Help your parents back up their computers, phones & tablets


Adam Cecil

Adam Cecil

Former Staff Writer

Adam Cecil is a former staff writer for Policygenius, a digital insurance brokerage trying to make sense of insurance for consumers. He is a podcast producer, writer, and video maker based in Brooklyn, NY.

Published December 15, 2015|5 min read

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Parents. They gave birth to you. They raised you. They still use AOL email addresses.Even though they might not understand the tech products they possess, our parents use them as much (or more) than anyone else (yes, even you, #millennials!). Whenever my parents are around my sister’s baby, for example, they take approximately two thousand photos each on their iPhones. While nothing bad has happened to their iPhones yet, I showed them iCloud Photo Library and turned it on for them. While this was partly because I didn’t want them to lose any photos of their grandbaby, it was also a selfish move on my part – I didn’t want to field any late night phone calls asking where all of their photos had gone.When I was in college, I worked as a tech support agent for some of my fellow students. Generally, there were two types of people: people who backed up their data and people who didn’t. People who didn’t back up their data? They were a lot more stressed out when they came into the office. While no one likes having a broken computer or phone or tablet, it’s much easier to deal with the problem when you know that all of your data is safe.So do your parents (and yourself) a favor: help them back up their data this holiday season.


Parents own computers. They use their computers for Facebook and Word documents and email and they put it in the living room. That’s what parents do.Depending on the parent, they may also keep some important documents on there. Maybe old family photos, or tax information, or their folder of weird Minion memes. They probably want all that data backed up, the same way you want your GIF folder and half-written novel backed up.

The best way to do that is with a service that backs up your parents data automatically to the cloud. Why? For starters, your parents will never have to touch it. Added bonus: there’s no hardware that they need to fuss with or remember to plug in. As long as they connect to the internet, they’ll be covered.The Wirecutter, the internet’s premier reviewers of tech products, suggests two automatic online backup services: CrashPlan and Backblaze. Both cost $5 per month, offer unlimited online backup, and work on both Macs and PCs. Both will save you and your parents a lot of heartache. So just pick one, pay for it, and install it on your parents’ computers while they’re not looking.

iPhones & iPads

There’s a good chance at least one of your parents has an iPhone or an iPad and uses it constantly for all sorts of tasks (maybe even texting emoji??) Luckily, backing up iOS devices is super easy:

  1. Steal your parent’s iPhone or iPad.

  2. Open settings.

  3. Tap on iCloud.

  4. Scroll down to "iCloud Backup."

  5. Turn it on.

You’re done! The iOS device in question will attempt to back up every day, usually at night while it’s plugged in and connected to WiFi. As long as your parents aren’t the type who turn off their iPads completely when they’re not using them (please tell them to stop doing this, it isn’t how they work, stop), their data should be safe.One small complication! If your parents own multiple iOS devices or share an iCloud account, they could run out of space in their iCloud. If they run out of space, just buy them the first tier of iCloud storage (50 GB for $0.99 per month) – they’ll never notice the charge on their credit card and all of their devices will be able to back up their data.

iPhone & iPad Photos

If your parents take a lot of photos, you might as well turn on iCloud Photo Library as well. Beyond backing up photos, it has the added benefit of automatically syncing photos between devices, plus it can automatically optimize photo storage on the device so your parents will never see that annoying "Device Full, Cannot Take Photo" pop up ever again. You can turn on iCloud Photo Library in the same settings screen as iCloud Backup.

Android phones & tablets

Depending on which version of Android your parents are using, they either have a rudimentary backup system called Google Sync or Google’s new service, Auto Backup for Apps. (You can read more about the technical details over at Ars Technica.) If your parents are all in on Google – GMail, Google maps, Google Hangouts, etc. – they probably don’t have to worry about backup too much since all of their data is in the cloud anyway.If you don’t want to rely on Google’s services, you can check out a third-party backup app. Tom’s Guide has the skinny on ten of the best backup apps.However, if you’re anything like most parents, the most important thing to back up are photos. Luckily, Google has a pretty awesome service called, you guessed it, Google Photos that will automatically back up any photo you take on your Android device. It’s legitimately great – The Verge went so far as to say that it solved "our photo backup nightmare." Do your parents a solid and download the app for them.

Amazon Fire tablets

If your parents love deals (or Jeff Bezos), they may have an Amazon Fire tablet. (They may even call it an iPad! Adorable!) Luckily, Amazon tablets are super easy to back up. Here are the steps, straight from Amazon’s mouth:

  1. Swipe down from the top of the screen and tap Settings.

  2. Tap Device Options, and then tap Backup & Restore.

  3. Tap the switch to turn Device Backup on.

Like iOS devices, Amazon Fire tablets will attempt to back up every twenty-four hours, usually while the device is sleeping and connected to WiFi.

Did we miss a device that your parents own? Maybe a Windows Phone? (ha, jk) Let me know in the comments if you need tech support – I’m used to helping people out. :-/

Image: Markus Spiering