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Basic guidelines for making a backup copy of your important files

Why do I need a backup?

Hard drive failure or file corruption: either one could mean the end of your data. What can you do to ensure that your data will be safe should this happen? It is always a good practice to regularly back up data that is stored on your computer. Backing up your data is the practice of making a copy of that data so that you can restore it in case the original data is lost. Backups can be used to restore an entire hard drive or to restore a smaller number of files that may have been accidentally deleted or corrupted.

How frequently should I back up my data?

How often you back up your data is important to you. As a general rule of thumb, consider backing up your data as soon as you have created enough new files or made enough changes to existing files that it would be difficult to recreate them if they were lost. 

What data should I back up?

At the very least, you should back up files that are frequently changed, especially if they are important to you (e.g., term papers, resumes). You may also want to consider not only the documents folders where you store the files you create, but also your Web browser bookmarks, contacts databases, and files stored on your desktop. It's generally not practical to back up copies of programs you have installed, but you should always make sure you keep the installation disks or files so that you can reinstall those programs if necessary.

Backup Options


  • Crash Plan  Faculty and Staff can utilize Code42's cloud backup service on up to four devices. For more information, visit Desktop Backup - Crashplan. This is CIT's recommended way to do your backups. You can request CrashPlan be setup on your desktop by submitting a request.
  • Cloud Storage  Services such as Google Drive and Dropbox offer inexpensive cloud storage space for files.
  • External Hard Drives  You can purchase external hard drives that are large enough to back up your computer's entire hard drive. Many external drives come with software to help you manage and schedule regular backups. You can also use the Apple Time Machine feature or the Windows File History feature to back up data to external drives. External drives can be stored at an offsite location to protect them from physical damage that might be caused by a fire or other disaster.
  • USB Flash Drives  Flash drives are small, portable and can be reused many times, but they also offer significantly less storage space than other backup options. They are also much easier to lose or misplace. You can copy files to a flash drive by inserting it into a USB port on your computer and dragging and dropping the files you want to copy to it.
  • DVDs  DVDs are physical media that you can use to backup data. A DVD can hold either 4.5 GB (single-layer DVD) or 8.7 GB (double-layer DVD). It is possible to use multiple DVDs to back up all the data on your computer, but it is a time-consuming process. You will need a writable DVD drive in order to copy data to a DVD. If your operating system does not support drag-and-drop DVD writing, you will also need to install a separate software program that allows you to copy your files to DVD.
Please contact the CIT HelpDesk if you have any questions about establishing a backup plan.

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More Help

For questions, contact the CIT HelpDesk by calling (585) 245-5588, visiting us in Milne Library, or visiting our online service desk.