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How to Back Up Files Using an External Hard Drive

With the holiday season approaching and many photo ops popping up, it’s more important than ever to back up your pictures and other files from your main computer. Transferring files to an external hard drive is the best way to ensure your files are safe, and easily accessible. Follow along for an easy way to store your data!


Backing Up Files Using External Hard Drive

Back-Up Single Files or Folders

First, and foremost, you’ll need to purchase an external hard drive. I suggest something with at least 750GB, but just going straight for the 1TB will save you from needing another one down the line should you fill this one. Once you have your hard drive, find a good place to keep it. I keep mine behind my computer screen, so it’s out of the way but still within reach should I need it. I don’t keep it plugged in constantly, only hooking it up as needed.

Now, go ahead and hook up your drive via USB. It’ll probably take your computer a few minutes to register the drive, and depending on the brand, the computer might need to install driver software. Just hang tight while the computer sets itself up! It should pop up at the bottom of your screen alerting you the drive is now ready to use, but after a few minutes if it does not, simply open My Computer and search for the additional drive. Usually, the drive is will be titled by the brand name, but you can change this by right clicking the text and selecting “Rename.”

Double click the drive to open the window. If this is your first time using the drive, the window should be empty. Right click anywhere in the empty white area, and select, “New,” then “Folder” to create a place for your files to go. I suggest naming the folder with the date you are backing up the files, as this will help you find something you’re looking for quickly. You can now double click the new folder to open it and begin adding your files!

For now, click the lower right corner of the window and make it small enough that you can view your desktop icons. It might be easier to just drag the window off to the right a little bit. On your desktop, find the folders and files you want to back up. Typically this would be “My Pictures,” or “My Music,” both located in your “My Computer” folder. Whatever you want to back up, now is the time to locate it. If you want to back up entire folders or single files, all you need to do is the standard Drag and Drop method. Hover your mouse over the folder, or file, you want to copy, left click and hold, and drag it over to the empty window you kept open on the right side of the screen, unclicking once the icon hovers over it. Depending on the size of your folder or file, the copy could be instant, or a status bar will pop up showing you the progress of the copy. Once the status bar disappears, your files are saved to the hard drive! Be sure to eject your hard drive (right click the icon in the lower right hand corner of your desktop and select “Eject”) before unplugging it or turning it off.

Back-Up All Files

Some people feel better about backing up their entire computer, which is also a very wise thing to do if you have too many important files to tediously drag and drop them one by one. This can also be done fairly easily. After you have plugged in your external hard drive and allowed your computer to install driver software if necessary, you can get started. There is no reason to open the hard drive itself, as this process will be done automatically by your computer. Open your “Control Panel,” and under the “System and Maintenance” folder, there will be an option for “Backup and Restore.” When you click this, the wizard will open, prompting you with steps. Assuming this is your first time, you will need to select “Set Up Backup.”

The system allows you to choose where you want the files to be saved, and you should select your external hard drive. The wizard will also ask what files you want to back up, and as a first timer, I suggest following the recommended option of letting Windows choose. The wizard will also want you to set up a back-up “schedule,” which is simply a time of your choosing that the computer will automatically back-up your files, with no extra work on your part! You can save the settings Windows has chosen, or “Change Schedule” to choose a different day or time.

Once you click “Save Settings and Run Backup,” your first back up will begin. After it is finished, the wizard will alert you, and you are now free to access your files and folders from your external hard drive! Again, remember to eject your hard drive before disconnecting it from your computer. Happy saving!