To manual or auto back up


By Matt Bentley

Unless you’re using some sort of cloud back-up solution such as OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox, you’re probably doing a back up to an external drive (or at least I hope you are).

There are two choices: (a) manually run a back-up at a time of your choosing or (b) have the operating system or a third party program do an automatic back-up, at a set time (or times). Each have their advantages but I personally lean toward the manual approach, and I’ll explain why.

The first issue with automatic back-ups is that people tend to forget when they’re meant to happen, and so they leave the drive plugged in all the time, making it vulnerable to:

(a) cryptolocker virus attacks

(b) power spikes and surges

(c) general data corruption

(d) lower drive life expectancy due to being plugged in more of the time

(e) theft

In other words, most of the things you’re trying to work around by backing up. So don’t do that, please. Plug in your drive when you intend to back up, then unplug it later and put it someplace safe.

The second issue with automatic back-ups is that you seldom (though this is kinda dependent on the back-up program) get notifications about when the back-up is not working properly. I’ve seen systems where a back-up hasn’t occurred for 3 years but the client thought it was still happening automatically. That’s not good data security. One cause of this can be that the external drive stops working.

The last issue is that most automatic back-up systems don’t tend to give a clear notification as to when they’ve finished backing up. So even if the client is doing the right thing and unplugging the drive, they often don’t know whether a back-up occurred or completed entirely. For all these reasons I tend to recommend that people run their back-ups manually, maybe putting a weekly or monthly reminder in their phone calendar to do so, though this is very situation dependent. That way, there is clear understanding as to when the back-up occurred, whether it completed successfully, and when it finished and they can unplug the drive.

Though there’s no such thing as 100% foolproof data security – for example, a power surge could potentially come through at the same time as you’re performing a back-up, and wipe out both your computer and the back-up drive – it’s more a matter of probabilities, and creating the best likelihood of your data surviving. As I often remind folk it is best at all times to have important data in two or more places.

  • Matt Bentley is the repair guy at Bentley Home PC Support. Email Matt at or phone 0211348576.

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