What is a backup?


What is a backup?

The primary goal of a backup is to avoid data loss. This means having important data in a second physical location, such as an external hard drive, DVDs/Blu-rays, local NAS, Cloud Backup, etc. After creating this second copy of data, if you delete the original data on your computer, this means that there is no longer a backup of that data, only a single copy again.

So, should you start running out of space on your internal drive and need to move data to external storage, always make sure that a second copy is made on any other media you might choose (another external hard drive, DVDs/Blu-rays, Cloud Backup, etc.) The type of backup is less important than simply having that second copy available. This is the best way to prevent data loss in case of drive failure.

Important note – RAID is NOT considered a self-contained backup, but it can serve as one copy of the data.


Backup Basics

It is vital to always have a good backup solution in place. Files can get corrupted and hardware can fail no matter how recently the files were created, or how new or reliable the computer. Once costly and complex, backups are now inexpensive, simple to use, and depending on the solution, completely automated. To save your data, time, and money, it is vital to develop a backup strategy which keeps your data safe, and to choose hardware and software that fits with your strategy.

The most commonly mentioned strategy is the 3-2-1 Backup, which states:

  • 3 copies of the data including the original
  • 2 different types of media
  • 1 copy kept off-site or in a remote location


What is the difference between Imaging, File Backup, Archiving, and Sync?

Imaging/System Imaging

This is a way of backing up a computer (files, applications, and system files) which allows storing the computer’s entire collection of available data, including operating system and program files, in a single file (an “Image”) which can later be used to restore the computer to exactly the way it was when the image was originally made.

This is a good way to recover from major hardware failure, or reinstalling the operating system, without having to spend a lot of time also reinstalling programs, restoring emails and files, etc.

File backup

This approach backs up regular data only by making a second copy in a second location, but will not back up applications or other system files. The files that are backed up are not deleted from the original source.

Backing up data is typically more efficient than copying manually and often takes up less space on the backup storage media because you can make incremental backups, as opposed to full backups. As a result, it's easier and more cost-effective to make frequent backups of multiple versions of data. Some backup software can automatically copy data into a single file that can later be read and restored by the original backup applications, or explored through Windows Explorer/File Explorer, (My) Computer/This PC, and Finder to restore individual files. Some software even offers the ability to compress these backups to save on storage space and can prevent unauthorized access by protecting them with passwords and encryption.


This is the process by which you store the files on a single storage media with no secondary copies because you are trying to free up as much space as possible. Because this method results in only having a single copy of your data, this cannot truly be considered a backup. Unless the archived data is also copied to a secondary location, a second archive, this method is not recommended.

The main difference between an Archive and a Backup is that, in a Backup, files are kept on both the original drive and the secondary drive.

Archived files on the other hand are normally deleted from the source, e.g. your system disk or data drive. When archiving data, it is common to use a DVD, Blu-ray disc, or Magnetic Tape as storage media since these are cost-effective methods for storing a large amount of data that does not have to be accessed for long periods of time.


Sync is similar to File Backup because it is typically a data only backup, so no applications or system files. The primary goal of a sync job is to keep a source, typically your computer, and a destination, typically your external drive, synchronized at all times. There are some functional differences between the traditional backup and syncing which are important to be aware of when using sync.

Sync comes in two primary forms, 2-way sync and 1-way sync.

With a 2-way sync, changes made in one location will be applied to the synced files in the other location. This includes file deletions. If you modify or delete a file on the source, then that modification or deletion will happen on the destination. Similarly, if you modify or delete a file on the destination, then the modification or deletion will also be made on the source. This keeps the source and destination in sync with one another at all times, as long as the sync job is running.

With a 1-way sync, only changes made on the source location will be made on the destination, but unlike 2-way sync, changes made on the destination will not be applied to the source, and will likely be undone the next time the Sync job is run.

Some, but not all sync software allows you to keep archives and/or versions of previously changed or deleted files. It is important to know how the software behaves because the functionality may also vary depending on if you are using a 2-way sync vs a 1-way sync.


How often should I back up?

It depends on how often your data changes, and how important the data is. Depending on your workflow, you may choose to back up multiple times per day. If your files do not change very often, backing up once a week, or once a month may work better for you.


Which backup is the right one for me?

Only you can truly determine which is best for you as the optimal backup type varies from user to user. Most important is that you are backing up your data regularly, no matter which method you choose.


What are the complementary solutions Seagate and LaCie provide?

Seagate and LaCie offer complementary software with a portion of its drives. The features and functionality of the software depend on the following:

  • The age of the drive: the software that was offered with older drives is different than what comes with new drives.
  • The specific drive you purchased: features and functionality are dependent on the drive. Not all features are available for every drive.
  • The operating system: Seagate and LaCie only support macOS and Windows currently. The features and functionality differ between the operating systems you are using.
  • Seagate and LaCie branded drives will have different software offerings and with different functionality.


File Backup options (Data Only)

Many newer drives may include a Toolkit download and installation, older drives would have come with different software. Please find your drive on the correct support page to determine the supported software for your product:

For those who are interested in non-Seagate/LaCie options, both Windows and macOS provide file backup options built-in to the operating system.


Image/System Image

All Seagate external drives offer DiscWizard, which provides the option to create a complete image of your computer. For LaCie drives, you would need to use Apple Time Machine or Windows image feature to create a system image.