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How to back up your PC and laptop - the ultimate guide to backup

The ultimate guide to backup

Back up data on all your devices

The days when a household had valuable data only on a single desktop PC are long gone. Now, you probably have more than one PC, a couple of laptops, plus an assortment of handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets. It’s important to give some thought, therefore, to the best way to backup the data on all your devices in the simplest possible way.

Multiple desktops or laptops that are used by different family members are easy enough to deal with. Our recommendation is that you handle each of them separately, backing each up as and when appropriate for each user. However, in buying backup software or subscribing to an online backup service, it pays to shop around for a deal that allows several family members to use the software or the online service.

Where it gets trickier, though, is handling a number of devices – say a desktop, a laptop and a smartphone – that are used by the same person. Certainly you could backup each independently, but there’s an alternative that's more convenient and possibly cheaper.

If you’re already using synchronisation software to ensure that you have the same versions of your files on each of your devices then all you have to do is backup your desktop PC to ensure that data from all your other devices is backed up too. If you haven’t already implemented a synchronisation scheme it’s well worth the effort and not only to ease backup. Synchronisation means that you can work on the same document on more than one machine and you’ll always be working on the latest version, irrespective of which computer you last edit it on.

This is achieved by copying files between devices when they are connected, either via a home Wi-Fi network on via the Internet. For Windows PCs, you could use SyncToy which is a free download from Microsoft or one of several online utilities such as Dropbox, which is free for 2GB accounts (you can get more by referring friends).

Dropbox

For Apple devices you can use iCloud to synchronise with a desktop PC but there's also a Dropbox app. If you use an Android phone, there's no shortage of free synchronisation apps (including Dropbox) to choose between. Box.com, for example, offers 5GB of free online storage for smartphone and tablet users who install the free Box app and register for an account. Having uploaded your data to the cloud, it can be accessed from any device running the Android app or via a web browser. The brand new Google Drive also provides 5GB of online storage that's accessible from Android phones.

Next page: Apple iCloud and conclusion

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