Why You Absolutely Need a Backup Hard Drive

2 minute read

Whether due to the slow decay of time or some horrific coffee-spill-related incident, all hard drives eventually die. When that happens, it’s often the case that everything saved on them dies, too.

That’s bad news, because your computer’s hard drive stores all the documents, photos, videos and so on that are precious to you. I speak from painful personal experience when I say you really don’t want to lose that stuff. So that’s why it’s vital to have a backup hard drive.

What’s the best backup drive to get? Personally, I use and recommend the Western Digital My Passport Ultra lineup. For around $60, you’ll buy yourself the assurance that, should anything happen to your computer or files, you’ll have an extra copy handy. I’ve sworn by Western Digital drives for years and have never had a problem – my years-old drives still work, I’m just nervous about using them instead of newer versions.

Make sure to get a backup drive that has more storage than your computer, allowing you to do a full backup. Of course, a backup drive is worthless if you don’t actually back up your computer regularly. Click here for Windows instructions, and here for a Mac step-by-step.

If you’re really concerned about data loss, you can also look into offsite cloud backup options, like iDrive and CrashPlan. These services back up your data over the Internet, keeping it safe and secure in their own servers. These are great options if you’re worried about the possibility that your home might be damaged or destroyed in some kind of natural disaster that could ruin both your computer and your backup drives.

My personal backup setup looks like this: I back up my entire computer to two different Western Digital drives. Meanwhile, I use both Apple’s iCloud and Amazon’s Prime Photos storage to save full-size backups of all my photos. I back up about once a month.

That level of redundancy is probably unnecessary for most people, especially if you use cloud-based services like Google Docs rather than saving lots of documents to your computer itself. But I’m confident I’ll never lose a file again, and that’s a good feeling.

(Read TIME’s affiliate link policy.)

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com