Back up your stuff. No matter how you do it, it’s better than nothing.

About once a year, I nag all of you to back up your important stuff. It’s not because I have nothing better to write about, it’s usually because I’m working with someone whose computer crashed. (Sometimes that someone is me.) If there’s a good, recent backup then it’s a matter of putting in some effort, but without that backup it’s a lot of handwringing and sadness.

Bobby’s first kindergarten assembly? GONE.
All your tax records since 1997? GONE.
That home movie you took just before Nana passed away? GONE.

And seriously, gone means gone. If you have your important photos, videos, documents, even music stored on one hard drive and that hard drive breaks then you have lost the documentation of your life. It’s just as simple as that.

In the old days, you couldn’t make copies of every photo, every record, every video tape or reel of film. If your memories were lost in a fire that was the end of that. Today it’s easier, but of course it takes one simple step: you have to actually do it.

Buy a big flash drive. Write a bunch of CDs if you’re retro. Subscribe to a cloud service. To paraphrase Oleta Adams, I don’t care how you get there, just get there if you can. There are so many ways to preserve that important stuff… just do it.

And don’t just do it once. Get in the habit. PCs and Macs have automatic backups, called File History and Time Machine respectively, that will constantly back up your files to portable hard drives. It’s easy to set up and hard drives are ridiculously cheap. Once every quarter, once every six months, whatever, copy your important stuff somewhere else. I mean somewhere outside your house. Give a backup to a family member or put it in a bank vault, or put it up on your Google Drive or OneDrive or Dropbox or whatever. The point is you have to do it.

A few weeks ago, a family member came to me with a 2-month-old laptop that had already totally failed. I’d set it up initially, so I took a backup when I finished. So while a little bit of data was lost, it wasn’t much. Decades of important information didn’t disappear and that’s the point.

You can backup your phone or tablet, too. Usually it’s automatic when you sync to a PC, but if it isn’t, just make sure all the photos and music you have stored are copied off. Because right now you know someone who dropped their phone and lost everything on it. I guarantee it. It might even be you.

This doesn’t need to be an all-consuming passion, just make sure the important stuff is stored somewhere. Make a few copies of the really, really important stuff and put them in different places. It only takes a few minutes…

…and hopefully you’ll never have to say “I’m glad I did.”

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.