Over To You: How Do You Back Up Your Music?


Hard drive failures - yes, they happen to both PCs and Macs, and you could end up losing all your data. Backing up your music is crucial, and we'd like to know how you do it.

Nothing's unsexier than the words "hard drive backup". Unfortunately, as more of our music crosses onto the digital domain (I don't even have CDs any more), it becomes crucial to have a backup routine in place. Yes, I said "routine": this is something you do regularly, scheduled on your calendar, not a one-off thing that you do every three years or when your significant other wants more space on your shared laptop for videos of your in-laws' 50th wedding anniversary.

In today's question, we'd like to know: what's your system for backing up your music library, and what storage do you use? I'll kick it off: I've got a bi-annual schedule to do it (first in December after I prune my library, and then in June), and I use a 1TB external hard drive to make a complete mirror of my entire music folder. This includes my iTunes library because I still use iTunes to organise my music.

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So, over to you: How do you back up your music? Do you keep a regular schedule for backing up and pruning your library? Do you use an external hard drive, or do you prefer storing your music in the cloud? Share your tips and tricks with us below.

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  1. Trygve Haugland says:

    I use one 1 TB drive with Time Machine for local backup of my computer, and Backblaze for unlimited cloud backup.

  2. I use iTunes as well for organising the music.
    So I back up two things:
    1. The music library (folder) itself.
    2. The iTunes library and all its content

    I use Google drive.
    I pay for larger storage space.

    I use GoodSync software to backup the files.
    Doing it once a week.
    That way, even when some tags and properties were modified, it will be backed up.

    I'm going to do it with the Traktor collection and data as well.

    In the past I used an external hard drive, but I think the cloud is safer.

  3. Shane Robbins says:

    The original.
    Plus two copies.
    One cloud. One external (a 2nd off site in case of fire or theft if DJing is your job)

    The cloud can fail. (Pay for a good service that will be around in 5 years)
    All drives will fail eventually.

  4. John Carter says:

    I got mine stored on two laptops

  5. AudioMaverick.com says:


    (1) If you don't know about SpinRite, go to GRC.com (Gibson Research Center) and seriously consider investing the $90US. Run this in "Level 2" every 3 to 6 months, even on SSDs, for maintenance. "Level 4" is an attempt to recover from a serious failure after not doing any maintenance for over a year.

    (2) The "3-2-1" backup strategy, touched on by Shane. That is "3" copies of your data, in at least "2" different formats, and "1" copy nowhere near the original.

    (3) Don't ignore those little quirks your system starts having a year or so after setting it up. Pay attention to spinning drives that get noisy, SSDs that seem to be running slower than they used to, and hardware oddities like having to press the power button several times before the gear actually comes on. Take care of it before setting up in front of the client.

    (4) My wife has virtually the same laptop that I do, and a copy of VirtualDJ installed. I back up my profile and current library to an external USB drive and bring it with me... along with my wife's laptop (and wife). If my system doesn't come up, my wife's is there ready to set up and go in a few minutes.

    (5) For data backups, I have a networked Linux box with a 7TB RAID5 array for a NAS. I have also installed "Crash Plan" cloud backup (Carbonite is another). Whatever I copy to it backs up to the cloud account. With the help of Windows SyncToy, I keep my local library replicated tot he NAS, which automatically syncs to the cloud. I spend a lot of man hours digitally refurbishing old vinyl, and I don't want to go through it a second time!

    Maintenance and upkeep is a necessary part of the electronic world. It should be part of our ritual to periodically maintain that which derives our livelihood, memories, and other aspects of our lives.

    Also, be aware that any equipment used in business that has a lifespan is put on a depreciation schedule, written down on taxes, and budgeted for replacement. This keeps the business relevant, current and viable. It is the cost of being in business. Don't be the DJ who shows up to a wedding reception with a 5 year old controller that has damaged switches/knobs, faulty lights and sometimes buzzes or pops for no apparent reason.

    Be as professional about maintaining the business as you are crating your mix, and you will be the success the rest of us try to follow. Those of us who don't cut corners will be right there with you, or at least giving you a run for the money!

    • Sunfell says:

      seconded on the GRC.com tools. They've got some excellent stuff there, including tests to keep snoopers out of your network.

      As for backups, I've kept my original CDs, so I have the ultimate offline backup for a lot of my music. For downloads, I stash it in the cloud, on an external drive, and also burn them on CDs, as well. I back up my production work onto a thumbdrive.

      • AudioMaverick.com says:

        Sunfell... Ditto on the CDs. I recently started ripping my collection to the 7TB RAID. I can still hear the difference between uncompressed WAVE and 320Kbps MP3s. I am banking on NGFF SSDs to get more dense and come down in price, in the next 2 or 3 years, and I want to have my collection ready to replace the current MP3 SD card I play from. Carrying around 200 pounds of CDs and tapes was getting old, so I compromised on sound quality for convenience. I expect that to change in the near future.

        By The Way: AVSForums recently put out an article (quoting Gizmodo) that Fraunhofer IIS has stopped issuing licenses so companies will no longer make MP3 encoders and decoders. I think even they see the writing on the wall. The reason for creating smaller file sizes is fast becoming obsolete! Time to gear up for better sounding audio!!

    • Dj Chester says:

      I agree 100% with AudioMaverick it's what I do as well. I like all my music on two external LaCie HDD which used to be connected by USB3 to my Mac (1xcrioptonie online backup) . I'm now slowly moving to Thinderbolt. Hey AudioMaverick By any chance you listen to The Security Now podcast by Leo Leporte & Steve Gibson as I do every week. I always carry two Macs, 2exterbal HDD, my Pioneer DDj RX & my Hercules RMX2 as standby just in case. it's small & compact. Yes it is painful to back up every 2 months but it's worth the trouble should I end up with a catastrophe like fire, theft, corruption etc. like the saying "pain is short but gain is long term" or something like that.

  6. I currently have two external hard drives where I store things in duplicate. One hard drive goes, I immediately buy a new one and copy all the music of the other one on to the new. Over time, as things age, I'll replace said hard drives and use new ones.

    I also try not to hang on to every piece of music possible. My old school is most important to me, but I have dumped loads of music that I know I'll just never play ever again. There's just no sense in hanging on to anything that isn't "timeless" in your eyes.

  7. Kevin Evans says:

    I use itunes to organize my music. I have 2 3tb external hard drives mirrored images. I have more music on them than i will ever use. I have music i use on 2-256gb thumb drives, mirrored.

  8. Ian Williams says:

    Firstly, i have two collections to back up. My "DJing" collection on my laptop, & my "Master Media" collection at home.

    My DJing collection is included on my Time Machine backup at home. I also keep three extra copies on external USB drives (1 backup DJing collection that goes in my gig bag, 1 that stays at home, & 1 that's left at work-(off site)

    My Master Media collection lives on a 3TB drive at home. This is copied every week (using Carbon copy cloner) to two seperate USB drives. One of these stays at home & the other at work. These two are also rotated every week (home one goes to work, work one comes home)

  9. Jeff Loogman says:

    I use a portable drive made by WD that is raid 1. It has 2 2tb drives in one portable chassis. The music on this drive and on my SSD in the mac is backed up with time machine to a diffrent drive as well. The WD drive is also thunderbolt so its fast enough to use in real time with Serato, no glitches.

    So i have 3 layers of assurance. Using an SSD/iCloud, using a RAID1 external and using time machine.
    Additionally, once a year when I travel to my in-laws I back everything up to thier WD cloud/network drive. That way, if my house burns down will all my gear in it, i have another copy 800 miles away.
    Lastly, contrary to the seaming trend, i still use iTunes and i purchase a lot of music from the iTunes store. The advantage is that all my purchased music syncs to all my apple stuff so there is always another copy on a phone or pad, and of course, i can re-download it at anytime.

  10. Javier Vilarroig says:

    Not only for music but for any other relevant information. Right now 2Tb is barely enough, so probably I will need to move to bigger HD's 😉

    3x2Tb HD pasword protected and a custom script to mirror everything in any of the the three HD's.

    Just to connect the HD's I have at home and launch the script. At least twice a week.

    I always try to have one of the HD's in another location. A relative or good friend home will be OK. Go rotating them when you go visit the depositary.

    An extra copy of my Dj related stuff in a 32Gb pendrive, always in my keyring and a custom script for mirroring just my Dj data (audio files + Mixxx data). You never know when can be of use 😉

  11. DJ Smoeki says:

    I have 2 WD 3Tb MyBook drives, I use TimeMachine to make a full backup every 2 or 3 weeks. As Javier said, I keep one drive in another location: a safe deposit box at the local bank. I rotate them about twice a year. Haven't made a small emergency backup on a pendrive, that sounds like a great idea!

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