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Using an External Drive for Laptop Backup

There’s no doubt that external hard drives are great storage mediums. They’re portable, can be attached and removed with ease, and can be upgraded without opening up the system. All of this is especially great when you’re using a laptop, where expanding storage space isn’t particularly user friendly unless you hit the cloud. Plus, external drives are not any more expensive than a standard hard drive, which makes them a great alternative.

But when it comes to the important task of backing up your data on your laptop, are external drives suitable? It might seem like a perfectly sensible solution at first – the drive can go wherever your laptop does, thus is always available for backup, for instance. However, there are negatives to this approach that you need to consider, so let’s run through the pros and cons.

First, let’s examine the positives. A laptop is great for being on the move; inherently, due to the portable nature. As such, this might mean that you’re not always going to have an internet connection. When it comes to data backup, some people opt for an online solution that backs their data up to a cloud or private server. If you opt for this method and are then creating new data on your laptop, going long periods without an internet connection, that data isn’t going to be backed up. That’s why an external drive is great because it’ll always be available, plugged in and backing up data.

Another positive is that it’s an easily scalable and adaptable approach. If you just want a replica backup where your data is mirrored, then you just need a drive that’s a similar size to the one within the laptop itself (varying on whether you back up the OS and other system data). However, if you want to begin storing multiple versions of the same data, you’ll need a bigger drive for that. With an external, that’s no problem – simply grab a bigger drive, plug it in and you’re good to go.

But there are negatives to an external drive which potentially outweigh these positives. The biggest problem here is that, ideally, your backups shouldn’t be close to the source data. While the greatest sin would be backing up to the same storage device that your source data is stored on (since if that goes down, so does your backup), it’s also not a good move to have your laptop and external drive so physically close. If, for example, there’s a natural disaster, if your laptop is destroyed then the likelihood is that your external drive will be too. Backup is all about redundancy and you need to account for it as much as possible.

Another problem might be security. It’s not going to be difficult for someone to detach and steal your external hard drive and they’ll get away with all your data in the process. However, a way round this would be to encrypt your data, which you definitely should be doing anyway. Additionally, an external hard drive on the move could get damaged if using a hard disk drive (which is made up of mechanical parts).

Weigh up your choice and decide whether using an external drive for laptop backup is best for you. If you’re looking for a quick and dirty backup, it’ll do the job. But if you want something more secure and with true redundancy, invest in other backup methods.


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