Connect 101: How to Back Up Your Computer
Technology| By Stephen Fenech | November 02, 2020
Here's why you should have a computer backup of important files, music, photos and videos on an external hard drive or in the cloud – and how to do it.
We store a lot of important documents and data on our desktop computers and laptops – and that’s not to mention entire libraries of personal photos, music and videos. But have you wondered what would happen if your computer suddenly failed or if your laptop was stolen? If the very thought of this makes you uncomfortable, then you probably don’t have a backup of these precious files. Creating a backup is a simple yet essential task to ensure your digital files are protected. Here’s how to do it the easy way.
Why Do I Need a Computer Backup?
There are a number of reasons why you need to back up your digital files and documents, and they’re not all due to misfortune – having a backup makes it easier to transfer files to a new computer, for example. But having a backup also helps us prepare for the worst-case scenarios, such as the hard drive on your computer failing or falling victim to a ransomware attack (where a cybercriminal locks all of your files after infecting your computer and demands a ransom to remove the lock on your system). A computer backup is the answer to all of these situations.
Where to Back Up Your Computer
The backup needs to be stored on an external hard drive or in the cloud, separate to your computer. It needs to be separate so it doesn’t suffer the same fate as your computer if it fails or is lost or stolen. Think of your computer backup like the spare key to your car – you don’t keep that in your vehicle, you keep that at home in a safe place. The same thinking applies here. The most common backup locations are on an external hard drive or in the cloud, a secure online storage location. Cloud storage – including OneDrive and iCloud – is accessible from any device, including smartphones and tablets.
Backing up to an External Hard Drive From Windows 10
If you use a Windows 10 computer, there are easy settings to connect an external hard drive and back up your most important files. External hard drives offer huge storage capacities and are relatively cheap. The ideal choice would be an external hard drive that has a lot more capacity than your computer so it can easily fit in all your files. For example, if your computer has an internal memory of 512GB, go for at least a 1TB hard drive so it can handle all your backups (check your computer’s capacity by going to Start button > Settings > Storage). The external hard drive is connected to your PC with a USB cable that comes with the drive.
Once connected to your PC desktop computer or laptop with this cable, follow these steps:
Step 1 Go to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Backup
Step 2 Click “Add a Drive” and another window will open up showing you the connected drive.
Step 3 Click on your drive in the list and the “Automatically Back Up My Files” option will switch on so it will back up every time your drive is connected to the computer.
By default, the computer will choose to automatically back up the folders where all of your files are located. Click on “More Options” and scroll down and you’ll see a list of the files that will be included in the backup, such as pictures, downloads, desktop, documents, videos and music. There is also an option to exclude files as well so you can single out the folders you don’t want to back up. Users can also set the frequency of the backup in the Backup settings. You can choose every 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 3 hours, 6 hours, 12 hours or once a day.
Hot Tip: You should aim to back up your computer at least once a day to safeguard your files no matter what happens.
Backing up to OneDrive From Windows 10
OneDrive is a Microsoft cloud storage service. To create a computer backup here, follow these steps:
Step 1 Click on the cloud icon in the notification bar at the bottom of your screen. Select it and sign in with your Microsoft account.
Step 2 Once signed in, you’ll see the cloud is white. Click on it and click “More and Settings”. A new window will open up.
Step 3 Select the “Backup" tab and select “Manage”. From this window, select the folders you want to back up, which include Desktop, Documents and Pictures, and click "Start Backup".
Step 4 Once completed, your OneDrive backup will be on the side of the File Explorer window.
Users receive 5GB of OneDrive storage free but if you require more space it costs $3 a month for 100GB of storage. Microsoft 365 subscriptions also include 1TB ($99 a year) and 6TB ($129 a year) storage.
Backing up to an External Hard Drive From a Mac
The easiest way to back up a Mac is with Time Machine, which sorts backups by date:
Step 1 Connect an external hard drive to the iMac or MacBook and a window will open asking if you want to use it as a Backup Disk.
Step 2 Click “Use as Backup Disk”. The next window will offer the “Back Up Automatically” option – check this box so the Mac will back up every hour.
Step 3 Check the “Show Time Machine in Menu Bar” option to see the backup status and the time of the last computer backup in the menu drop-down.
Backing Up to iCloud From a Mac
iCloud is Apple’s cloud storage solution and works easily with Mac computers. To create an iCloud backup of your Mac:
Step 1 Go to System Preferences > Your Name > iCloud.
Step 2 Sign in with your Apple ID if needed and select iCloud Drive.
Step 3 From here, you can choose which apps will be backed up, such as Photos, Mail and Contacts.
Step 3 To add specific folders and documents, click the “Options” button next to iCloud Drive to select them and then click “Done”.
iCloud offers 5GB storage for free. Users can buy 50GB ($1.49 a month), 200GB ($4.49 a month) and 2TB ($14.99 a month).
How to Restore From a Backup on Windows
If you need to restore your files, right click the Start button > Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Backup and Restore. From here, you can select “Browse for Files” or “Browse for Folder” to choose what you want to restore.
How to Restore From a Backup on Mac
To restore your Mac from a backup, open the Applications folder, open the Utilities folder and open the Migration Assistant. Check the option from a Mac, Time Machine backup or startup disk. In the next window, select the Time Machine backup and you can choose from a list of backups based on the time and date of the computer backup.
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