires and outages. And it automates the backup process for you, so you never have to worry about backing up individual files or folders. It also saves previous versions of your files so you can recover from a virus or ransomware attack without having to pay the bad guys to get your stuff back.

Carbonite® is a powerful tool to backup pictures and files because it’s designed specifically for file recovery. You can restore a single file or folder just as easily as you can restore all of them. For large-scale file recovery, such as a computer crash or hardware replacement, a cloud backup solution like Carbonite will save you hours of time and frustration with the click of a button.