According to the latest Backblaze survey, 21% of people have never made a backup of their files. The figures show a gradual increase in backups since 2008, but there’s still at least one in five people 🙋🙎🙎🙎🙎 that are risking total data loss. And more than half of the people surveyed had no recent backup.
Fortunately technology has changed a lot in the last few years. There are a whole host of companies that offer free cloud storage. Large capacity, fast, and cheap external disks have also made backups at home easier. Software improvements in macOS and Windows have made backups automatic, so there’s really no excuse these days. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
A Quick Guide To Making Backups 📝
Identify the files you can’t live without. These might be a few spreadsheets, some word documents, your thesis, anything irreplaceable. These are the files you’d grab if there was a fire. Forget photos for now as I’ve tackled them separately below ⬇️. If these files are small text or office documents, use something like dropbox or google drive to keep them synchronised in the cloud. An added bonus is this data will also be available on your other devices like iPads, iPhones or other computers. These cloud hosts give away a small amount of storage for free, so you might as well use it!
Photos deserve a bit of special attention here. Photos and videos are often the largest files for home-users, and will usually be well over the limits of free cloud storage. Fortunately both Apple’s iCloud and Google Photos can take care of them. Google Photos will take an unlimited number of photo uploads but limits the size of single files. The size limits are fair for most home users, especially if you just use a smartphone and not a fancy camera. Although not free, the price for extra iCloud storage is pretty reasonable too – £0.79 per month for 50GB at time of writing. If you are an iPhone user, the iCloud option has other benefits like device backups, data sharing with Macs, iCloud Keychain etc.
Once you have one of these options set up, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it for a while and make sure the files are being copied over. You can login to all of these services from a computer and have a look at the files stored on there.
The Whole Hog™
Now you’ve sorted the important stuff, It’s probably worth going the whole hog and also making a local backup. Don’t worry, it’s not difficult, and once you’ve set it up, you hardly have to think about it again.
Mac Users 🍎
If you plug in a new hard drive, macOS will ask if you want to use it with Time Machine. BEWARE that this will usually ERASE the disk and DELETE any data that’s on it! If that’s what you’re trying to do, click YES! Time Machine will then make a backup of your whole Mac. The first backup can take hours to finish so try to leave the computer on until it’s done. Once it’s finished, Time Machine will make regular backups as long as the disk is plugged in. These smaller backups just copy over new changes so don’t take so long.
Recent versions of Time Machine will happily make backups to multiple disks if you have them. You could keep another one in a safe or at work, and bring it back periodically to update itself. Time Machine will figure out where it left off, and fill in the gaps.
If your Internal disk ever fails, you can use the Time Machine backups to restore everything, including Applications and settings. You can also recover single files at any point if you ever need to.
Windows Users 💼
Windows 10 has an automatic backup process too. It’s a little buried inside the settings, but once it’s set you can (pretty much) forget about it. I find the fastest way is to click the “Start Orb” and type “backup” into the search box. You want to choose “Back up with File History”. This should take you into the File History page inside Settings. Click “Add a drive” and select your external drive. Windows will now keep extra copies of your data files on that disk. The default options will backup things like Photos and Documents, as long as you store them in the standard Windows folders (which you should always do anyway!).
File history will only save your data files, so if the computer fails, you’ll need to get it up and running again before you can load the files back on. It’s worth checking if you have the original disks, or even seeing if you can create rescue disks. (It depends on your system). The “Backup & Restore (Windows 7)” program allows for a full system backup, but in my experience, this process is much more prone to errors, and also takes a long time to complete the backups.