1. Goal 5
  2. Step A

Set Up Laptop or Desktop Backups

Two backups are best, but one is better than none.


What I recommend

I recommend making two backups of your computer data:

  • A cloud backup using Backblaze
  • A local backup using macOS or Windows built-in tools

If you only do one of these, I recommend setting up the Backblaze cloud backups. This way you have a copy outside your home or office.

Backblaze does have a cost associated with it, but it's hard to find a trustworthy cloud backup provider for free. Backblaze offers unlimited storage with the cost of $7 per computer per month or $70 per year. They offer a 15-day trial, so you can see if it's right for you.

Your local or on-site backup software should be included in macOS or Windows, but you will need an external hard drive of some kind. If you have an old one lying around, you may be able to use it for this purpose. If not, this may be something you need to buy.

Choose which of these options is best for you and move on to the appropriate step(s) below.

Whichever backup method you choose, be sure to perform regular checks and tests of those backups. If you can't restore when you need to, it's almost like you didn't have a backup at all.

Why Backblaze?

There are countless backup providers on the market, and they vary wildly in price, features, and easy of use. After years of testing, I recommend Blackblaze for these reasons:

  • Very simple setup process
  • Multiple restore options
  • Encrypted backup option
  • Windows and macOS compatibility
  • Relatively low price for unlimited storage
  • Long track record of high availability

If you're a bit more technical, want more control of your backups and where they are stored, but don't mind doing a bit more setup work, take a look at my other favorite cloud backup app: Arq Backup.

How to set up Backblaze

Backblaze makes this process very simple. Head over to their sign-up page, and start the free 15-day trial.

Be sure to use your new password generation skills via your password manager to create a strong and unique password that you use only with Backblaze. This step is essential to help protect the data you back up!

From there, the Backblaze installer will download to your computer. You can run it, and it'll walk you through the setup process. Simply follow along with each of its instructions and the backups should begin right away.

If you run into any issues with the installation process, take a look at their help files:

Increasing your Backblaze backup security

I recommend taking two additional steps to make your Backblaze backups more secure:

  • Enable encryption
  • Enable multi-factor authentication

I'll walk through each below.

Enable encryption for your Backblaze backups

Backblaze will allow you to enter what they call a “Private Encryption Key.” With this key in place, your files will be backed up such that no one can see the contents of the files. This provides a layer of protection, often where a bad actor gains access to the files without your knowledge.

Start by creating a very long and strong, unique key, just like you would a password. I, of course, recommend you use your password manager to create and store this key. Then enter the key in the Backblaze app on your computer. Go to Settings → Security tab → Enter Your Private Encryption Key.

Here are Backblaze's guides on how to do this:

Enable MFA in your Backblaze account

If you haven't already, enable multi-factor authentication for your Backblaze login with your Authy app. You'll need to sign in to the Backblaze website to do this.

You'll find the MFA settings under My Account → My Settings → Two-factor Verification → Sign In Settings. I recommend using the Authenticator method and disabling SMS. If you'd like a backup method, use printed backup codes (don't store them on your computer or in password manager).

Here are instructions from Backblaze on how to set this up.

If you've landed on this page directly and don't have an MFA app set up yet, refer to my guide on using on MFA here.

Restoring backups from Backblaze

Hopefully, you'll never need them, but if you need to restore files from Backblaze, they make it pretty simple. You have the option of restoring individual files or even ordering your files on a hard drive. The hard drive option becomes very handy when you have a lot of data to restore and your internet connection isn't very fast. And the individual file restore can be helpful for situations where you accidentally delete something.

For a full rundown of the options and how to restore your files, check out Backblaze's Restoration Guide.

Backblaze keeps copies of all versions of your backed up files for 30 days by default. You can increase this to 1 year for a small fee, for extra protection from accidental deletions and even some ransomware. See their guide for more info and pricing.

Setup on-site backups

Backing up your data in your home or office is simple these days thanks to features built in to most modern computers. While not the same, both macOS and Windows offer tools to help you have some level of file backups.

macOS calls this “Time Machine” and Windows calls it “File History.” For both, you'll need some sort of additional hard drive connected to your computer. The simplest version of this is just connecting any large external hard drive you have on hand to your computer via USB or Thunderbolt.

More complex versions include using a local server like a NAS as an on-site backup destination. These instructions will assume that you've connected a simple USB hard drive. But they should work with something else if you know your way around that particular type of storage.

Here are Apple and Microsoft's guides on enabling this very simple type of local backup:

More advanced local backups

If you've set up Time Machine on your Mac, you can probably stop there. It's not perfect, but it's a pretty thorough backup tool that should provide you a great deal of protection from data loss. You can restore individual files, but in most cases you can also use it to completely restore a Mac to the same or new hardware.

The built-in Windows feature isn't quite as rich, though. It does offer file recovery, but not the full backup you get from the macOS Time Machine. This should be enough for most folks, but should you be looking for something more in depth, read on.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of tools to consider for even better Windows backups. They vary in cost, features, and complexity.

  • Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows (Free Edition)

    This is the free and standalone version of the Veeam backup product. It may be among the more technical solutions listed here, but it's good at making backups.

  • Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office

    This tool used to be called “Acronis True Image” but now it comes bundled with antivirus (that I don't necessarily recommend) and requires a subscription.

  • Macrium Reflect

    There are free and paid versions of this popular Windows backup tool.

  • Arq Backup

    This is one of my favorite backup tools. It is primarily intended to be used for cloud backups, but it will handle local hard drive backups as well. There is no full hard drive restore option here, but it is more advanced, and it works on macOS too.

  • Windows Backup and Restore

    Not to be confused with the above-mentioned Windows File History option, this is an older Windows backup feature from Windows 7 that still works in Windows 10 and 11. You can create system images and save them to external disks. This built-in and free.

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