How Many Backups Should I Keep?

Dear Computer Lady,

I’ve received your newsletters for years. I can’t count the ideas from it.

My question is, how many complete hard drive back-ups should I keep on my external hard drive?

My internal hard drive in my H-P is one Terra-byte, and my external one is also the same.

I use Acronis True Image software. Many thanks for all your ideas.

Pete K.

Dear Pete,

Assuming that your external hard drive is stored in the same physical location as your computer, one or two complete backups should be plenty.

If the data that you are backing up is important to you, there are some other things you should also consider when preparing your backup plan.

1. If your external hard drive is always connected to your computer, it is just as susceptible to viruses or power surges.

2. If your external hard drive is in the same building as your computer, it is just as susceptible to fire, theft, malware or other physical damage.

While it is ALWAYS a good idea to have a backup hard drive ready to restore your files in the event of a hard drive crash or failure, it should not be your only line of defense. You should also have a backup stored somewhere off site.

[ad#carbonite]Some people have two external hard drives, and rotate them, taking one of them to a different physical location each time they backup. An example might be that you take home the backup from your work computer each week after performing a backup.

Other people use an online “Cloud” backup program like Carbonite or Mozy. These programs automatically backup new or changed files as you use your computer. You don’t have to remember to do the backup, or wait while the computer runs the backup program.



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Elizabeth Boston is a Web designer, Social Media Consultant and managing editor of, “Ask The Computer Lady”.
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    • ron007
    • December 23, 2012

    I first saw this rule back in the 1980’s. It still applies:

    Remember “3-2-1” to have good backups —

    – at least 3 copies of any file
    – in 2 different formats (say on a hard drive, thumb drive, DVD RW or the cloud),
    – at least 1 copy offsite — in case of fire! (say thumb drive or DVD RW moved to different location, or the cloud)

    Steve Gibson

    • sj_kac
    • December 30, 2013

    On Pete’s backup question about backups, he says he uses Acronis True Image to do backups. Good if you are restoring to the same computer. But if the computer is destroyed and you are replacing it with a new computer the Acronis True Image backup will not work. In addition to the Acronis True Image backup you should also routinely backup the data files. At least weekly I copy the Libraries to either an external hard drive or to a USB flash drive. Then if something happens to the computer I can copy the Libraries files to the new computer. Also, if you restore the computer from the Acronis True Image backup, you will also want to update the data files to their current state.

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