How to back up your computer hard drive

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I do something very similar. Every night at 3am I automatically zip up my documents to an external USB drive. Those zip files are then backed up to the cloud via dropbox. It really helped when my main hard drive failed. I also use the dropbox backup when I need to remotely access some of my files when I am away from home.

I’m using Linux, so I can reinstall my distro and have it updated in about 2 hours, most of which is just waiting for the download. That being, I just drag and drop my /home files to a USB drive. Simple easy.

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Also: two is one, and one is none.


I don’t need help making backups… I just want to verify that the backups I made are legitimately useful, and not just a placebo. Preferably without having to manually verify each and every file.


I haven’t gone as far as setting up local mirrored drives because i just don’t have the patience to do it, probably should but i haven’t (i’m a bad nerd, i know). So far i’ve just relied on remote backups with Carbonite and it’s been a pretty positive and painless experience.


I like to make backups, and then unmount it switch it off, perhaps take it somewhere else.

Live mirrored drives will let you corrupt both copies in a single shot. It’s not really a backup except in the case of hardware failure.


I’m slightly envious of users for whom making a single backup, let alone two local and one remote, is even possible.

Data hoarding and sensible backups tend to be mutually exclusive.


Having scheduled times for drives to back up make more sense to me as well. Only time one should do a backup right away is when something major is being done, like moving or deleting or bringing in a lot of files that are important. For my purposes i mainly use my set up for gaming so i’m ok with having the PC do its back up once a day late at night.


The mirroring advice is dubious; what you end up with is 2 corrupted drives more often than not. Common failure modes today are disk destruction (fire, flood) - that will take out your mirror as well - or things like ransomware, which will also take out the mirror.

I backup to an external drive - turn it on, backup, turn it off. Swap those out for your offsite. I also have Time Machine churning in the background.


And follow Schofield’s Three Laws of Computing

Schofield’s First Law of Computing states that you should never put data into a program unless you can see exactly how to get it out.

Schofield’s Second Law of Computing states that data doesn’t really exist unless you have at least two copies of it.

Schofield’s Third Law of Computing states that the easier it is for you to access your data, the easier it is for someone else to access your data.

Also, on a Mac, whilst Time Machine may suffice, for something more widely functional (including complete bootable disk images) I’d recommend SuperDuper.


Back ups?



I would argue that 1 remote backup is enough.

Back in 2001, I worked for a large bank in one of a pair of infamous towers as a programmer in their massive IT department. We were using best practices at the time to use offsite backups. We sent everything to World Trade Center 5 (!), twice a week. When my office collapsed, a year’s worth of work literally went up in flames. Offsite means miles away, not feet.

ps- In case you’re wondering: No, I never made it to work that day since I was at the dentist. Almost all my colleagues escaped safely since we were on the 60th floor, except our wonderful security guard who chose to stay behind. And, I hated my job, so this whole incident convinced me to go to grad school in Canada, following my girlfriend and I have never once regretted the decision.


For large amounts of data, having a local backup is extremely useful since it will save you the time and bandwidth of downloading terabytes from your remote backup provider. And unless your data is extremely valuable, I’d say having just one local and one remote is enough.


For work, where lost data is the stuff of nightmares, I have 3 local (1 of them on mirrored zfs drives) and 2 remote backups.
For home, I got some stuff backed up to old external drives, some stuff online, some stuff on usb drives. Maybe everything is backed up at least once, but probably not.

I can highly recommend Backblaze. They’ve saved my butt a couple of times. Plus Yev is a great Critter.

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Another thumbs up for BackBlaze here. Once setup it just ticks away in the background and I don’t even notice it’s running.

Local backups are done using Time Machine to a Synology RAID which is also very well-behaved and I love that I can control it from my web browser.

I’m a fan of Synology NAS ('cus I bought it before seeing this article).

Still, for a semi-techie like me, the interface makes it a breeze.