What's the easiest and least expensive way to backup the data on my laptop?

I download a lot of music from Amazon onto my laptop. What’s a good way for me to back up all this data?

My hard drive says it has 109 GB free of 184 GB There really isn’t anything else stored on here that isn’t replaceable except for the Amazon music. It would be a pain for me to rip all the CDs that I’ve stored online, but I still have the CDs.

I use a USB external hard drive.

Seconded = Cheap and fast - Get two if you want to be belt and suspenders secure.

A hard drive isn’t a backup, but it’s a good start. After you get your data on the hard drive, you should also back it up to CD/DVD/Blu-Ray and store in a safe place.

He’s got upwards of 75GB of data to backup, so that would require a ridiculous number of CDs or DVDs. I’d recommend putting the external hard drive in a safe place. (Or buy two and swap them out regularly, with one always kept in the safe place.)

Yeah, hard drive. Keep one in an altogether separate place if you can in case of fire, flood, robbery, Armageddon, what have you.

There are also online backup solutions (Syncplicity, Mozy, JungleDisk) etc… You can limit backups to your Amazon music if you don’t want to pay too much for space.

Definitely hard drive. They’re so damn cheap these days it pays to get a few and do backups regularly, as advised above.

$100+/HD isn’t “cheap” to me.

And USB may not be an option if he’s got a Mac; Macs allow characters in filenames that Mac/PC formatted USB drives don’t allow. He’d have to reformat the entire drive Mac-only, which would keep him from ever getting it read in a PC. (That may or may not be important, but still.)

Can you name a scenario where it would be important? I certainly can’t think of one.

Good point about the cost, though. It annoys me when people say hard drives are cheap. They aren’t. I’m still on DVDs for all my backups. (And, incidentally, the DVDs apparently can’t be read under Windows due to the really long filenames I use. The odds of me switching from Linux at this point are so slim I don’t care.)

I got some dvd’s at office depot on sale for like .25 each, so one gig would be like .05.

If he’s doing some work or taking a class that only has one, and he uses the other? If he owns a Mac, and wants to print at a library with only PCs?

You can put 10 G on a double sided DVD. You can put 50 G on a double sided BluRay disk. So we’re talking 8 DVDs or 2 BluRays. I think that’s manageable.

Wow! Less than 70 bucks for a 500G drive and under 100 bucks for a TB…that’s expensive??

Personally, I’d prefer a single external drive to eight DVDs. And while two Blu-Ray discs sounds reasonable, that assumes that he has a Blu-Ray burner on his PC. And I’ve been checking prices on these things. It looks like a 50GB disc costs about $20. So we’re talking about $40 in write-once blank discs just to store 100GB. For about $70, you can get a USB-powered 320GB external hard drive.

I agree, but there’s no winning these comparisons. Modern external drives are insanely cheap relative to historical costs and storage capacity, but anytime you start touting “great deals” someone will chime in and point out how insensitive you are to people in tight circumstances and that asking them to spend more than $50 - $100 for a solution to back up from 100 gigs to one terabyte of data is an unbearable burden.

Why is that?

Not so!

Because if you corrupt your original and don’t notice it, it will propagate to your second hard drive and now you have no good data. Backups are a snapshot in time that don’t change. They can’t get corrupted if you corrupt the originals.

Now, DVDs and the like can corrupt over time, so you need to test your backups periodically as well.

carbonite.com is a good online solution. 15 day free trial.

No such thing as a good online backup solution. Having a good offsite backup solution is not in any way similar to having a (necessarily bad) online backup solution.

If you fail to see why, ask yourself what happens when carbonite.com leaves the online backup business. If you think they have any legal duty to save your data, you are in for a shock.