Can I back up this way?
September 10, 2011 5:48 AM   Subscribe

Do external hard drives need to stay connected to a power source when now in use?

This is probably a stupid question, but my house was burglarized and they walked of with my computers. I did not back up my files (I know, I know). I want to buy an external hard drive to back everything up and keep the hard drive hidden away in a closet in case this were to ever happen again. Can I pull out the hard drive and make periodic back ups and then put it back in hiding, or does the hard drive need to remain plugged in to a power source to keep the data intact?

Before you suggest, I don't have the budget to pay a yearly subscription to something like carbonite.
posted by archimago to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No, you don't need to leave it plugged in.

If Irene has anything to teach about backups, it's a good reminder that your backups should be in a geographically different location. If your data is important, keep it off-site.
posted by devbrain at 5:52 AM on September 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by VikingSword at 5:53 AM on September 10, 2011

No, in fact many do not even have to be plugged into the wall. They are powered by the USB connection.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 6:04 AM on September 10, 2011

This is a valid backup strategy, or part of one; However I want to add that many online backup services give you free space; Drop Box give you 2GB for free. This is a great way to keep an off-site backup of the most important files for free.

Then you can also make use of the CrashPlan backup service. I believe you can back up to a friend's computer through the Internet, for free.
posted by krilli at 6:50 AM on September 10, 2011

Another, fairly low-impact strategy that is not perfect, but is more secure than just an external hard drive is get two. Once a (month/week/whatever works for you) swap them and take the just-removed one somewhere else -- work, your mom's whatever. This won't necessarily help in a situation like Irene, but it's insurance against fires, etc.

I do most of my work on a flash drive these days. When I am at work, I back it up to my desktop computer. When I am at home, I back it up to my home computer. The home computer has an external hard drive. I get new flash drives fairly often. It's not a perfect system, but I am unlikely to lose more than a week's work, even if I am being careless.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:42 AM on September 10, 2011

You might want to look into getting a NAS (Network-attached_storage) disk and e.g. Retrospect to create the backups.

Everything needs to be automated, or you'll forget to take backups the weeks before next break in.
posted by flif at 9:18 AM on September 10, 2011

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