This Is How Often You Need to Back Up Your Computer

Here's how often tech pros say you need to back up your computer, and the best methods of backing up all your digital belongings.

Why you need to back up your computer more

Most people don’t think about backing up their computer until they experience the dread of a hard drive crash. It’s only then that the sad reality of a life’s worth of photos, music, spreadsheets, contacts, and other assorted files disappearing in an instant truly sinks in.

Some people back up their computer daily while others prefer a weekly or monthly back up. Some hardly ever do it at all. So, just how often should you be backing up your computer? Stacy Clements, a retired Air Force cyber operations officer and current owner of Milepost 42, a tech partner for small businesses, shares that “the optimal frequency for backing up is unique to each individual; you need to look at your procedures and find that balance between convenience—how often you’ll actually take the time to do it—and how important your data and files are to you—how much can you afford to lose?”

That said, Clements believes “you need to back up your computer every time you put something on it you don’t want to lose.”

Thankfully, it is more convenient than ever to back up your computer thanks to affordable external hard drives and easily accessible automated cloud-based storage services like Carbonite and Apple’s iCloud. (It turns out Google knows a lot more about you than you originally thought.)

Everyone should back up their computer at least weekly

“How often you need to back up your computer is going to depend largely on what you use your computer for,” says Mike Towler of Mike’s PC Repair. For example, “someone who uses their computer for business as well as for [extensive] personal use is going to need to back up their computer daily [ideally through a pain-free automated process].”

On the other hand, those who mostly use their PC to “play solitaire and watch cat videos” might not have the same pressing need to back up their computer. Joking aside, Towler suggests that “everyone back up their computer at least weekly.” Automated cloud-based backup solutions, like Carbonite for everything stored on your computer and Amazon Photo for videos and pictures on your computer and phone, are readily available, affordable, and easy to set up. (You’ll never guess what Amazon was almost called—and why they had to change the name.)

Let the “3-2-1 backup strategy” be your guide

Denis Gorbachev of Cloudberry Lab recommends the “3-2-1 backup strategy in which you keep three copies of each important file; two of them on different external hard drives, stored in different locations, and one in the cloud.”

Here’s a real-life example of how often you need to back up your computer from Jimmy, a wedding photographer at Pixelicious. He uses the 3-2-1 strategy to ensure his client’s special memories are both in the cloud and on external hard drives so that they never get lost. “Before leaving a wedding reception, I immediately pull one of the two memory cards from my camera and store it in my wallet. A backup of the images will [literally] follow me wherever I go!” says Jimmy. “Then, as soon as I get home, a copy of the files will be transferred to my desktop so that before the sun rises again, I already have three copies of my client’s images.” After editing, copies of the final images are immediately uploaded onto his cloud storage, while duplicate sets are transferred to tandem external hard drives, one of which is stored in a bank’s safety deposit box. Having multiple backups provides peace of mind.

Your first computer back up may be a tedious affair as all of your downloaded music, photos, and files get copied onto external hard drives and up to a cloud. But, that initial time and effort will save you from the dread of losing it all in a crash. From there, the ongoing back up process will become streamlined as additional files get copied to drives and backed up through automated methods.

Another electronic device you’re not restarting enough? Your phone. Here’s how often you should restart it.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest