My livelihood depends on not losing my images. While your career may continue without your images, I bet that if you lost all of your digital photos you’d cry enough tears to fill up a pool, amiright?

In this post, I’m going to outline how I have set up my foolproof backup process. It’s inexpensive, it’s flood/fire/theft proof, and it doesn’t require any action on your part once it’s set up. Get it going and BOOM, never think about it again.

I had two hard drives fail at the SAME TIME and I still have everything I’ve ever shot. Consider this system well tested. I’ll start out with my computer setup (a Mac and iPhone), then I’ll offer suggestions for you Windows folks. Let’s get going!

Step 1: Portable Harddrives

My laptop doesn’t have a particularly large hard drive because I’m cheap. I choose to put all of my images on portable external hard drives. These are similar in size to a smartphone, hold at least one terabyte (that’s 1000 gigabytes!) and just plug into your USB drive.

I recommend Seagate brand but have had good luck with Western Digital as well. External hard drives are reliable but wear out after time. I always recommend registering your product with the manufacturer so that if it bites the dust before the warranty you can get a replacement at no charge.

Check out this model or this model.

As you can see below, I organize my photos in folder by year.

how to backup mac

Then I name each “event” using the date and description. If you name each folder “ description” (example: 2015.12.25 Christmas), the folders will always be in order. Here’s what mine looks like:

how to backup computer

Step 2: Apple’s Time Capsule

Apple computers come pre-loaded with software called Time Capsule. It’s a brilliant application that automatically saves files on your computer as you modify them. It backs up your internal hard drive and external hard drives as frequently as you tell it to. If your machine went kaput one afternoon, you’d be able to use your Time Capsule to restore your computer to the state it was at your last backup.

I recommend using a larger “desktop style” hard drive for your Time Capsule backup. These still use USB connections but require an outlet plug. They often  have larger capacities than portable models. I’ve used this model with good luck.

Time Capsule requires minimal set up. You simply tell it which drive you want your backup to reside on. You also need to go in and make sure your portable hard drives are selected for backup as well (if you are using one). From there, it begins your first back-up. Generally, you can leave it overnight and you are good to go in the morning.

Step 3: Backblaze

At this point, we have two copies of everything! Hooray, that’s awesome! Now if your computer or hard drive fails, you still have all of your files.

But what if your house catches on fire? Or someone breaks into your house and steals everything? You really need an “off-site” backup as well.

Welcome to the cloud. Unless you have massive government secrets, this is a perfect way to keep your data safe in the event of some dramatic unforeseen event.

I use the cloud backup service called Backblaze. I choose this service long ago because it allowed external drive backup and was only $5 per month for unlimited data. At this point, I have so much data that paying per GB would get expensive. There are other services like Crashplan, Carbonite, or _____. The reason I love Backblaze is because they have served me well for years. I’ve had to rescue individual files when I overwrote them and I’ve had to have full data restores and both have been easy and quick.

Sign up for Backblaze, tell the program what to backup, and wait for the first one to complete. Here’s the “catch” with most cloud services. They can only back up so quickly that first time. My years of huge photo files took a few months for that initial backup. Sure, it would be nice if that was shorter. But I took my bets that one backup was sufficient until that happened.

Step 4: Logistics

Here’s what a typical day looks like for me. I leave my computer at my desk 90% of the time. When it is plugged in to the wall and the hard drives are all connected, Time Capsule is backing them up as soon as files are added or changed and Backblaze is doing the same every night at 1AM.

If I need the laptop to travel with me, I know that I have two full backups of whatever I had completed up until I removed the computer from the dock. Safe enough for me. Anything critical, I can email to myself while I am away for safekeeping.

Step 5: iPhone

If you have an iPhone, your software has a nifty option called Photostream, which is part of the iCloud account. If you connect Photostream, your photos should automatically travel from your phone to your computer over wifi.

If you have backups set up, then your photos are also being backed up periodically as well.

If this sort of thing isn’t for you, a manual backup of your iPhone is also an option. You’d do that through iTunes. Personally, I prefer the set it and forget it option. However, I do connect to iTunes to upload silly video of my kids. For some reason, Photostream doesn’t allow that to happen automatically.

What if I have a Windows?

Good news. Step 1 and 3 are the same! You can use this nifty application called File History in lieu of the Mac program mentioned in Step 2. Here is a great resource for getting that setup.

Have any questions? Feel free to comment below and I’ll be happy to help you out. Hopefully, this makes the backup process similar for you.

P.S. These posts take time and energy to prepare. I don’t mind creating great content for you! Using the affiliate links located in this post offsets the costs associated with bringing these to you. If they aren’t your cup of tea, just Google instead. (Required disclosure complete. Check.)