You should back up your Chromebook. Here’s how.

Your Chromebook doesn't save everything automatically.
Person putting Chromebook into a bag.
Your Chromebook is not saving the files in your Downloads folder. If there's anything you want to save, you'll need to back it up. Anete Lūsiņa / Unsplash

We shouldn’t have to tell you the benefits of backing up your computer data, but keeping copies of your most important files should something happen to the originals is always a good idea. If you ever need those backups, you’ll be grateful you took the time to make them.

Chromebooks need backups, too. Even if these laptops were designed to mostly operate online, the files you download, for example, only live on the local storage. So if you want to keep a copy of those, you’ll need to back them up manually. Here’s how to make sure all of your documents are safe should you lose access to your machine. 

Back up local data on your Chromebook

This is where you need to focus most of your attention when it comes to backing up your Chromebook. Some web platforms or Android apps running on your Chromebook might only save some data you’ve stored locally and nowhere else. To check what’s getting left behind in your machine, open the Files app from the ChromeOS launcher.

[Related: Revive your old computer by turning it into a Chromebook]

Navigate around your system using the folder links on the left: Click Camera for example, to see photos and videos saved from the Chromebook’s webcam, or Downloads to see files you’ve saved from the web. You can also click Recent to see documents you’ve saved to your Chromebook in the last few days.

Unfortunately, there’s no app or integrated tool that will automatically and constantly sync all of this data to the web for you. Instead, you’ll need to run the backup manually, so it might be worth setting yourself a reminder to do it every week or so, depending on how often you tend to save files to the local storage.

The good news is that backing up the files on your Chromebook is not difficult to do. Select the items you want to save by clicking on them—to select them in bulk, hold down Ctrl while clicking, or use Shift+click to select an entire range. You can also press Ctrl+A to select all of the files in the folder you currently have open.

You can then drag the selected files to the Google Drive entry in the navigation pane on the left. This will send the documents to the cloud, where you can organize them as needed. Another option is to press Ctrl+C to copy the selected files, browse to a Google Drive folder in the left-hand navigation pane, and then press Ctrl+V when you’re ready to upload the files.

Google Drive doesn’t necessarily have to be the cloud-syncing service you use, either. You could also open up Dropbox in a web browser, for example. Click Upload, and then pick the files from your Chromebook’s local storage that you want to transfer to the web.

But whichever cloud service you use, you’ll need to repeat the process every so often, as ChromeOS doesn’t back up local storage automatically the way Windows or macOS do.

Back up Chromebook data using web and Android apps

Web apps such as Google Docs, Gmail, and Slack all live online and are constantly syncing your information through the internet. If you’re working on a web browser, then your data is safe and you don’t need to back it up. Whenever you need to access it from another device, you can just log into your account and your files will be there.

But there are a few exceptions. If you’re working offline in apps like Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides, all changes will live locally on your Chromebook until you’re back online. Unfortunately, there’s no way to back up these changes as you would files—you just need to get back online again as quickly as possible to secure them.

It’s more or less the same story with Android apps. Most of the time, these tools do a good job of automatically syncing your data online, so you don’t need to do anything. One exception might be messaging apps you have installed on your Chromebook and nowhere else. Check the app’s options to see if your messages get synced anywhere, and how you should handle backups if you need to.

[Related: Best Chromebooks under $300]

If you’re not sure if a web or Android app is saving any data locally, it almost certainly isn’t unless you’re working offline, as we’ve already mentioned. Even when files like videos or podcasts live temporarily in your local storage, there will still be copies of them in the cloud, so you don’t need to worry about copying them anywhere else.

It’s worth mentioning that ChromeOS syncs data such as bookmarks and browsing history to your Google account by default, so you don’t need to back it up either. To check what the system is sending to the cloud, click the notification tray (bottom right), then the cog icon, and then Accounts, Sync and Google Services, and Manage what you sync.