External hard drive auto backup

Hi folks.

Lots of techies amongst you so I thought I’d ask here.

I need to get another external hard drive like my one below for my student daughter. Easy enough to buy one but what I don’t know is how to make the computer automatically back up all files every time it’s plugged in. She has a Dell laptop.

And before you ask, a shop set up the device for me when I bought it, don’t know how they did it.


have a look at google backup and sync (aka google Drive)

all gmail accounts come with 15gb free but you can pay to have more - i have the £1.59 pm for 100gb.

Why do i prefer this?
well backup and sync automatically tracks and saves all my docs to the cloud.
this means that I can access them from wherever and even my phone.
I can also keep different laptops in sync.
I can also look at previous versions of files and roll back changes.
you can share between people as well.
being cloud based you never have to worry for an external drive failing,
finally google drive comes with a nice web interface as well.

now if you dont want to store your docs on google there are other alternatives as well such as microsoft onedrive, dropbox.


Yep, cloud file sync is the go-to in this scenario. Take your pick: Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud, DropBox, etc. All the device manufacturers have their own solution as well as the original third-party ones.

The choice you make is probably best made by centering around your mobile device platform, i.e:

  • Android - Google Drive
  • iOS - iCloud

If you use a real mix of devices from different manufacturers (like me) then maybe think about choosing based on what device you produce/consume the most files on, i.e. if you’re doing most of your work on a Windows device then maybe OneDrive is best, or iCloud for macOS.

If you’re super paranoid about giving up your files to some big corp then you can also run your own private cloud file sync solution, i.e. Synology who make arguably the best/most-popular NAS units have their own cloud sync apps. Then you get to keep total control over your files (I do this for all my super big files and use it as a backup for a lot of my photos which are synced to the Adobe cloud). Probably not suitable for norms though :slight_smile:

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I run google drive on my mac and have icloud turned off!!

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Thanks for all that. I’m not really up to speed on all this stuff so this will have me looking at cloud options for her. Of course she knows more about all this than I do but I don’t think she has backing up top of her list.

If I was a gambling man I’d wager by the time you get your head around all this she’ll have it up and running and be halfway through her second year.

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As above if she is using a Windows PC OneDrive is a great option. There is an annual subscription which isn’t that much and you get more storage than you’ll ever need.

As a student the biggest risk to her data is most likely theft from the home. If they are stored together, the thieving element will take the laptop and portable hard drive plus any small peripherals they can fit in their swag bag. With cloud based storage the data is safe from fire, theft and corruption.

Also working with OneDrive (and some of the others) you have access to everything everwhere, computer, tablet and phone, plus anyone elses computer through a browser. OneNote in particular is a fantastic app for note taking.


I back key docs (incl photos) up onto a 2TB HD (currently 75% full). For me it’s much more accesible because I’ve often needed files when I’m offline - and it’s quicker to browse when the internet is sketchy. Not as easy to search and find sometimes.

I backup manually but I remember from my time at Uni there is software that can help you autobackup. Back then it wasn’t the greatest experience and you had to set it to what to keep if it found duplicate / updated versions…I’d wager it’s easier now.

From what I read Windows 10 has a backup facility as well that you can use external HDs to.

I’d use cloud backup for the things I’m currently working on (i.e. this semester’s assignments) but for more bulk backup I’d always default to an external HD.

To be honest, do you really really want to back up all files? I think you mean key documents / photos etc. The program files won’t backup - for that you need to set regular recovery points in windows…

Another plus one here for using the cloud, which ever option you like.

I use both Google Drive and iCloud.

I haven’t got a single device that doesn’t have all its data synced to cloud storage. If I were to lose a device or not have access to any of them for a few weeks I could access all my data very easily (e.g. use a friends device and access via web browser).

The other benefit is that I can set up every device I get from fresh without a backup, only keeping configurations, setting and data that I really want to. System backups can gather lots of configs, settings and crap that cause bugs on future operating system versions.

You could be right. Maybe I should just forget it and stump up the cash she wants for another laptop with pen thing. This online learning is going to cost me!

most cloud services appear as a normal folder on your PC (or you can choose offline mode on mobile)

you can still access all files if you dont have access to the internet - it just wont sync any changes to the cloud

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You’re all selling the cloud to me (Serrisan aside) so I might have to make the jump and trust the cloud. Having all devices linked and sync’d sounds great and is what I should do personally, just I don’t have the skill to set it up. My daughter could probably do it for herself or have friends who could help.

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You could do it if someone showed you. It takes 5 minutes. There’s nothing to it.

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also loads of youtube videos showing what to do :wink:

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If you dont trust the big brands you could always set up your own cloud WD sell them. No monthly fees

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Could be a good solution but “your cloud” is hosted from the drive at home. So you still have the issues of theft, damage from fire etc

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I agree but the big name steal your data all the time to"improve their data" how safe is it truly. Hackers etc. There is upsides and down sides. We have been using personal clouds for years now. Each member off our house hold has a partition on the drive saving money for each member. Only true downside is virgin media :joy:

Not to mention upload speed.

Each to their own but assuming you use 2FA, “their” security is probably safer than can be done at home if you’re using remote access.

On the data front it depends on which service you use and what the T&Cs are, but there are millions to billions of people on these services. What is so special to us mere mortals about our data probably isn’t special to them.

I’d be very surprised if the T&Cs of Google Drive allowed them to look through your data, but not surprised if they used Google Photos content to improve their machine learning.

Not worth the faff IMO, low return on investment.

Just to avoid confusion, I also use the cloud. My phone is a Motorola so all photos automatically get uploaded to Google photos. I just don’t use the cloud to backup all my files. My HD has backups of 6 or so different hard drives that I’ve collected over the years from a couple of computers. It’s easier to just keep it all in one location…

Some files on there are also massive so would take for ever to upload, relxative to the transfer rate of a USB cable.

In short, it depends what she’s going to use it for. Backing up key docs and photos cloud is probably best, but I’m sure your daughter will be able to better explain it to you after three months with the new laptop :rofl: oh and the surface pros I used at work were great…but they costed a pretty penny.

@Panagiotis didn’t know that about offline on PC but it makes sense as it’s the same with my Google photos.

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Not sure what a Surface Pro is but she wants one of these.

Anything you know of that does the same job but is, ahem, cheaper?