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Is an external hard drive better for backing up than DVDs?

Question: Hi, Leo. A little less than two years ago I bought a new Acer Aspire laptop with Windows 7 Home Premium with a 320 GB hard drive. I currently backup weekly to a DVD and it shows currently 1120 files are backed up. When I bought this laptop, they included a Mukii TIP-230SU-BK external hard drive that plugs into a USB port. The info on the box says it’s compatible with any 2.5 inch SATA hard drive. Would this unit, assuming it works correctly, be better for an external backup than the DVDs I’m now using?

My short answer is yes. I now always recommend using an external drive over backing up to DVD for an assortment of reasons.

But first, we really need to figure out just exactly what it is you have.

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A drive without a drive?

I looked up that Mukii device you mentioned and it turns out it’s an external drive enclosure.

What that means is that when originally sold, it doesn’t include a hard drive. It’s just a box that you would put a hard drive into. It says “compatible with any 2.5 inch SATA hard drive”, because that’s the type of hard drive you would purchase and you would put into that box.

However, I find it really odd that an empty external enclosure would be included with a new laptop purchase. My suspicion is that there’s actually a hard drive already in it. We just don’t know what kind or how big.

So, plug it in. See if a drive shows up in Windows and if so, how big it is. If nothing shows, then it’s possible that the enclosure is indeed empty, and you should either go out and get a hard drive to put in it, or just get yourself a new external hard drive. As I said, getting an empty one with a new laptop would be odd, but weirder things have happened.

Assuming, as I suspect that it does indeed have a drive in it, I’d start backing up to it.

Backing up with DVDs

DVDsThere are various approaches to backing up, and to be honest I’m not sure what technique you are using right now. I’ll just summarize that my recommendation is a full image backup once a month and incremental backups daily using a program like Macrium Reflect.

The concern I have with DVDs is that we don’t know what’s being backed up to them. DVDs don’t really hold a lot anymore, so the one thing we do know is that you’re not backing up your entire system. Just the fact that backing up your entire system would take a lot of DVDs is my biggest reason for recommending you switch to using an external hard drive.

By backing up a system image, you’re backing up everything and you’re protected from almost anything that can go wrong.

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5 comments on “Is an external hard drive better for backing up than DVDs?”

  1. Thank You Leo,
    I am using Macrium free edition to back up my files. Why didn’t I read this article an hour ago? Macrium gives the option to back up to discs or folder so I stuck in a disc (forgetting that I had always backed up to my eternal drive up until now. Macrium was new to me and it slipped my mind. So after putting in disc 1 after a minute they required another and a 3rd and I began to realize that this might not end. (I was hoping to take a nap while it backed up).
    So then I re-selected the “save to external USB option) as I had done on Windows 7 backup.
    Thanks for confirmation.

  2. “However, I find it really odd that an empty external enclosure would be included with a new laptop purchase. … As I said, getting an empty one with a new laptop would be odd, but weirder things have happened.”

    The manufacturer is including a drive enclosure to help the user migrate from their old laptop to the new one, assuming the old laptop died (or is so slow to be not useful) but the hard drive still contains useful data.

    • That’s certainly quite possible, but I’d expect that the customer would get something that actually said that. I think it’s more likely that there’s a drive in there.

  3. My OS images are 40GB on average – and I have all my user data on seperate partitions, not on C. I use a 1TB external HDD and a 640GB external HDD for images. If I made my images on DVDs, it would take 9 of them for each image. Plus all the images of my data partitions. And I usually keep 5 image sets around. Can you imagine the DVD mess I would have.

  4. I have a lot of VD’s . They are taking up to much room. When I back them to ext/hd should I store them or use them for target practice?


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