Damaged USB Cables Can Ruin Your Backup

External USB drives are a great way of creating a handy and portable backup. If your drives start giving you trouble, you might conclude that the hardware itself is to blame — but be sure to check the connecting USB cable as well.

While running a manual backup onto a USB hard drive recently, my drive kept connecting and reconnecting, losing the drive mapping in the process and rendering the backup software useless. At first, I suspected that the disk itself might be at fault, but then I decided to try connecting it using a different USB cable, and the whole backup ran without a hitch.

The offending cable (pictured) promptly got sent to the bin. While there were no obvious flaws in it, there's no point hanging onto an item that's clearly causing trouble, especially when it's so cheap and easy to replace.

Naturally, no backup system should rely on a single technology. A combination of a networked backup drive, some cloud storage and some additional USB drives should protect you from most eventualities. If you do just want to use external drives, at least have a pair of them. Learn more with our in-depth backup guide.


    The problem rears its ugly head even more so in laptop USB drives. Since those tend to be carried around more often, they end up taking more abuse; if you decide to be lazy and leave the mini-B cable plugged in during transport, you may end up with a flaky cable. The fact that many laptop USB drives have a two-to-one cable, with two A plugs on one end for extra power doesn't make replacing them any easier either.
    The problem is amplified when you have drive enclosures that have the cable *built in*. You're in for a world of pain when the cable attached to the enclosure starts to die. You may end up fiddling with the cable, and placing the drive in all kinds of awkward positions so the cable contacts connect.

    The danger for most people is that they won't even realise that the backup isn't working. That is why as you mention having some cloud storage that is automated is really important. I have heard many stories of IT technicians checking someone's backup only to find that there is nothing there, blank CDs and empty files on external drives.

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