Tech Tip: Backing Up Your Backup Drive

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Q. I keep my photos, videos and other multimedia files stored on an external USB drive to save space on my computer’s main hard drive, and I also back up vital folders there. But how do I back up the external drive in case it goes south?

A. You can create multiple backups of your important data in several ways, including on multiple external drives, to a home network server or to an online cloud-storage locker. In these days of ransomware and other data-corrupting attacks, having a backup drive that is not always connected to your computer (and therefore not vulnerable to online attack or spreading malware) can be another way to protect your files.


CrashPlan is among the online services that can back up external drives for a computer. Credit The New York Times

A one-terabyte external USB drive can cost $75 or less online, so alternating drives on a regular basis is one way to safely copy your files each day while keeping one drive unconnected. Backup programs like Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 can be configured to back up the computer to multiple USB drives at once if you are confident in your security software and do not want to manually swap external drives each day.

Large-capacity hardware like network-attached storage devices or other storage solutions (like those made by Drobo, Seagate or Western Digital) are other options to back up your external drive’s contents. The Wirecutter, a product recommendation site owned by The New York Times, recommends the $250 QNAP Turbo NAS as the best network-attached storage server for home users.

Backing up your external drive to an online server creates an additional copy of your data — and one that is not in the same physical location as your computer and external drive. Backblaze is among the online services that can back up external USB drives, although it does not do Apple’s Time Machine drives and network-attached storage servers; prices start at $5 a month. The Wirecutter picks CrashPlan as its top online backup solution, and the company’s $60-a-year service can also back up external USB drives. Both Backblaze and CrashPlan offer free trial periods so you can try out the service before committing.

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