How to back up your data
Your computer, now no longer very recent, has begun to show important signs of failure and you are thinking of replacing it with a new one, however you are somewhat afraid in facing the backup procedure and therefore restoring data from the old to the new PC. Come on, don’t do that, it’s actually not difficult.
Data backup is of fundamental importance and must always be done, not just at the last minute in view of changing your computer (or your smartphone / tablet, the matter does not change). If your computer were to suddenly abandon you, how could you recover everything in it?
Making a backup therefore means thinking about the future, making a backup copy of all the most important files you own. It can be run both locally and in the cloud, then over the Internet. I advise you to use both solutions. How? Keep reading this tutorial of mine on how to backup your data and you will find out.
- How to backup your PC data
- File History (Windows 10 and later)
- Windows 7 Backup (Windows 7)
- Time machine (macOS)
- Other solutions to back up your computer data
- How to backup your data: Android
- How to backup data: iPhone and iPad
How to backup your PC data
Let’s start this guide by seeing, together, how to save data on computers animated by Windows and macOS through some useful system software.
File History (Windows 10 and later)
If you are using Windows 8.1 or a later edition of the operating system (e.g. Windows 10 or Windows 11 ), you can use File History , a handy utility that allows you to easily archive your computer data to a disk or file. external partition. Once configured, File History will take care of making the first data backup, which will be updated from time to time, modifying only the new files created or those modified (this type of saving is called incremental backup ).
Having said that, to configure File History, connect the external hard drive or USB key on which to store the files to the computer , click on the Windows Start button (the flag symbol resident on the left of the taskbar) and press the symbol of the gear , in order to open the Windows Settings.
Now, if you are using Windows 10 , click on the Update and security icon , choose the Backup option from the left sidebar and click on the [+] button next to the Add a drive item , to start the first configuration of File History ; at this point, choose the save unit from the list that is proposed to you and make sure that the lever located near the Backup with File History item is in the Activated position , otherwise do it yourself.
By default, the utility will make a backup of the most important system folders ( Downloads , Favorites , Desktop , Documents , Videos , Pictures , Music , etc.) on the chosen disk or drive, when it is physically connected to the computer; to add or remove save folders, immediately make a backup, decide the data storage interval and, in general, change the default behavior of File History, click on the item Other options , visible in the same window. For further information, I refer you to reading my guide onhow to backup your Windows 10 PC, in which you will find the entire procedure explained in great detail.
If, on the other hand, you use Windows 11 , you can reach the File History configuration utility in the following way: after connecting the external backup media to the computer, open the Control Panel by recalling it from the Windows System folder of the Start menu and click on the button or on the Activate lever , to enable the backup system with the default settings; then use the options in the left sidebar ( Exclude folders and Advanced settings ), to define in detail the behavior of File History.
Note : if you wish, you can also store files on a network disk, as long as it has been previously configured on the operating system.
Windows 7 Backup (Windows 7)
If, on the other hand, you have an older version of Windows, you can use the Windows 7 Backup utility , accessible directly from the Control Panel : therefore, open the latter by recalling it from the Start menu and click on the Back up computer option . , placed immediately under the heading System and security . If it is not immediately visible, set the View by drop-down menu , located in the upper right corner of the Control Panel, to the Category option .
Once in the new window, connect the disk or the USB key on which to store the data to the computer (if you have not yet done so), then click on the Configure backup item and select the backup drive from the proposed list. At this point, click on the Next button , choose whether to archive the files selected automatically by Windows or whether to manually select the data to be saved.
In the first case, Windows will automatically archive the files on the desktop, in the Pictures, Video and Music collections and will take care of creating an image of the operating system, to be used in emergency situations; in the second case, you can manually define the folders to be archived and choose whether or not to create the disk image.
Having made your choice, click on the Next button and, to specify the time interval and the type of backup schedule , click on the Edit schedule item in the same window; once this step is also passed, click on the OK (if necessary) and Save settings and backup buttons to start archiving the selected files. In some cases, you may be prompted to format your storage drive – keep in mind that if you proceed with the operation, you will lose all data that was previously on it. In case of doubts or problems, I invite you to read my tutorial onhow to make a Windows 7 backup.
Time machine (macOS)
If, on the other hand, yours is a Mac , you can enable automatic saving of files to an external drive using the Time Machine utility , Apple’s built-in system designed to easily store backup copies of files on an external drive. By default, the initial backup will be updated every hour if the disk remains connected to the system, or at each subsequent connection of the media.
To begin, therefore, connect to the Mac the external drive you have chosen to store the files: if this is ready to host the backups created with Time Machine, a window should appear on the screen, in which to indicate if and how to use the disk just connected. When this happens, click on the button Use as Backup disk and confirm the willingness to proceed, answering affirmatively to the warning that appears later. Following this operation, the creation of the initial backup will start.
If the disk is not natively compatible with Time Machine backup, you’ll need to format it using the macOS Disk Utility instead : to access it, go to the macOS Go> Utilities menu and double-click the software icon. Next, select the drive to format from the left sidebar, click the Erase button and make sure the Format drop-down menu is set to APFS (or Mac OS extended , if you don’t have a very recent edition of macOS). Finally, give it a nameto the unit and, aware that all previously stored data will be deleted, click on the Initialize button to proceed. More info here.
When initialization is complete, the disk should be recognized and macOS should ask you whether or not to use it as a backup disk; if this does not happen, open the System Preferences by clicking on the symbol of the gear resident in the Dock , press the Time Machine icon and put the check mark next to the item Back up automatically , to go to the disk selection phase; to find out more, I refer you to reading my guide to how Time Machine works, in which you will find everything explained in great detail.
Note : In the event of macOS malfunctions, you can restore the entire operating system, along with the data stored on it, directly from a Time Machine backup. More info here.
Other solutions to back up your computer data
If you find that the utilities I have reported to you are not suitable for your needs, you can follow some alternative but equally efficient ways: for example, if you need to define specific backup options or create real system images that can be restored in case of malfunctions, you can contact one of the many backup programs made for the purpose, many of which are available for free, of which I told you in the dedicated tutorial, available on my site.
Alternatively, if you would like to archive only a few files that are important to you on an external device, but do not know how to proceed, I refer you to reading my tutorials on how to transfer files to an external hard drive and how to copy files from your computer to the USB stick.
How to backup your data: Android
As for the backup of data stored on Android , I recommend that you opt for cloud storage: by doing so, not only will you be able to restore some operating system settings on other devices as well, but you will be able to access the data you have chosen. to also archive from other computers, smartphones or tablets, directly from the website of the chosen service.
For example, if your device has Google services , you can quickly save contacts, SMS, media files and other data directly to Google Drive ; for everything to go well, it is essential that the device has been associated with a Google account (the same one to use to restore data or to access them via the cloud).
To activate the storage of the main device settings on Google such as wallpapers, alarms, saved passwords, associated Wi-Fi devices and networks and so on, open the Android Settings (by tapping on the gear icon residing on the Home screen or in the app drawer), go to the System> Advanced> Device Backup menu and move the lever corresponding to the Backup on Google Drive item to ON ; then press the Back up now button to immediately send a copy of the data to the cloud.
However, if you want to save data used by the Google app, went in the menu Settings> Accounts / Accounts and Sync> [Google account name]> Sync account of Android and shifts to ON switches that correspond to applications that enable data saving; then, press the button (⋮) located at the top right and touch the Synchronize now item , located in the menu that appears.
To also enable the automatic archiving of photos and videos, start the Google Photos app (if you don’t have one, you can download it for free from the Play Store), tap your profile picture located at the top right and choose the Settings option . Photo from the menu that appears; from there, go to the Backup and synchronization section , move the lever of the same name to ON and use the Upload size menu to choose the image upload options.
If you intend to save the files also contained in other folders on the device, in addition to those made via the camera, tap on the item Device folders backed up and use the available switches to select those of your interest. To learn more about how Google Photos works, take a look at the specific guide I have dedicated to the topic.
I would like to point out that, if you wish, you can archive any type of file on Google Drive, simply by tapping on the sharing symbol resident in the app through which it is opened and selecting the Upload to Drive item from the menu that appears.
As you can easily imagine, the items stored in the cloud affect the space available on Google Drive which, for each account, is equal to 15 GB; if you intend to save large quantities of files (or photos and videos, which in themselves take up a lot of space), you may need additional space, which you can get by activating a subscription to the Google One service (with prices starting from € 1.99 / month for 100 GB of additional space).
For further information on the procedures seen in this chapter, if your smartphone / tablet is not equipped with Google services or, again, if you do not want to go to the cloud and are interested in analyzing alternative solutions, take a look at my tutorial focused on Android backup , in which I dealt with the topic in depth.
How to backup data: iPhone and iPad
Also on iPhone and iPad you can take advantage of the cloud storage service offered by Apple, called iCloud , to make a backup of the settings, photos, videos and data stored on the device from compatible apps. Also in this case, it is possible to restore and view the data stored in the cloud on all devices paired with the same Apple ID.
Having said that, to activate the backup on iCloud, open the iOS / iPadOS Settings by tapping on the gear symbol in Home or in the app Library of the device, touch your name and go to the iCloud and iCloud Backup sections ; then, move the lever labeled iCloud Backup to ON , return to the previous screen and activate the switches relating to the data of the apps for which you intend to backup.
To also save photos and videos, press on the Photo item and move the lever corresponding to the iCloud Photo item from OFF to ON ; for further information on the service just mentioned, please consult this tutorial of mine . Finally, go to the Settings menu > [your name]> iCloud> iCloud Backup and tap Back up now , to store the data in the cloud. More info here .
I remind you that, even in this case, the storage of personal files erodes the space available on iCloud which, for each user, is equal to 5 GB; if you need more iCloud storage , you can activate one of the iCloud + subscription plans , with prices starting at € 0.99 / month for 50 GB of additional space and access to extra features such as iCloud Private Relay and Secure Video. HomeKit . For more information about the plans available on iCloud + and the functioning of Apple’s storage system, please consult this tutorial dedicated to the subject.
If you prefer to avoid storing data on iCloud and would like to follow alternative routes, such as copying the data to your computer, I refer you to reading my guide on how to backup your iPhone , in which you will find listed some useful alternative saving systems to the cloud.