Dan Benamy

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From time to time, people tell me they want to back up their computer and ask me for advice on how to do that. Unfortunately there isn't one perfect solution. Here are my thoughts on the available options and the trade offs involved. Which you choose depends on what scenario you're trying to protect against, how careful you want to be, how much work you want to do, and how much you want to spend.

If your data isn't super sensitive and/or you're not paranoid about security, I'd suggest an online backup tool such as Mozy. I haven't used Mozy so I can't vouch for it first hand, but it's easy and cheap enough to try.

The long version is…

Option 1 - An online backup tool like Mozy. It backs up your computer to their systems over the internet. Pros:

Option 2 - Dropbox or similar tools, which let you back up and sync a given folder or folders between computers Pros:

Option 3 - A backup disk connected to your computer and a backup program to copy your data to it. Pros:

Option 4 - Like option 3 but with a 2nd backup drive. You switch which drive is connected to your computer periodically. Pros:

Option 5 - Like option 4 but with the unused backup disk moved out of your house or into a fireproof safe. Pros:

On pcs, I've used Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image Home as backup programs to a disk connected to the computer. They're both ok, at least in some scenarios.

On macs the options of using one or more backup disks connected to the computer are easier and cheaper than for pcs because macs come with backup software that is really easy and nice to use.

Last updated 2011-07-11