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Guide for creating backup versions of files.

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Backing up data refers to the process of copying and archiving data. It is very easy to misplace or delete important files. Therefore, to ensure that your files are both safe and can be found easily, it is smart to store them in multiple locations where you will be able to retrieve them easily. A good rule of thumb is to have your data in at least three places. Your computer, a local backup (external drive), and a cloud service.

Choosing the Right Backup Method

Ensure that you have picked a method that protects your data while ensuring timely access.

Backup Methods

There are several different ways of backing up data. The following is a list of a few simple ways along with some advantages:

External Hard Drive 

Backing up to an external hard drive. An external hard drive can be small and portable, such as a flash drive, or it can be larger in order to offer a lot of storage capacity. Using external hard drives allow you to have a backup copy of your important files in an easy to access location if your computer hard drive stops working.

  • Backing up files onto an external hard drive is fairly easy, in most cases it can simply be plugged into the computer's USB port. 
  • After it is recognized, you can go to My Computer by pressing the Windows logo+E keys, or simply by going to Start>>My Computer. Once there you should see the new hard drive as an icon for the new hard drive. Double click to open it up. Once the new window opens, any files you wish to save can be simply dragged into the new window. The files will then be copied to the external hard drive where they will be stored until you remove them or the external hard drive dies.
  • On a Mac, you have Time Machine, which is the built-in backup feature of your Mac. When you connect an external drive directly to your Mac, you might be asked if you want to use the drive to backup with Time Machine. Click Use as Backup Disk.
    • If Time Machine doesn't ask to use your drive, follow these steps to add it manually:

      1. Open Time Machine preferences from the Time Machine menu in the menu bar. Or choose Apple () menu > System Preferences, then click Time Machine.
      2. Click Select Backup Disk (or Select Disk, or Add or Remove Backup Disk)
      3. Select your external drive from the list of available disks. Then click Use Disk

Online (Cloud) Backup Solutions

Backing up your data to the cloud can be accomplished through a number of services. There are fee-based services offer different plans, with monthly or annual costs depending on the amount of space you require. Some services even offer free limited plans if you only have a small amount of data to back up or if you’d like to test out the service before committing to a subscription. In some cases, you may not need a lot of space and simply wish to store some files online for easy access. Many free options exist for this purpose with more storage space available at an additional cost. 

Email Account

Using email (such as Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc.) is an easy way to transport and secure small amounts of information such as a few documents or pictures. This keeps it safe from any hard drive it is accessed on and is only reliant on the mail client's servers. It is able to be accessed easily anywhere you have Internet access.

  • This form of data backup is simple. Documents can be sent through email to your own or someone else's mail account if you so choose. Documents can be sent in an email via the "attachment" function of the web-mail

    Some mail servers allow you to send file types that others will not), the file can be found by browsing the computer and selecting it.


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