Backing Up To A Flash Drive

Dear Computer Lady,

I have a 32GB flash drive connected to my hard drive for automatic backups. Now I’m getting a message that my flash drive doesn’t have enough space.

When a computer does automatic backups doesn’t the new replace the old info?

Do I need to get a new and larger flash drive, erase the current one or what?

Thank you for all the great info you share with us in your emails!

Dear Bonnie,

The answer to these questions depends on a few things. Lets take a look.

First, when a computer does automatic backups, it might replace old backups with the new one, it might not. It really depends on what backup software you are using, and how you have it setup. When using either Acronis True Image, or the Windows 10 backup, you have the option to keep older backups, or not. You can also keep a certain number of older backups, say the 5 most recent backups. This can be valuable in the event that you accidentally lose data in a document, or get infected with ransomware.

Next, do you need a new, larger flash drive? The short answer is, yes, but the reasons go beyond just the size of the flash drive.
32GB is a farily small backup size in today’s world of saving your documents, photos, music and videos. I backup files for my customers almost every day and most of these backups are larger than 32GB.

Flash drives are great for short term storage, but if you are using a flash drive for daily or weekly backups, I would suggest you buy a new one every 6 months or so. At the very least, replace it every year. The packaging on your flash drive might say that it will last a lot longer, but flash drives don’t usually fail because of their age, but because they have a limited number of write cycles. This means that the more often you backup and replace files on the flash drive, the shorter it’s lifespan will be.

If I was backing up to a flash drive, I would buy myself two identical flash drives and swap them out every week. That way if the drive attached to your computer fails, or is comprimized by ransomware, you have another copy that is only a week old. I would also start each year with two brand new flash drives to backup to.

I hope this helps with your backup plans.


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