The next, and probably most common, method of backing up your data is with a portable external hard drive. I use a combination of this method and the one I’ll be discussing in part 3. For this method you’ll want to get an external drive that is at least as big as your internal HDD or SSD. These types of drives use the standard USB interface and will be compatible with most systems. Just plug it in and let your computer recognize it. After that easy setup, you’ll want to do one of several things to begin backing up your data.
1) You could simply copy and paste your files that you wish to backup, including all of your documents, pictures, videos, and music. This is pretty self-explanatory.
2) Modern operating systems, both Windows and Mac, have their own backup software built right into them. You’ll probably get that as an option as soon as you plug-in the device. These programs will automatically backup your data, have sync options, automatic backup options, and can even backup system files in case of a crash.
3) There are also plenty of free or commercially available programs that work great. The best ones will feature system recovery options as well as automatic data backup.
4) Cloning is a final option. It is significantly different than the others though and you will probably need an external drive larger (I suggest 2x) than your internal drive. This option focuses on complete system backups as opposed to just data backup. So, if your computer completely crashes or is corrupted by a virus, you can completely recover your computer, all settings, and all data to a previous version.
Let’s imagine you have a 500 GB internal HDD and a 1 TB (~1000 GB) external HDD. But your entire computer system is using about 250 GB of space on your internal drive. That means with a cloning software you can keep up to 4 previous versions of your system. It all depends on how you configure it.
With any of these options make sure you always keep one copy on your main computer drive and one on your external. That way if one fails, one of your drives crash, the files get corrupted or destroyed by a virus, etc.; you always have a good copy somewhere.
The drawbacks of this method are that external devices, like your main computer can also fail. That’s why you should always consider these as backups and not permanent storage solutions. If the external device is a Solid State Drive or SSD it is less likely to crash or go bad, especially because of an accident. Whereas, if your kids knocks a Hard Disk Drive or HDD off of your desk you could lose all that data.