How to Use an External Hard Drive to Back Up Photos and Other Important Files

February 24, 2009

in computer hardware,data storage and recovery,privacy & security

by Tina Gasperson

If you’re in need of extra storage space for your digital photo or music collection, or you’d just like to back up those files in case the inevitable hard drive failure happens, one of the easiest ways to add more space to your PC is by adding an external hard drive that connects via USB. An external hard drive is inexpensive, portable, and very easy to use.

External hard drive are available at any large office supply store, or anywhere that computers and peripherals are sold, with storage space from around 250 gigabytes all the way up to one or two terabytes. Usually, the more storage space, the more of a price break you get – so buy as much as you can afford.

Setting up your drive is easy. If it came with an installation CD, load and install that first, then plug the drive in and let Windows recognize it. From then on, just look under “My Computer” whenever your drive is plugged in to find and access it.

Most external drives come with some kind of back-up application so you can use your new drive to automatically backup your entire hard drive. Chances are that you’ve already got the installation CDs for all your applications, though, so it could be that all you really need to backup are files that cannot be replaced, such as photos, music, and personal documents. This kind of backup is easy to do: just open the folders in which they’re stored, open the folder for your external hard drive, and drag the files over. Windows will automatically copy them onto the external hard drive, leaving the original right where you found it.

If gaining more hard drive space is your ultimate goal, then once you’ve moved your files to the external hard drive, delete them from their original location. Just remember that in this case, you haven’t actually created a backup of your file – you have to have two copies of your file in two separate locations in order to consider it “backed up” and safe.

Tina Gasperson (, affectionately known as Computer Lady by her family, has been writing about IT, home computing, and the Internet for more than a decade.

{ 1 comment }

earthbru 02.24.09 at 11:55 pm

A great advantage to an external drive is that you can turn it off to protect its contents if you ever sign on to an online network (i.e. P to P).

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