Free Backup?


I have Windows Vista on my desktop computer and I’m stuck on what to do about backing up my more than 500GB of videos and music. I’ve read that external is the way to go, but I’m a little iffy because of expense and the fact that the backup drive can crash. DVDs are not a bad idea, but it takes forever to back up that much data. I use these files every day and want easy access to them. The most reliable method, plus easiest to access, would be an online site, but that costs a lot of money. Please help me make a decision so I can install Windows 7 worry-free.

—Tony Fugate

Tony, if you use those files every day, they must be worth something to you. And if they’re worth something to you, they’re worth spending money to protect. The Doctor is continually baffled by people who will drop a few hundred or even a few grand on computer components and games, but nothing on a backup plan. Of course, provided you only want to back up a few gigabytes of files, you can use a free online service like Dropbox, Carbonite, or Mozy, but to back up more than that, you’re going to have to shell out some dough. And though online backup might be safer (because it’s offsite), it has several disadvantages. First, half a terabyte of data is going to take forever to transmit, assuming you can find a backup solution that lets you back up that much data—not to mention an ISP without a bandwidth limit. Second, it’s going to be expensive. And third, you’re trusting that the company you’re using to back up your files won’t go out of business or suffer data loss. This last point is the least likely, but still possible.

The Doctor recommends a two-tiered approach to backup. Get a free backup account from a reputable provider, like Mozy. Make sure your most important files are backed up there. You’ll have limited space—no more than a couple of gigabytes, probably. Then suck it up and go buy an external hard drive—one to two terabytes should do it. That’s for the bulky stuff like videos and music. If you’re feeling really paranoid, get two drives, back up to each of them regularly, and keep one offsite. It won’t cost you that much, and it can save your bacon.

SUBMIT YOUR QUESTION Are flames shooting out of the back of your rig? First, grab a fire extinguisher and douse the flames. Once the pyrotechnic display has fizzled, email the doctor at for advice on how to solve your technological woes.

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