How to Backup a Laptop Hard Drive

By Gregory Hamel

Laptops have replaced desktop computers as the primary tool for many of us due to their convenience and portability. As a result, we work and play carrying laptops full of important information, documents and media files that would be difficult to replace if the computer broke down or was lost. Backing up vital information from a laptop's hard dive to an external storage device is an important way to safeguard against data loss.

Things You'll Need

  • External USB Hard Drive
  • USB Cable

Step 1

Set the hard drive next to your laptop and plug the hard drive into a power source.

Step 2

Plug one end of the USB cable into the hard drive, then plug the other end into an open USB port on your laptop.

Step 3

Open the folder for the external hard drive. On many computers the operating system will prompt you with options to open the drive as soon as you plug it in. If you do not get a prompt, open the drive by clicking on the icon that appears on the toolbar or desktop. You can also access drives by clicking "Start," and then "My Computer."

Step 4

Browse your laptop's hard drive for the files you wish to back up, select the files, then drag and drop the files into the open USB hard drive folder. The computer will begin making a copy, leaving the original files intact. You can drag entire folders for copying if you wish. Organizing all the files you wish to copy in a single folder and then dragging that one folder over is a good way to copy many files at once.

Step 5

Wait for the files to finish copying, then unhook the external hard drive and store it in a safe location.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you want to back up small files as you work on them, consider e-mailing the file to your online e-mail account (e.g., Gmail, Hotmail) as an attachment. This will create a copy that is available from any computer that is connected to the Internet.
  • If the amount of data that you want to back up is small (about 32GB or less), you should consider using a USB flash drive to save the data instead of a full size external hard drive.