Five Easy Backup Drives

Category: Backup

A reader asks: 'I am so confused about backups. Do I need to back up everything on my hard drive, or just certain user files? Backup software is complicated and I don't understand all the tech terms that are tossed around. Isn't there a backup device that just plugs in and does the job automatically?' Well, yes, actually! Here are five external hard drives that are easy to use...

No More Excuses: Five Drives for Easy Backups

Backups used to be straightforward. Back in the day, your data was stashed on an internal hard drive, and all you needed to do was copy it to a CD or an external hard drive. (Anyone else remember the XCOPY command?) But now, megabytes have blossomed into gigabytes and terabytes.

Some files are locked can't be backed up by simply copying them. Data is spread out over local drives, removable media, home networks, mobile devices, cloud storage services, and social media. Some backup software wants YOU to decide what needs to get backed up.

Plug and play is good. Automatic backups are great. Software that runs out of the box, without geekspeak and techno-jargon is awesome. Below are five backup drives that manage to keep things easy for users. All but one work on both PC and Mac computers.
backup hard drives

If you're backing up your data to a separate partition on your hard drive, you still run the risk of losing everything to a hardware or natural disaster. And worse, if you're still procrastinating about doing backups, read How I Got Hacked... And Why You MUST Have a Backup! Then check out all five backup drives and choose one to safeguard your data from loss.

1: Clickfree has patented Easy Run™ software that makes backups plug-and-play. Just plug the C2 or C6 external drive into a Windows or Mac computer and the software automatically begins the backup process. The C2 is for user-generated content; it will find and backup over 500 file types including photos, music, video, etc. The C6 makes complete system backups including operating system, configuration, application, and content files. Other included software backs up music and playlists from iPods, iPads, and iPhones. Password and encryption protection are available. Drive capacities range from 500 GB to 2 TB.

2: Western Digital’s My Book External Drive is a small, quiet, efficient way to backup millions of files. Its SmartWave software lets you set up continuous automatic backups of new and changed files. The fanless design reduces energy consumption and noise. Hardware encryption keeps your data safe. Capacities range from 1 TB to 4 TB; you can use either USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 connection for data transfer. The My Book comes formatted for Windows but can be reformatted for Macs. Western Digital also offers portable My Passport drives, with capacity ranging from 500 GB to 2 TB. The portables have the advantage of being powered through the USB port, so there's no need for a power adapter.

3: Seagate’s Backup Plus family not only makes backups of your PC or Mac hard drive, it also handles backups of photos on Facebook and Flickr. You can restore selected files to social networks, too. It comes in 1 TB to 4TB capacities. USB 3.0 is standard; faster Thunderbolt and FireWire 800 connections are optional. The Seagate Dashboard software lets you choose either scheduled or continuous backups. Both desktop and portable versions are available.

4: Toshiba's Automatic Backup Portable Hard Drive is about the size of a wallet. The blue model holds 500 GB while the red one holds 1 TB. The Pocket Data Backup software from NTI2 requires no installation, as it runs right from the drive. The menu-driven interface is easily configured, and after the initial configuration, backups proceed automatically whenever the drive is plugged into your PC. Both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 data transfers are supported.

5: The Apple Airport Time Capsule looks like a toilet paper dispenser, but it's actually a really nifty wireless backup drive for OS X Leopard or later Macs. It’s capable of 802.11ac speeds, up to 3 times faster than 802.11n. Working with Time Machine, the Airport Time Capsule can store up to 3 TB of data including multiple versions of files. Once configured, backups are made continuously without user aid.

Using an external backup drive to safeguard all your files is a smart move. If you want to take it a step further, I encourage you to read my ebook Everything You Need to Know About BACKUPS, where you'll learn about strategies that include online backup, backing up your email, your social media content, and your smartphone data.

What hardware, software and strategy do you use for backups? Post a comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Five Easy Backup Drives"

Posted by:

20 Jun 2013

I've been backing up for about a year and my external drive is full. Now what? Buy another drive or erase the one I have?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sounds like you're keeping too many copies (revisions) of your backups. Backup software can be configured to solve this problem. You could, for example, keep three rolling backups, each a week (or a month) older than the previous one. The oldest ones get deleted.

Posted by:

20 Jun 2013

Once again, Bob Rankin comes to the rescue. I wholeheartedly agree with him on the backups listed--with the exception of Western Digital. Scenario: problem with newly purchased drive; called for help but was told I'd have to pay for assistance; wouldn't even talk with me about the problem; when the drive "died", their attitude was "tough; buy another" (Had to get the state attorney general involved to rectify situation!!!)
Seagate is *my* favorite!

Posted by:

Harold P. Morgan
20 Jun 2013

Bob, I've got the WD My Book external 1 TB drive. It is plugged into the USB port on my NetGear N600, dual band wireless router. Connected this way it serves as backup and safety valve for our entire home network of PC's....laptops & desktops. Paranoid as I am....I still don't trust the supposed "security" of Cloud storage. Our way suffers from the danger of all-on-site storage. But the stuff I really want to protect....thousands of photographic images....are backed up on DVD's and multiple copies are scattered amongst our three sons. Thought about bank safety deposit box but that does not necessarily mean we would always have access. Banks DO go belly up and close.

Anyway....that is our answer to the backup problem.

Posted by:

20 Jun 2013

I've been using ReBit ( since it was in beta edition, and continue to rely on it to this day.

It couldn't be easier to use the program, because once you've installed and set it up, all you have to do is plug in a dedicated external USB drive, and Rebit will do the rest.

I've lost count of the number of times Rebit has saved my bacon by restoring a known-good disk image to a misbehaving computer. The most-recent time I did that was after we returned from a cross-country trip in our motorhome, a couple weeks ago.

During the trip, my laptop computer picked up a nasty bit of malware that resulted in a "non-genuine OS" error message every time I booted the computer. I contacted Dell's Technical Support several times through e-mail, and although the technician tried and tried, none of her suggestions did anything to resolve the problem. When we got back home, I re-installed the disk image I'd made before we left on our trip, and that was all that was needed.

I've also used Macrium Reflect, as well as Image for Windows in the past, and they also worked for me; however, Rebit has proved to be so simple and effective that I see no reason to use anything else.

Posted by:

20 Jun 2013

My limited experience w/backups has hung up on getting the data back from the backup file. Any wisdom for us?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Your question is a bit vague. What specific problem have you had restoring data, and what backup software do you have?

Posted by:

20 Jun 2013

Although not a shipping product yet - Space Monkey is an interesting concept (possibly available this summer). A network attached drive that also stores a copy of your data in the cloud.

Posted by:

20 Jun 2013

"But now, megabytes have blossomed into gigabytes and terabytes."

I guess I'm confused. Why even bother with traditional backups when a full system image supplemented with either incremental or differential images will save everything on the hard drive, including the operating system. If I have to decide which of the giga- or terabytes of data to save, there's a good possibility that something important won't be saved. A system image eliminates that problem, doesn't it? And with today's imaging tools (like Macrium Reflect Free) a system image won't take much longer than a backup. Why is my thinking wrong?

EDITOR'S NOTE: You're not wrong at all. I consider a system image as a form of backup. In fact, I combine imaging with selected real-time backups of critical folders, and also copy the image to an offsite location nightly.

Posted by:

20 Jun 2013

Bob, my computer has 2 HDs configured in RAID 1. Do you think that I need external/additional backup? Thanks!

EDITOR'S NOTE: RAID 1 is essentially a mirror drive, so you're already backed up. But both disks are necessarily in the same location. So what about fire, flood, etc.? You still might want to have an offsite backup.

Posted by:

Stephen - NYC
20 Jun 2013

Regarding your question about RAID1 and if you need an external hard drive. I agree that RAID1 covers you in the case of a hard drive failure, but what if you have an application problem and your file gets hosed? With RAID1 it's hosed on 2 drives. Creating a backup every night gives you what is called a recovery point objective so that you know you're covered as of then.

Here's a quick example:
You create a new spreadsheet on Monday at 3pm.
If you have no backup job running, let's say at 8pm on Monday, you return on Tuesday and accidentally delete the spreadsheet at 10am. It's deleted from both drives of the mirror
If you had a backup job that ran sometime on Monday night, and you delete the spreadsheet on Tuesday, you could restore the spreadsheet from the backup and continue to work on it.

And, as Bob indicated, both those drives are right there. So, an offsite backup might also be an option in addition to a regular backup to an external hard drive.

I hope this helps.

Posted by:

Linda Crawford
20 Jun 2013

I would not do without a backup program and I have used Carbonite for several years. I cannot say enough good things about it. I want my computer backed up away from home. I know of homes burning and the backups on the external drives went up in flames also. I got my first computer 20 years ago and up until a year ago never had a computer go down on me, but a new one did. Thankfully I had Carbonite and that was great.

Posted by:

21 Jun 2013

I have a external hard drive which I use for backing up my computer but still confusion has crept in . Should I delete the old back up before starting a new one . Or, should I just hitch up the external and go to back up and let it run until finished? does the hard drive only back up all the new stuff only .My System is windows 7 32 bit. desktop. Thank you for your very interesting articles .

EDITOR'S NOTE: Your backup software should manage the versioning process, deleting the older backups. (Unless you're doing some sort of manual copying of files to the backup drive...)

Posted by:

Paulus Kruijer
21 Jun 2013

I use since a long time "true image 2013 plus pack" by Acronis. I know it is a paid version, but it does its job.

Posted by:

Geoff Greig
01 Jul 2013

2 extra points need to be made about backups

1. It is important to often verify that the backups are being done correctly by restoring from the backups to a separate area on the system you are backing up. Many people are of the mistaken belief that once they set up to backup automatically that it will always continue to back up. I have found that people only discover that, for what ever reason, that ther backup had not been working when they come to restore from a backup.

2. A full image backup may not be useful if you try to restore it on to a computer that has a different configuration, in terms of motherboard, HD drive and even operating system, as is often the case when a PC is faulty and needs to be replaced.

Posted by:

06 Jul 2013

Hi Bob,
You say that a C2 Backup will only save the files and folders you choose, whereas a C6 Backup will save EVERYTHING:complete system backups including operating system, configuration, application, and content files ..
But when backing up the Software(Clickfree) doesn´t ask me what to choose (either C2 or C6!!). How can I tell the Software to go for C6?
Thank you for your reply and Best Regards from Austria

EDITOR'S NOTE: The C2 and C6 are (hardware) backup drives, not software.

Posted by:

Michael Kenward
06 Jul 2013

"Just plug the C2 or C6 external drive into a Windows or Mac computer and the software automatically begins the backup process."

SyncBack, from 2BrightSparks, has had this feature for quite some time. And it works with any devices that your PC can detect and read. Plugging in the device triggers a backup.

SyncBack also does a lot more than that.

Posted by:

Larry Feldhaus
31 Mar 2015

I'm using Seagate Dashboard backup set for continuous backup on a 3GB Seagate hard drive. I'm out of space after about one year and see no option to change the number of versions of files maintained on my drive from infinite to a smaller number. Any ideas?


Posted by:

Larry Feldhaus
31 Mar 2015

I'm using Seagate Dashboard backup set for continuous backup on a 3GB Seagate hard drive. I'm out of space after about one year and see no option to change the number of versions of files maintained on my drive from infinite to a smaller number. Any ideas?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I just looked at the user guide and I don't see any controls on how many versions are kept. That's odd, and if true, good reason to switch to another backup program.

Posted by:

23 Jan 2017

Clickfree seems to be out of business. Does anyone else have an equivalent program to C6 combined with (or used with) a usb 3 portable hard drive? I never had a HD problem so I don't know if Clickfree even worked - yet it was so simple I used it often.

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