The best New Year's resolution: back up your computer

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The new year starts with all kinds of promises. This will be the year that you finish your novel. Or land that agent. Or self-publish another book. The biggest problem is just finding time to do it all, right?

But what if your computer crashed?

Do you have a back-up system in place to keep you from tearing your hair out, or holding a wake in honor of your digitally-departed novel? Here are a few ways you can ensure your peace of mind. We'll start small and move up.

Flash drive. These handy and inexpensive gadgets can hold quite a bit of information. Besides backing up your latest work in progress, they can be used to transfer a copy from one computer to another, so your novel is safe in several locations. Drawback: they can be lost or damaged.

Email. Many writers email their latest chapter to themselves, so they have a copy 'in the cloud'. Drawback: If you send multiple versions of a document, it can be hard to keep track of them all. Read how one author experienced a nightmare using email.

GoogleDrive. If you have a Google account, you've got this already (find it in your header). You can upload whole copies of novels, or group individual chapters in folders you create. There's lots of space, and the assurance that you can access your files from any computer. Drawback: it's not an automatic save. You'll have to go to the site, choose your files, and upload them.

Dropbox. This is one of my favorites so far. You download the free Dropbox application. A Dropbox folder appears on your desktop. Any files you place in the Dropbox folder gets automatically resaved in the cloud any time you make changes. I keep my Scrivener file for my novel here. As soon as I change one letter in my novel, it gets updated. Drawback: A decent amount of space is available for free. For more storage, you can invite other users, or pay for a membership.

Evernote. I'm just learning more about this organization and filing system (look for a post on Evernote soon). I think it could work well for copies of chapters. Drawback: you'll have to drag in a new copy of your file for it to be saved in the cloud.

External Hard drive. These can be purchased for less than $100, and can hold a huge amount of information (like backing up your whole computer). Most work in the background, saving your information whenever something gets changed. Drawback: as with any device, it can break down, get damaged, or stolen.

Online back-up system. These services act like the physical hard drive above, but your information is stored remotely. Most can restore your computer if it crashes. Drawback: Each charge a monthly or yearly fee. Check out this post on Five Scribes to read how several of them compare.

I'm sure there are many possibilities I haven't even touched on. The best idea, though, is to choose more than one so your words are saved in several places. That way, no natural disaster or tragedy can stand in the way of publication.

How do you back up your writing? What works the best for you--and is easy to keep up with?


  1. I've been depending on flashdrives, but am thinking I should look into your suggestion about Dropbox :-) Thanks for a timely reminder!

  2. I've been using Dropbox for quite a while and have recently started doing the same as you: I put all my Scrivener files into the Dropbox folder, so it gets uploaded automatically and I don't have to worry about it. I think it's 2GB that you get for free and that's a lot of space for Word/Scrivener documents. :)

  3. Hi, Debbie:

    My husband saves all of our work onto an external hard drive as well as to Dropbox, out of an abundance of caution. ;-)

    Great reminder! Happy New Year to you and yours.

  4. Thanks for this great reminder!! It's something I don't do often enough.

  5. That's why I need automatic backup--it's too easy to forget to keep up with some systems.


  6. You know, I actually find it strange that there are still some who are not backing up data. I guess they’re lucky not to ever lose a huge chunk of their treasured files. All the same, I stick to my strategy: cloud storage, offsite storage, and other media types (hard drive and flash drive). Although I’m still working on how to make it ‘Armageddon-proof’, if possible. ;)

  7. Sounds like you've got your bases covered as much as you can! I think I've got a little ways to go.


  8. For me, I really find the cloud storage as the best way to back up your files. It’s really efficient and affordable. In fact, you can avail a free cloud storage system. That way, you don’t need to spend money in buying external drives.

    Benita Bolland

  9. Good point, Benita! The more places I'm backed up, the better I feel.




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