Backing Up Your Data

It is always a good practice to regularly back up data that is stored on your computer. Why should you back up your data? There are a number of scenarios in which the information on your computer could be lost:

  • Your hard drive could fail
  • Your files could become corrupted
  • Your laptop may be lost or stolen
  • Your data could be deleted by mistake
  • A virus or other malicious program could harm your data

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 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 up 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.

What options do I have for backing up my data?

Box Cloud Storage

Pitt has partnered with Box to provide 25 GB of free cloud storage for your files. You can upload files and folders quickly and access them from anywhere on any device. You can search the full text of files that you store on Box, and you can even sync files to your desktop. Box uses state-of-the-art technology and industry best practices for data encryption during transit to and from the Box cloud, as well as while stored within Box. Log in to http://pitt.box.com with your University email address and password to begin using the service. For detailed information on using Box, please visit http://technology.pitt.edu/box.

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.

CDs and DVDS

CDs and DVDs are physical media that you can use to back up data. A CD can hold approximately 750 MB of data, while DVDs 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 writeable CD or DVD drive in order to copy data to a CD or DVD. If your operating system does not support drag-and-drop CD or DVD writing, you will also need to install a separate software program that allows you to copy your files to CD or DVD.

External 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 Mac Time Machine feature or the Windows Backup and Restore 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. External drives tend to be the most expensive option for backing up your data.