How to Use an External Drive for Backing Up Data (and create a desktop shortcut)

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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.

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.

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

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

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.

This post is part of the series: Know what computer data you need to back up, why you should, and how to do it.

A guide for telecommuters, small business owners, and SOHO users; learn what to back up, why, and how to do it.

  1. Know what data to back up and why
  2. Data Types You should Back Up Regularly
  3. Remember to Back Up Internet Explorer Data
  4. Remember to Back Up Data Created in Third-Party Applications
  5. Back Up System Information, Fonts, and Updates
  6. Back up data to a CD or DVD using Windows
  7. Another Back Up Option – The External Drive
  8. Alternate Backup Strategies and Media
  9. Test and Organize Optical Media Backups
  10. Test and Organize Backups on External Drives
  11. Restore Application –Specific Files and Folders
  12. Conclusion: The Backup Series