Computing at UW - Backing up Your Personal Data

Like any mechanical component, your computer's hard drive will fail. Although physical wear and tear is definitely a factor in the longevity of your drive, it can fail at any time. In order to protect yourself from data loss due to hard drive corruption, viruses, theft, or accidental deletion it is critical to set up a working backup solution for your personal data. It is also important to routinely test your backup solution to ensure you can recover your data in the event that you do actually need to restore from a backup.

There are two different methods you can use to backup your data:

The best backup solution will typically integrate both an online backup service and an offline backup utility to ensure your data is secure no matter what happens to your computer back up ePHI or other restricted data, please get in contact with the Office of Cybersecurity or a HIPPA Security Coordinator.

Online Backup

Online backup uses a network connection to send your data to a remote location where it is stored securely on a company's servers. This method of backing up your data ensures that in the event your computer is lost, stolen, or destroyed you can still access and recover the important files you have chosen to backup. This type of solution requires that each one of your files be uploaded to a remote server, so it can take a while for all of your files to be initially backed up. Because it takes a large amount of bandwidth to upload all of your data, this type of solution is only feasible for people with broadband internet connections.

Drive Options 
Google Drive Logo

UW-Madison Google Drive

Google Drive Logo

Microsoft OneDrive for Business

Please note that the UW-Madison Box license prohibits use of Box for backing up personal data.

For additional online backup options, please see*

Offline Backup

Instead of using a network connection to store your files in a remote location, offline backup uses local resources to back up information to an external hard drive. Taking advantage of a much faster connection to storage media than what is possible with online backup solutions. Offline storage means that your backup is in your hands. If your backup drive is lost, stolen or destroyed, you will not be able to retrieve the data.

Listed below are several offline backup tools available to users of current mainstream operating systems:

Backup and Restore Options

Microsoft Backup and Restore (Windows 7 & 10)

This is the backup utility included by default in Windows 7 & 10. You can set it up to periodically backup your entire system, or just specific files/folders you choose. For information on setting up this utility, check out Microsoft's support pages:

Windows 7:
Windows 10:


Windows File History (Windows 8 & 10)

This is the replacement for Microsoft Backup and Restore in Window 8. Once turned on, File History creates incremental snapshots of the files in your Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos, and Desktop folders automatically once an hour. For information on setting up File History, see Microsoft's page:

Apple Time Machine (macOS 10.5.x or later)

Included in all Apple operating systems starting with Leopard, Time Machine allows regular backup of your entire system to either an attached external hard drive or a network drive. For assistance configuring Time Machine visit Apple's support page:

Deja Dup Logo

Déjà Dup*

Déjà Dup is a graphical user interface for the duplicity backup software. It comes standard with Ubuntu and Fedora desktop operating systems. For assistance configuring Déjà Dup to back up your Linux workstation, see this article on

3rd Party Backup Software*

Many hard drive manufacturers such as Western Digital, Seagate, and Lacie bundle their own backup software with the external hard drives they sell. The quality and reliability of these backup applications varies widely depending on the manufacturer, but they can provide some level of data security if other backup options are not available to you.

*This product is not supported by the DoIT Help Desk. We will provide best effort support ONLY. Please contact the manufacturer or system developer for additional help.

Keywordsdata backup back up back-up file information loss failure hard drive files recovery restoration security theft corruption crashplan drive google history time machine lost photo music video sync cloud external seagate toshiba windows mac osx linux ubuntu fedora storage google   Doc ID20504
OwnerHannah P.GroupDoIT Help Desk
Created2011-10-03 12:09:04Updated2023-06-09 10:00:58
SitesDoIT Help Desk
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