My Backup is a Mess

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With an external hard drive filling up with redundant backups, Loutsoul62 turned to the Answer Line forum for help.

There's nothing wrong with redundancy in a backup. When you think about it, redundancy is what backups are all about.

You really do want more than one backup copy of an important file. There are times when you don't want to recover yesterday's backup, but the backup from the day before yesterday. Many backup programs offer these multiple backups in a feature called versioning.

And yes, you can overdo it. Too many backups can make restoring files confusing. And you'll eventually run out of space on your external hard drive or other backup media.

To keep the versions from getting out of hand, you need a backup program that also does purging. That means you the program automatically removes old versions.

For instance, lately I've been using Cobian Backup. It's free, it copies the files unchanged rather than using a special format, and it purges. You can set how many full backups to keep, and how many incremental backups to make between full backups. (A full backup copies all of the files in the folders you're backing up. An incremental one copies only those changed since the last backup.) For instance, I've got it set to make every seventh backup a full one, and to keep only two full backups. That way, I keep 14 backups, two of which contain everything.

Read the original forum discussion.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum.

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