Backing up data

01 September 2015 ( 04 October 2016 )

There are many reasons why backing up data is essential. Our guide explains why, what devices to use and how often you should back up.



The first words of advice a computer expert will give you is: “Back up your computer” or “Back up your files.” 

But what does that mean and why is it so important?

Backing up your computer simply means copying information that’s stored on your hard drive and storing it in a different location. 

That way, if your computer crashes, you won’t lose your documents, photos, videos and other important information.

Today’s computers can store a huge amount of information and aren’t as prone to crashing as they used to be. So it’s easy to use your computer for years and never give a second thought to backing it up - until you spill a cup of coffee over your laptop and suddenly realise how much you rely on having the information it possesses at your fingertips, or accidently open a virus that wipes your computer clear.

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Why back up your computer?

Most of us don’t need to worry about backing up every bit of data we’ve stored on our computer, but we do need to back up the most important information. Over time, we store an enormous amount of data like digital photos, videos, spreadsheets with tax information and other important documents.

Too many people have learned the importance of backing up their computer the hard way. But it’s easy to do and you’ll be glad you did if and when the worst happens.

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How to back up data

There are two simple ways to back up your computer:

  • You can copy files and folders on to an external hard drive, DVD, USB thumb drive (or ‘stick’) or other ‘hard’ storage device. If you’re not familiar with these, they are available at any computer store and the sales staff can help you.

  • You can store your information in the cloud. If you’re not familiar with the cloud, find out how it works with our guide to cloud computing.

Ideally, you should do both. Any type of hard storage device can become damaged or lost and although online cloud storage is relatively secure, things can go wrong and you may only be able to access your data when you’re online.

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To back up information on an external disk or device:

  • Plug in or insert the device into your computer.

  • Highlight the files and folders you want to copy on to the device.

  • On the sidebar, you will be given the option to move, copy or delete the file or folder. If you don’t see this, right click your mouse on the file and a pop-up display will appear – click ‘copy’.

  • Choose ‘copy’ and find the location of your device in the menu that appears.

  • Highlight the location and click ‘paste’.

Your computer will do the rest for you.

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Backing up in the cloud

A number of cloud services are available for storing data. Three of the most popular are:

  • Google Drive allows you to store up to 15 gigabytes for free.

  • Apple iCloud allows Apple Mac and other Apple users to store up to five gigabytes for free.

  • Dropbox is a popular storage device that will store up to two gigabytes for free. It also creates folders on your computer, so you don’t have to manually copy files to its cloud service if you save them on Dropbox.

What is cloud computing?

How often should I back up my computer?

How often you should back up your computer depends on how often you use it. It’s good to get into the habit of backing it up monthly, but you may want to back it up more frequently or every time you create or store important data on your computer.

The first time you back up your computer, you will be in unfamiliar territory and it may take a little while to find your way around. 

After you’ve done it a few times, it will be easier. Stick with it until it becomes a habit – you’ll be glad you did.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.