How to Backup on External Hard Drive

By David Perez

Filled with motorized parts and sensitive materials, hard drives are subject to failure from normal wear and tear. According to PC Guide, if you use the same computer long enough, sooner or later the drive will crash. While it is possible to recover information from a dead hard drive, the processes that do so can be expensive and time consuming. Save yourself the hassle by occasionally backing up your information to an external drive.

PC

Step 1

Connect one end of your USB cable to your external drive and the other to the USB port of your computer. Find the USB port on either the front or back panel of your desktop computer, or on the side panel of your laptop computer.

Step 2

Click the "Start" menu in the lower left-hand corner of your screen, and select "My Computer." This opens a window displaying all the devices connected to your computers. Locate your external hard drive in the section labeled "Devices with Removable Storage" or something to that effect.

Step 3

Right-click on the drive labeled "C:" and select "Copy." Double-click your external hard drive, right click inside the window displaying its contents, and choose "Paste." This process transfers all the data on your computer's main hard drive to your external drive, and can be time consuming, depending on how much information you have. To transfer individual files to your hard drive, right-click the file, select "Copy," then open the external drive and select "Paste."

Mac

Step 1

Connect one end of your USB cable to your external drive and the other to the USB port of your computer. Find the USB port on either the front or back panel of your desktop computer, or on the side panel of your laptop computer.

Step 2

Click and hold the icon for you main hard drive. Drag the drive to the icon for your external hard drive.

Step 3

Hold the main hard drive icon over the external drive icon. In a second, a window opens displaying the contents of the external drive. Release the mouse button to drop the main hard drive into the external drive. This copies all of the data from your main hard drive to the external drive. The process can take a matter of hours, depending on how much information you have. To move individual files to your external drive, click and drag the files you wish to save to the drive and drop them in.

Tips & Warnings

  • It is possible to use a drag-and-drop method on PCs. The method differs from Macs in that the drive does not show up on the desktop. Rather, you must drag files to the external drive icon in "My Computer."
  • It is possible to use a copy-and-paste method with Macs. The method differs from PCs in that Macs have no right-click. Instead, select the file by single-clicking it. To copy, hold down the Apple key and press "C." Then, open the external drive and press Apple and "V" to paste the file to the drive.