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External hard drive fills up quickly

Please help me to understand something. I'm sure it's a simple answer but it seems to baffle me.

I have a 500GB Maxtor external hard drive which automatically backs up my My Documents and My Downloads folders on a daily basis. I also have a 500GB hard drive in my computer.

The My Documents and My Downloads folders are taking up no more than about 300GB right now but the Maxtor is nearly full, showing that it now only has 41GB free. Why would the backup volumes take up more room than the actual data? Since the data is stored in Backup files on the Maxtor, is there a way to pare them down some?

Thanks so much. I feel kind of stupid asking this.
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More about external hard drive fills quickly
  1. How is the backup being done? Are there multiple versions of each file backed-up?

    Have you taken the time to compare the contents of the folders with each other?
  2. Best answer
    It depends on what software you're using to do the backup.

    A common feature of backup software is to back up multiple versions of your files. For example, if you make changes to a Word document on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, the backup program will store all three versions so that you can go and get back the file as it existed on Monday if you need to. This is one reason why the backups can take up more room than the files themselves.
  3. I bet there is some weird setting in the settings of your automatic backup software that is keeping more than one version of your files, or is maintaining files that you have deleted on your actual computer.

    What software are you using?
  4. The backup is being redundant. My advice:

    1) Create a new backup
    2) Wipe the drive when nearing full and start the backup again

    Backup programs will add data sometimes daily but a lot of redundancy goes into this. It's best to wipe out the backup periodically and restart it.

    I noticed Acronis would make small, daily backups but periodically make a huge file even though nothing much had been added. I wipe it out every three months and start again.
  5. Just to be clear, backups that store multiple versions of files aren't a bad thing - they're actually a good thing. They give you more options for restoring files and often let you recover a good version even if your file got screwed up somehow and you didn't notice it for a while.

    You shouldn't have to worry about running out of disk space, as most backup programs that keep multiple file versions will automatically start deleting the oldest versions when the disk fills up. So as long as your backup disk is at least as large as the disk it's backing up you'll always have a backup of everything. Any extra space will be put to productive use holding older versions of files.

    The only sense in which this is a problem is if you want to use the extra space to store something other than backups - but strategically speaking it's not a good idea to mix backups and non-backup data on the same drive anyway.
  6. Thanks to all of you for your response. I think the multiple versions of the same file (albeit "newer") is probably exactly what has happened. I am going to wait to see if the Maxtor backup software will automatically get rid of older versions and, if not, I'll follow the advice of wiping the drive clean and starting over.

    You guys have been a great help!!!!!
  7. Best answer selected by DRRicardo.
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