What Exactly Should I Back Up?

Do I back up programs or just saved files? What about Windows files?

Most online backup services let you back up pretty much anything you want, and some let you pick and choose what to back up, but what exactly do you need to back up? Photos and documents might be all that comes to mind, but do you need to back up everything else, too, like software programs?

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"I have no idea what I should be backing up. Which programs do I back up? What kinds of files? I'm confused!"

Very simply, you need to back up anything you can't replace. For most people, this means backing up things you've created, like documents, things that you can't just download again, like photos from a camera, and things you've purchased, like music and movies.

In newer versions of Windows, like Windows 10Windows 8, and Windows 7, these sorts of files are often located in the Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos folders located within the Users folder with your name, but you should check with your other programs to see if they may store files elsewhere.

In macOS, you'll find most of your important files in your Documents, Music, Movies, and Pictures folders.

Installed programs themselves, as well as files that are part of the operating system, don't usually need to be backed up because the files don't usually change and can be easily reinstalled. Software programs also rarely work properly when restored from a backup.

If you're still not sure what to backup, know that most online backup service software includes wizards and other preconfigured backup settings that make it easy to select the majority of the important locations on your computer that should be backed up.

You could also think to yourself, "If my computer were to get stolen, what would I miss?" This is a good way to think through what you value in your digital life and what would, therefore, be a good thing to back up.

Other Online Backup Questions

Below are some related questions we get about configuring and using online backup software on your computer:

See our Online Backup FAQ for more answers to common online backup questions.