Fortunately, backing up your computer is easier than ever with the advances in cloud storage and local software. No backup system is ever going to be perfect, and thereís always the chance that something may go wrong, but you should still consider it a critical necessity.


Whether youíre on a Mac or a PC, both major operating systems include pretty robust backup systems built into your computer already, both for a couple folders or your entire computer.

But first, youíll need an external hard drive. Generally, you want your backup drive to be (at the bare minimum) as big as your internal hard drive, and ideally around one and a half to two times as large.


If youíre on a Mac, then you already have a great backup tool at your fingertips called Time Machine. In fact, thereís probably an icon for it thatís been waiting at the top of your menu bar. Simply take an external drive (see above), plug it into your computer, and open up Time Machine to configure it as a backup drive. Time Machine will more or less handle the rest, backing up individual files, folders, and apps. And if you get a new machine or need to reset your computer completely, OS X will prompt you to provide a Time Machine backup to restore from. Just make sure to be good about plugging in your drive regularly to actually do the backups; a backup thatís three years old is better than nothing, but the more often you back up, the better covered youíll be in case of an emergency.


Microsoft has added integrated backups to Windows 10, and it works pretty much the same way as on a Mac. Plug in your external drive, and navigate over to File History. (You can either search for this in the Start menu, or find it in the Settings app in the ďBackupsĒ portion.) There, youíll be able to select specific folders to back up, and how often youíd like Windows to back things up. Just like on a Mac, though, youíll need to actually plug in your drive for your files to actually get backed up.


Local backups are good, but much like your actual hard drive, theyíre also prone to getting lost, damaged, or stolen. So itís probably worth investing in some cloud storage options as a backup backup, just in case.

For individual files ó like, say, an important copy of a presentation, or your big lab report thatís due next week ó the simplest way to back up to the cloud is with providers like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or iCloud. All of them allow you to install an app that scans a local folder and keeps everything in it uploaded to the cloud. That way, even if your whole computer gets hosed, youíll still be able to log in and access it from anywhere.

But if you want the extra level of protection, then itís worth investing in a subscription to a service like Backblaze, which costs $50 / year (or $5 / month) for unlimited storage of all your files online. Itís not quite as versatile as Dropbox when it comes to just pulling a couple files down from the cloud, but if you need a full-service cloud backup service, itís hard to beat.