Back It Up

I want you to add a simple but important New Year’s resolution to your list — make 2018 the year you regularly back up your digital data. Don’t worry — keeping your precious files, photos, and videos safe is neither difficult nor expensive.

Copying Your Computer Files

Given their price and versatility, I highly recommend using an external hard drive to back up your personal computer. While using a thumb drive is fine if you want to save individual files, a larger hard drive gives you space to create automatic system backups. I personally love my 2 terabyte (TB) Seagate Backup Plus Slim ($80), as it is both lightweight and has plenty of space.

If you are using Windows 8.1 or 10, File History is a simple way to automatically back up your documents, music, and important photos/videos. Simply enter “control panel” in the search window in the lower-right corner of your screen. Then click on “file history” under “system and security.” Then connect your external hard drive and select it as your backup drive.

Mac users can easily use the Time Machine feature for backups. You should get a notification about how to set up Time Machine as soon as you connect the external drive. If not, go to the Apple menu, choose “system preferences,” then “Time Machine.”

Backing Up Your Mobile Devices

An even bigger nightmare than a computer crash is losing all your smartphone data. Fortunately, both Apple and Android make it easy to save your contacts, app data, and personal photos.

Apple customers can use iCloud to back up their iPhones or iPads. To get started, go to “settings,” click on “iCloud,” and turn on “iCloud backup.” Keep in mind that uploading files to iCloud requires your device to be plugged in, and connected to Wi-Fi. The first 5 gigabytes are free, and you can upgrade to 50 GB of storage for only $1 a month.

Meanwhile, Android users can back up their data to their Google account. To enable backups, go to “settings” and select “backup.” Ensure that “back up my data” and “automatic restore” are both checked. This will allow you to restore all your data and settings simply by signing in to Gmail. Additionally, you can save your photos and videos to your Google Drive. To do this, open the Google Photos app and sign in to your Google account. At the top, tap menu (three bar icon) and select “settings, back up & sync.” You get 15 GB of free image storage and can add an additional 100 GB for just $2/month.

Going to The Cloud

Saving your files to the cloud simply means you are uploading them to a company’s high-capacity storage server. Most modern cloud services have excellent security, offer reliable internet access to your files, and are affordable. I’ve already discussed iCloud and Google Drive, but here are a few more options.

Microsoft’s OneDrive is a great way to save all your Word docs, PowerPoint slides, and Excel spreadsheets. You can try the free plan, which gives you 5 GB of storage, but you get 1 TB of storage by getting an Office 365 Home, Personal, or University subscription.

Amazon Prime users now get unlimited photo storage included with their subscription, along with free 5 GBs for storing videos and other files. You can also invite up to five friends or family members to take advantage of the unlimited Family Vault storage.

Finally, you may want to consider an online back-up service as an insurance policy. I recommend using IDrive, as it allows you to back up all your computers and devices. It also has a “snap shot” feature that lets you restore all your files should your hard drive crash or your system get hijacked by malware. The free trial gives you 5 GB of storage, but the Personal plan is a fantastic deal since it provides 2 TB of data for $69.50 a year.


John DeWeese is a Northwest freelance writer and video game and technology aficionado. He reports on the latest gizmos, gadgets, and tech news for 425.

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