Keeping Files On External Hard Drive

[ad]Dear Computer Lady,

I’ve been a reader of your emails for quite some time and they are very helpful so first let me say Thank you for all your help, I have helped others with your columns.

My question is-I want to move some files with pictures and other info to an external hd which I know how to do but once they are on the external can I now delete them from my desktop pc and will I be able to retrieve them again?

Hope this is not to complicated.

Thanks again. Mary

Dear Mary,

You actually have the hardest part done already, since you have backed up your files to the external hard drive.

Once you have copied your files to the external hard drive, you can delete them from your desktop and still be able to get them back, or use them from the external hard drive.

This is not, however, how I would do it.

If files (like family photos) are important to you, you want to have them in more than one location, in fact, the best practice is to have them in three locations, with at least one of these locations physically away from the others. Let me explain.

If you copy your files to the external hard drive, and delete them from your computer, you will have access to them unless (or until) the external hard drive stops working. It could be damaged from a fall, from a magnetic force, or even from theft or fire. Even if none of those things happen, all hard drives die eventually from old age, for some it is a year or two, but for many, it is between 5 and 10 years. The reality is that you just never know when it will happen.

If you keep a copy of those files in a second location, either on your computer, or perhaps on a CD or DVD, you will still have a backup copy when the external hard drive gets old or damaged, but if the second copy is in the same physical location as your first copy, you would still lose them in the case of theft, flood, or fire.

To protect your important files against all types of loss, you really need a third backup that is in a different physical location.

Some businesses, have a backup system that includes a weekly rotation to an off-site location like a safety deposit box. Some families keep things like pictures on disks in different family members homes.


I like to use the cloud for my off site backup. Both Carbonite and Mozy are great for offsite backup because they work automatically in the background while you are using your computer.


I hope this information will help you keep your photos and other information safe and sound.



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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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