How Do I Keep My Audio Files Safe? – Storing And Protecting Your Data

Backing Up Your Data

Over time you accumulate thousands of audio files which are your most important and valuable possessions. You spend years recording, editing and mixing your audio files and even saved multiple versions of your takes for later use. Keeping them safely stored and protected is essential.

Most things in you recording studio can replaced. Broken or outdated equipment can be replaced. Furniture like desks and chairs can be replaced by better and newer ones. Even your acoustic materials can be replaced. The one thing you cannot replace also happens to be you most valuable possession, you audio files.

Audio File

You will never have the time to recreate the recordings and mixes done in your DAW Software, if something were to happen to your files. Even if you had the time, you will never be able to recreate the exact same environment and sound. Artists you used in the past may not be available or not even be performing anymore. During all those years of creating and recording, you also possibly used some rare and distinctly unique instruments you will never be able to get your hands on again.

I have gone on and sketched a pretty bleak picture. This is simply to drive home the importance of you audio files, and how important it is that you keep them safe and protected. Actually more than keeping them just safe, but making sure you create backups of your important files and storing them in secure locations. Yes thy are that important. 

We going are take a look at ways of storing your files, how and where to save them and just provide some general advice that can help to assist you. Here are a few guidelines to follow.

Remember To Save Your Files Often!

As you spend extended periods of time in your studio mixing away in front of your computer, you can easily loose track of time. Apart from taking a break, you may be forgetting to do something just as important. Saving your files...

There are few things so frustrating and giving you that helpless sinking feeling, than when your computer freezes or gets shut down due to some unforeseen incident, and you realize with a shock that you just worked for three hours straight without saving you file.

This happens to thousands of users every day, so develop the habit of saving your work often. If you have to, force yourself in the beginning by setting a timer that goes off every ten/fifteen minutes to remind yourself. It will become second nature very quickly. Just get in this habit as soon as possible.

Save All Recordings For Later Use

It is very possible, almost certain that you have plenty of takes from a certain recording session. You could be recording some unique combination or sequence, or even use a very instrument in your recording.

backup and safe

Saving these unique sequences or instrument sounds may come in very hand at a later stage when you don't have access to the original sources. As good as DAW software and their virtual tools are, it is just not always possible to completely recreate that sound. Using samples from the saved recording to create new sequences and incorporate them into your current project will save you valuable time and money.  

You will need plenty of hard drive space to save almost every recording you made. Luckily, external USB hard drives are growing in capacity while becoming more affordable at the same time. It will be much less expensive spending time on an extra hard drive than having to source and and make another recording of something you could have had readily available.

Back Up Your Audio Files On An External Hard Drive

Whether you are recording you audio in 16-bit or 24-bit depth, you will be surprised how quickly you audio files will fill up you computer's hard drive. When you are working on a desktop computer with additional open slots, you now have the option to upgrade your hard drive to a bigger capacity one, or simply add a second large capacity drive to your system.

But what if something happens to your computer? We don't think of backing up our data nearly enough. You may be sitting with months or years of work on your computer, and only realize the consequences of not backing up when an electrical power surge or computer virus destroys all the data on you hard drive. When your hard drive is destroyed, there is no way of ever getting your years of hard work back.

For this reason, I would not just recommend, but urge you to invest in a separate external hard drive where you can keep a copy of all your important data files. As your audio file collection grow, you may end up with multiple hard drives. USB connected hard drives are getting more affordable though, and can come in capacities of up to 4Tb.

Portable USB hard drives are compact, reliable and quick to use. You simply plug the hard drive into your USB port and you are ready to go.

Store Your Backups Away From Your Studio

We just covered making backups and its importance, so no need to go over it again. What is almost as important as making backups, is where you store them. If your hard drive or other storage medium fail, you are prepared. But what if your backups are stored in your studio?

And that is the worst case scenario where you may loose your whole studio and house content in case of a human action or natural disaster. You may just be unlucky and fall victim to a burglary where the whole contents of your house and studio are stolen.   

western digital elements hard drive

Electrical fires and flooding from a broken geyser or underground water pipe happens more often than you think.  As unlikely as it may seem, a natural disaster like a fire and flooding is not impossible. You get the point.

This section is not aimed to make you paranoid, I promise. I am bringing this to your attention, so that hopefully in the very unlikely event that it ever happens to you, you did prepare for it.

All these "doomsday scenarios" have just been sketched to emphasize the importance of keeping important backups stored away from your home. Obviously you cannot make a backup of every possible saved audio file, but you know which your most important and treasured ones are.

The home of a trusted friend, family member or work colleague will be the ideal place to store your backups out of harm's way. It won't be an inconvenience, as external hard drives with years worth of work can easily fit inside a shoe box. It can be safely placed in a closet out of the way, and give you that added security and piece of mind.

Name Your Files Properly

The amount of audio files on your hard drive and external media will accumulate very quickly. Soon you will be sitting with hundreds or thousands of files. If you don't name them properly to be accurately identified when searched for, you may end up spending hours looking for a certain audio track. In a worst case scenario you may not find the file at all.

A good practice when naming a file is to name it as soon as possible. Don't postpone! As soon as you start working with an audio file immediately save it. A good approach is to use the artist's name and the recording date in the file name. This will make it much easier to find.

Catalogue Your Recorded Data

This something you should be doing right from the start. As important as naming your files correctly right from the start is, so is keeping a record of all your files.

Filing Cabinet

Elsewhere in the article I mention how quickly your files accumulate. Naming hundreds or thousand of file simply is not enough. When you start looking for an specific audio track, you need a proper list with file names, as well as a short description next to each to make things quick and easy.

This way you make sure you know exactly what to look for and where to look at. (You may not just have a large number of files, they may be spread over a number of external hard drives.)

A Microsoft Excel or similar spreadsheet file will be ideal to list the names, description and location of any given audio file. I know its a hassle in the beginning, but you will quickly get used to adding a new file to your catalogue. You will thank yourself later on.


By now you will be under no illusion as to the importance of keeping backups of your data and storing them in a safe place.

I have covered a lot of detail and many of you probably feel I have gone completely overboard and not nearly all of the measures mentioned are really necessary. Unfortunately I have been present on more than one occasion where all the data on a computer has been lost, so I know what it feels like and what the consequences are.

At the very least, if I convinced you to at least make a backup of your important files, I will be happy.

As always, feel free to leave me any comments or suggestions you may have, and I will respond will try and get to them as soon as I can.

Remember to join my  Mailing List  to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.

Catch you in the next article and happy recording!



Wessel Wessels

Home recording studio owner, music and audio enthusiast and researcher for 30 years. Always trying to stay on top of new development and news in the industry.

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