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Another Back Up Option – The External Drive

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 5/4/2010

As you’ve learned so far in this series, there are lots of ways to back up data. Backing up to an external drive is by far the easiest though, and allows for off-site transport.

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    Dragging and Dropping to an External Drive

    External hard drives are even easier to use than CD and DVD burning software. You simply drag and drop the data. No prompts, no waiting. In fact, it’s so easy you can do it at the end of each workday. It’s unlikely you’ll burn a CD or DVD every day, or even take the time to add to an existing CD+RW or DVD+RW. However, dragging and dropping to an external hard drive is pretty easy and thus a good option for those that put off the task.

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    Create a Shortcut on the Desktop

    To use the drag and drop method to effectively back up your system daily and to remind you to do so, you should create a shortcut to the device on your desktop. You’ll use that shortcut to drag and drop to. Here, I’ll outline two procedures for doing that: the first, to create a desktop shortcut for an external drive that is connected directly to your PC, and the second, to create a desktop shortcut for an external drive that is connected to another PC. (Note that another PC can serve as a backup device too.)

    To create a shortcut to an external hard drive that is connected directly to your computer, follow these steps:

    1. Open My Computer, right-click the icon for the external drive, and select Create Shortcut.

    2. When prompted to create a shortcut on the Desktop, click Yes.

    To create a shortcut to an external hard drive that is connected to another, networked, computer, do this:

    1. Open My Computer.

    2. From the Tools menu, select Map Network Drive.

    3. Click Browse.

    4. Locate the backup device, select it, and click OK.

    5. Click Finish. The drive will open automatically.

    6. In My Computer, right-click the new network drive and select Create Shortcut.

    7. Click Yes when prompted to place that shortcut on the Desktop.

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    Backing up Data

    Now, all you have to do is drag any folder you want to back up over the new desktop icon and drop it there. Just open the folder on your hard drive that contains the data to back up, and position the window so you can see the shortcut on the desktop. Drag and drop data as desired. A copy of your important data will be stored on that drive. If there is duplicate data on the external drive, it will simply be written over. By writing over existing data with new data, you also save hard drive space and avoid clogging up your back up device with duplicate backups of data.

    This method makes backing up data quick and simple, and the desktop shortcut icon will help you remember to do it daily.