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In fairly common, but unfortunate circumstances, File Management and Backup Strategies can mean the difference between handing in an assignment on time and losing your work forever!

The idea of Backup Strategies is very simple - it is about making and storing an extra copy of all of your important files / documents.

It is very IMPORTANT that you do this, that you do it regularly and you do it efficiently.

This can quickly become a complicated subject if you want to do a full system backup or if you want to automate parts of the process, but the information on this page is designed to help you make backups of your coursework and drafts in case you need a disaster recovery solution (computer dies, pendrive lost, flood, fire, earthquake, etc.).


  • Why should I backup my work?

    Losing Data / Documents

    Computer data / documents / files are not completely safe and there are a number of scenarios whereby you can lose your data:

    • Pendrives die and/or get lost.
    • Laptops and desktops can crash through failure of components.
    • Laptops and desktops can crash through interaction with liquids (i.e. spilled energy drink).
    • Hard drives can fail.
    • Any computer data can become corrupted, accidentally deleted or wiped.
    • Your computer can be hijacked by ransomware (where you have to pay a fee to criminals in order to get your data back).
    • Your computer can be infected with a virus that destroys your data.
    • Your computer can be effected / destroyed by environmental events (fire, flood, etc.).

    And this will usually happen when you have an assignment due.

    Assignments and Assessment

    When you have an assignment due and have been busy putting together notes, drafts, references and/or your actual essay - this is when you are most likely to:

    • Be working late
    • Be stressed
    • Be tired
    • Let your guard down
    • Make mistakes
    • This is the time when you are more likely to
    • Allow viruses onto your computer (when downloading files, documents or software)
    • Delete the wrong document
    • Forget to save the right document
    • Spill something (like an energy drink) over your laptop

    This is also the time when you are least likely to have put aside a few minutes to backup your work - because you NEED to get on with the process of writing.

    Safeguard Against Disaster

    All you need to do is take a few minutes to make a copy of your important documents.

    If you have followed our advice on File Management then you can easily make a copy of a whole module folder.

    Backup your work regularly, but also make a backup just prior to that final push - when the assignment is due.

    If you backup your work and then encounter a disaster - you will only have lost a few hours of work (since your last backup) and not everything.

  • What should I Backup and When?

    In a perfect World - you should backup everything, but in a perfect World - we would not need to do backups; because we would never lose any data.

    Backup Your Module Content

    You should try to do a regular backup of your core module content. If you have followed our File Management advice - each module will be sitting in its own folder on your computer. You can then do a quick copy/backup of those module folders. This backup should at least contain:

    • Assignment Drafts
    • Reference Lists
    • Notes
    • Any collected and/or relevant documents
    • Final Submissions

    Backup Your Assignment

    This is really important! Before you continue working on any assignment - make a copy of the document and put it somewhere safe.

    This is especially important if you are working on a longer piece of work; such as a dissertation. Imagine getting 5000-6000 words into your assignment and then finding your laptop will no longer respond. The hard drive has crashed and taken all your files with it!

    If you had done a backup (when you first sat down at your laptop) you would only have lost a few hours’ work and will still have the original document to return to.

    When to do a Backup?

    Again; in a perfect World – all of the time, but this is not usually practical for most computer users. The following table suggests the best times to do specific backups of your work:

    What When
    Assignments   Every time you have done some significant work on an assignment i.e. More than a couple of paragraphs. 
    Assignments   Do an extra backup just before you start your final push to get an assignment finished. This is when things are most likely to go wrong. 
    Lecture Notes   Whenever you type up a set of notes – make a backup copy to keep them safe. 
    Statistical / Empirical Data  Whenever you make amendments to a set of data – make a backup. Losing 10 minutes work (on data) can be a disaster for your results. 
    References / Bibliography  Backup whenever you make changes. An important reference, missing from an assignment, can greatly reduce your grades. You can use tools like RefWorks to store this information. 
    Audio / Video   Make a copy immediately. If you accidently delete, overwrite or break part of a recording – you may need to start again from the beginning. 
    Completed Assignments  As soon as you have completed an assignment – backup everything related to that work (notes, drafts, references, submissions, etc.). 
    Completed Modules As soon as you have completed a module – backup everything related to that module (notes, drafts, references, submissions, handbook, etc.). 


  • Duplicating / Copying Files & Folders

    There are a number of easy ways to make a copy of a file, document or folder:

    1. Emailing a document to yourself will put a copy of the document into your email inbox.
    2. Uploading a document or folder to a Cloud Storage account will put a copy of the document (or folder) into your online storage space.
    3. Right-click and hold on a document to drag a copy to another location:

      When you let go of the mouse button - you will be presented with the menu shown above. Select Copy here. This copy can now be stored away in another location or put onto external media i.e. external drive or pendrive.
    4. Adding the document to a CD or DVD will make a copy on the disc.
    5. Right-click on a file and select Copy from the context menu:

      Right-click in another location / folder and select Paste from the context menu. Your file/folder has now been copied.
    6. Select a file or folder and then press Ctrl and C on your keyboard (this has copied your content onto the clipboard). In a new location - press Ctrl and V (this will paste the contents of the clipboard i.e. your file or folder).
  • Zip it up


    A Zip archive file is a special kind of folder that contains one or more documents, files or folders; along with some hidden information that explains what the files are.

    Archive files are used to for various reasons including:

    • Collecting multiple files/folders into a single file for
      • Easy storage
      • Sharing
      • Shrinking the space that the files use
    • Archiving files that need to be stored, but not necessarily used again
    • Creating installation files for software
    • and more...

    Zip Archives are represented on most computer systems, by a Zipped Folder icon:


    Although you are mostly likely to see, use and create Archive Files with the .zip suffix - other archiving formats exist (.7z, .rar & .iso are quite common).


    If you want to save a backup of a larger file, or multiple files, onto a pendrive / external hard drive - you can put them into a Zip archive file.

    If you want to email a larger file, or multiple files, to yourself - a Zip archive file will let you do that.

    If you want to shrink the size of a file before storing or sending - Zip it up.

    And; if you are putting the content, from a previous module, into a safe storage/backup location - zipping it up first will not only shrink the amount of space required, but will also allow you to put everything for that module into one file.


    This is really easy in Windows (from XP onwards):

    1. Select the file(s) that you want to zip

    2. Right-click on the selected files to open a context menu

    3. Choose Send to

    4. Choose Compressed (zipped) folder

    Your file(s) will now be available (from the same location as the original files), but as a Zipped Archive folder.

    • This can be emailed to yourself; so long as it does not exceed any size limits set by your email provider.
    • It can be dragged onto a pendrive.
    • It can be uploaded into the Cloud.

    Unzipping a Zip Archive

    Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10: Right-click on the file and select Extract All

    Mac OS: See

    Linux: You will usually have 7Zip installed - see for an example of how to download and install the zZip package on Ubuntu. Zipping and unzipping can also be achieved through the command line.

  • Backup Strategies - Top Tips

    Whilst no system is perfect, the following Top Tips should help minimize any disasters that might affect your files.

    1. Backup Your Work - prior to the final push for completion of an assignment.

    2. Use the Cloud - wherever practical you should store your documents in the Cloud. This is more secure than your own computer and can be accessed from almost anywhere.

    3. Store Backups Offsite - If you have made a hard-copy backup (i.e. on an external hard drive); then do not store this in the same house / building as the original. If a major disaster happens (fire, flood, burglary) - you stand to lose both copies of your files.

    4. Archive Old Files - If you have files and folders that you do not access often (or ever), but want to keep (photos, old coursework, notes, etc.) - you can Zip them up and store in the Cloud. You can always get them back, but they won't be cluttering up your computer and they will be safe from harm.

    5. Pendrives - These should only be used for temporary storage of backup files and NEVER used as the main (or only) location for your documents/files. Pendrives break and get lost easily - if this happens - your work is lost.

    6. CDs Are Great For Backups - But… You should always store them correctly (away from direct sunlight). Never keep them with your computer. If you have important files that you need to keep for a long time (i.e. photos, certificates, etc.) make sure that you buy "Gold" CDs - these are guaranteed for up to 100 years.

    7. The Rule of Three - In the computing industry; the advice is always to keep the Original, a Backup and a backup of the Backup. This might seem a step too far, but when disaster strikes - another copy wouldn't hurt.

    8. The Computer Ate My Homework - This is not a valid excuse for not getting an assignment in on time.

    • Organise your files and folders.
    • Use suitable naming conventions.

    9. Test Your Backup - Going back to your File Copy or Backup, to find it is corrupted (won't read) is a whole new disaster. When you have backed up some files - test those files to see that they can be opened.

    10. If In Doubt - Back It Up! - Storing a spare copy of your work will take up hardly any space, is quick and easy to do and may save you from a disaster.

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