Computing for Beginners: Backup up your files using a USB Hard Drive

Colin Cartmell-Browne talks us through how to backup your important files using a USB Hard Drive

Of the backup solutions discussed last month an external USB Hard drive is the most efficient for backing large amounts of data. These are easily obtainable from any computer shop, although the choice of which one to buy can seem a little scary. Although there is not much to chose between each brand it is worth buying the largest (in terms of memory not physical size) that you can afford, which can hold at least 1TB of data. This will allow you to backup the entire hard drive of your computer several times.

Connecting the USB drive to your computer is simple enough. Just plug in the all the cables (power and USB) and you’re ready to go.

To backup your files you can either manually copy across a selection of files from your old hard drive to the new or use the Windows Backup facility. Of the two it is the backup facility which is the most efficient. To do this:

1) Click on the Windows icon [Right] and click ‘Control Panel’.windows-icon-png-19

2) Click ‘System and Security’. Click Backup your computer [Figure 2].


Figure 2: From the control panel click system and security

3) Click Set up Backup [Figure 3]


Figure 3: Click on ‘Set up backup’

If your external hard drive is plugged in and working properly the windows backup procedure will now start.

4) Click the manufacturer’s name of your hard drive (mine is a Hitachi so that name appears in my list) [Figure 4]. Click next.


Figure 4: Click on your chosen hard drive

5) You now have two choices [Figure 5] either let Windows choose which files to backup or make the choice yourself. Click one of the options and click next.


Figure 5: Do you want Windows to chose which files you back up or Do It Yourself

6) If you choose to select the files yourself you will now see this screen [Figure 6].

Figure 6

Figure 6 Tick the folders you want to archive

Clicking the small arrow next to ‘C’ will show you all the folders of your hard drive.

Those with other arrows means you can open up other folders. Put a tick next to those folders you want to backup.

In Figure 7 I have ticked Files and Photos. This means when the backup is run all the files/photos in those locations will be backed up but no other data.


Figure 7


Click next.

7) The summary screen [Figure 8] shows what you are about to backup. If you are happy with this, click ‘Save Settings and run backup’, the backup will now start.


Figure 8

Also on the summary screen is the ability to set a regular backup day/time. Personally though I never bother with this as the backup slows down the computer and I’m either working and don’t want to be interrupted or the computer is not switched on at the required time. Anyway, I prefer to set aside my own time to make the backup when it is convenient for me.

The backup will take a long time. You could leave it running over night and come back the next day but if, like me, you worry about something going wrong you are probably better off starting the process earlier in the day and ‘baby sitting’ the computer as it works.

Next month: Backing up your files by copying them to a CD/DVD.

IF you have any computer-related queries you would like Colin to answer through his column, email