How To Back Up Your Data For Free: Photos, Documents & More

March 31 of every year is World Backup Day. It’s another one of those manufacturing days that’s a bit annoying, but it serves as a reminder (which, frankly, we all need) to back up our files.

Cloud storage has made this so much easier: files, photos, and other documents automatically sync with Google Drive (and Photos), Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, and other services, but you still need to set that up in the first place.

It’s amazing how many people still haven’t taken that step, perhaps assuming that their phones and laptops will never be damaged, lost or stolen, or that even backups are taking place by default. somehow – magically – and they don’t have to do anything.

But you may only have one hard drive failure because of the loss of photos, videos, documents or other important files that can never be replaced.

Then there’s the ransomware threat, which encrypts your files and literally holds it for ransom until you pay (but dear reader, please don’t ever pay, for those reasons. scammers almost never send decryption keys).

However, all of these inevitable scenarios can be avoided, if you take a moment to choose a fallback method and set it up.

To help you, we’ve put together this guide to prove it’s easier than you think and doesn’t have to cost you any money. (Honestly, if you have a lot of photos or other data, you’ll need to buy some form of storage, whether in the cloud or a local hard drive.)

We’ll also explain how it’s possible to back up your entire PC or laptop, so that if disaster strikes you, there’s still a way to restore everything the way it was.

Backing up your phone is arguably the easiest part of this, and all you need to do is pay Apple or Google a small monthly subscription fee for the storage you need. Both companies offer free backups, but only if you have a small amount of data: 5GB for iPhone and iPad owners and 15GB for Android.

What is backup?

It sounds like a confusing question, but it’s well worth the explanation.

You may think that using a cloud storage service means you have a backup, but you need to be careful. Many services sync files from your device to the cloud. It happens automatically and it’s the most convenient option. But synchronize means – or can mean – it acts like a mirror. If you delete some files from your device, they will be deleted from the cloud.

It’s not a backup, so if you’re going to use cloud storage, make sure which service you use offers a setting to disable deletion, but still automatically load new and changed files. to the cloud.

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It’s also a good idea to create multiple backups to protect against your device’s capabilities and Your backup is lost. For example, you can use cloud storage as well as a local USB drive to back up your most important things, be it wedding photos and videos, plus those taken at events other special, financial or other documents and basically anything you can’t afford to live without.

How to backup to cloud storage

Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, pCloud and many more
cloud storage service
makes backing up your files super easy, and the free storage offered when you sign up might just be enough. Otherwise, you can pay a reasonable monthly or yearly fee to get more storage.

Just keep in mind that most cloud storage services synchronize files in a certain folder on your computer. This means that if you delete a file in that folder on your PC, that file will also disappear from your online storage. Many services have a recovery feature (like the Recycle Bin) so you can undo your mistake, but this can be limited to 30 days, so check it out!

how to backup your PC for free

The real benefit of cloud storage is that it creates a copy of your files in a separate physical location from your home. They are safe from flood, fire and theft. Cloud storage also has many other advantages: you can access files from practically any computer with an internet connection, and you can keep files synced across multiple devices.

Usually, everything is encrypted so that no one else can see or access your files, but some services are more focused on security than others.

Once you’ve chosen a cloud storage service, install the app on your device (they usually support Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android), then choose what you want to back up. Usually that means choosing folders with important content, but on your phone you should also look for options to back up your photo library.

With Google (Drive and Photos) and Apple (iCloud), you can back up everything you need to start fresh with a new phone. The free storage the services offer is unlikely to be enough, so you’ll have to pay extra, but it’s worth it.

How to backup to local USB storage

Just plug in a USB drive and use File Explorer to copy files from your computer to the removable drive.

This method is completely manual, but if you set a reminder to do it once a month and let it copy while you’re doing something else, it doesn’t really take much effort. Also, once the backup is done and the drive is disconnected, it will be offline and safe from ransomware attacks.

For a more automated option, try using Windows 10’s built-in File History feature. Alternatively, install some specialized backup software that will automate the process (but you’ll still have to plug in the drive. my USB).

how to backup PC for free

To avoid having to plug in a USB drive every time, you can buy a NAS drive. This is akin to a USB drive, but it attaches to your router instead of via USB. This is better because it can access all the computers in your home (including phones and tablets), so you can set them all to automatically back up to the NAS. More than just a storage device, they are like mini-computers and have elementary operating systems with – among other things – backup tools.

How to Backup Entire PC or Laptop

The first two methods we’ve outlined will back up certain files, but they’re not enough to get your PC or laptop up and running after the hard drive (or SSD) fails, or if Windows completely stopped working (as sometimes happens).

Backing up all the files on your hard drive is also known as a ‘disk image’ and you will need specialized software to do this. However, this doesn’t need to be expensive as there are free and paid versions available.

Again, you’ll find options in our separate roundup of the best backup software, as most of these apps offer both file/folder and full backup options. enough on PC.

How to back up your PC

How to backup your phone photo gallery

While Google no longer offers unlimited free storage, the best option for most people is to use Google Photos. Google accounts have 15GB of free storage, but it’s shared with Gmail and Drive, so you may not have enough 15GB for photos. However, you can sign up for Google One and get 100GB for £1.99 / $1.99 per month.

But iCloud is an equally good option if you own an iPhone rather than an Android phone. Apple’s free 5GB might just be enough space, but otherwise it’s just £0.79 or $0.99 per month for 50GB.

How to backup phone camera roll

Here’s our step-by-step guide to using Google Photos to back up your photos and videos.

On Android, your content is automatically backed up to Google (assuming you opt-in). Read our How to Backup Android and How to Backup iPhone guides for more details.

Which backup method is the best?

We acknowledge that there is no one-button solution to back up all your devices at once, and no form of backup is guaranteed for life.

For example, if you choose to back up your photos to a writable DVD (which you may have done in the past), it’s important to realize that it won’t be long before all drives DVDs disappear (some laptops and PCs have them too), and this means there’s no way to access backups on those discs.

The point is that it’s important to keep up with the times and ensure that your older backups are migrated away from any devices or platforms that may become inaccessible for much longer.

Another important point to consider are file versions. If you’re modifying a file because you’re researching and developing it, it’s helpful to roll back to previous versions. Some backup software supports versioning, as do some online backup and cloud storage services, including Dropbox.

If you’re using software to back up your entire PC, note the difference between incremental and full backups. Since only a subset of files change between backups, there’s no need to regularly back up all 500GB. Only new files and those that have been modified need to be backed up – this is called incremental backup. Its

Another thing to watch out for, however, is the ease of restoring backed up files. Some software and services allow you to get inside the backup and retrieve specific files, while others force you to restore the entire backup. For Windows users, look for the ability to mount the backup file as a virtual drive, then it will appear like any other hard drive in File Explorer.

If you don’t want to give backup the attention it deserves, we hope we’ve proven that it’s not as time consuming and expensive as you might be concerned. And remember that the effort will be well worth it when your hard disk fails, your laptop is lost, or someone steals it.

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