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You’re dozens of hours into the latest game in your favorite series when suddenly, the power goes out. No big deal: you just need to reboot your console and load up your save. But when you try to jump back into the game, you find that the power outage corrupted your save data, resetting hours of progress to zero in an instant.
If this has ever happened to you, you know how devastating it feels. It’s crazy how hours of time invested add up to just a few megabytes on your system’s internal storage, and how quickly it can fade.
Seamus just started Persona 5, played for something like an hour, then saved over my 35+ hour game.
— Fahey (@Bunnyspatial) April 9, 2017
Don’t let this ever happen again. We’ll show you how to ensure that you never lose another game save again, no matter what system you play on.
Note: Your progress in online games, such as Overwatch or Destiny, is tied with your user account and kept on the developer’s servers — thus you don’t have to do anything to back them up.
How to Back Up Saves on Every Modern System
Nearly all modern systems have built-in functionality to back up your saves. Here’s how to set them up.
You have two options for backup on the PlayStation 4.
The easier one is backing up to your PlayStation Plus cloud. One of the benefits of being a Plus member (which costs $60 per year) is 10 GB of storage for backing up all your saves. This happens automatically, so you don’t have to remember to run any backups.
To enable it, head to Settings > Application Saved Data Management > Auto-Upload. Check the boxes for each game you want to upload data for. The system will back up new save data whenever you turn the console off or put it in rest mode. You must make sure that your system is configured to perform internet functions when in rest mode for this to work. Go to Settings > Power Save Settings > Set Features Available in Rest Mode and enable Stay Connected to the internet.
You can upload a specific game save by visiting Settings > Application Saved Data Management > Saved Data in System Storage. Select a file and choose Upload to send it to the cloud. With 10 GB of space, you should have no problem storing all your data.
If you don’t have PS Plus or want to back up locally instead, browse to Settings > System > Back Up and Restore to back up to a USB flash drive or external hard drive. This won’t sync your hard-earned Trophies, so visit the Trophies entry on the main menu, press Options, and select Sync with PlayStation Network to keep those current.
Similar to PS4, the Xbox One lets you sync game saves to the cloud for save keeping. It’s even easier on Microsoft’s console: the Xbox cloud game saves page makes it clear that this all happens automatically. You don’t even need to subscribe to Xbox Live Gold — as long as you’re connected to Live, your console syncs with the cloud.
@0captain80 Cloud saves are automatic on Xbox One; in order to avoid saving to the cloud you would need to play with the console offline ^QZ
— Xbox Support (@XboxSupport) January 7, 2016
Xbox provides cloud storage for each game, which grows as you add titles to your library. Thus, there’s no risk of running out of space for the average player. There’s no way to back up saves to a USB device for Xbox One, unless you move the entire game over. This is overkill, so you should let cloud saving do its thing and keep everything safe.
Unsurprisingly, on PC you have tons of options for backing up your saved games. Since you likely play most PC titles via Steam, you can use its backup options for those games and utilize third-party software for others.
If a game supports Steam Cloud, it will sync your data to the cloud whenever you exit. Switch to List View in your library by using the buttons in the upper-right corner. You’ll see a little cloud icon in the list for each game that saves your game to the cloud. To make sure you have this enabled, go to Steam > Settings > Cloud and make sure to check the box for Enable Steam Cloud synchronization for applications which support it.
You can also back up complete games to a USB drive, which takes more space but may be worth it for titles that don’t support cloud saving. Right-click on a game, then go to Properties > Local Files. Click Backup Game Files and choose a location for the backup.
For other titles not on Steam, we recommend using GameSave Manager. It’s a free tool that scans your hard drive for saves from hundreds of games, then uploads them to your cloud storage provider of choice. It’s easy to use and supports scheduled backups, so you can set it up to run once a day and never lose progress in a game again.
Of course, you’re hopefully backing up your computer already, which will keep a copy of your game saves.
Unfortunately, the Switch (our review) does not have any backup option at the time of writing, and there’s no cool trick that unlocks one. This is a big oversight, as losing your save for the massive adventure in Breath of the Wild would be heartbreaking. Nintendo hasn’t made any comment on whether this functionality will appear in a future update — we’ll update this article if it happens.
If there is one unacceptable aspect of the Nintendo Switch it is the tying of save games to console with no backup options. @NintendoAmerica
— Dusty (@HiDusty) April 3, 2017
The 3DS has a built-in backup utility, but it comes with a few caveats. First, it only backs up data from downloaded 3DS games and any Virtual Console titles you’ve purchased from the eShop. It won’t work for physical copies of 3DS games (since those save on the cartridge) or DSiWare from the eShop. Also, you can only create 30 save data backups for some reason. You must have an SD Card (or a microSD Card on a New 3DS) inserted in your 3DS to store the files.
Glad I back up my #3DS SD card routinely-reading about Pokemon Shuffle files corrupted, that's a huge loss of playtime if you don't back up!
— Always?F?k?ng?Snape (@Loretta_Snape) June 13, 2016
To back up a game, tap its icon on your home menu. Look for the arrow in the bottom-left corner of the screen, then tap it to expose the Save-Data Backup option and select it. Repeat this for each game that you want to back up, then shut off your 3DS and remove the SD card. Place the SD card in your PC (you’ll need a reader like this one if your PC doesn’t have a native SD slot) and copy its contents to your hard drive using the File Explorer.
If you have a New 3DS (or New 3DS XL), the microSD card is hard to access since it’s under the screwed-in battery plate. Thus, the New 3DS models allow wireless transfer of save data to a PC. Check Nintendo’s instructions for more.
Nintendo notes that you cannot back up some software using this method, such as Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
Like other Sony systems, the Vita supports backup to the cloud via PlayStation Plus. Head to Content Manager > Online Storage, then the Vita –> Online Storage option to upload your game saves. Check the boxes for games you want to upload, then choose Copy > OK to back them up. To set automatic backup, choose Select Save Data under Saved Data Auto-Upload. Press Select All, then OK — then you won’t have to run this backup manually.
To back up a Vita without PS Plus, you’ll have to use Sony’s Content Manager Assistant software on your PC. First, install it and make sure you see it running in the System Tray. Then, on your Vita’s home screen, navigate to Content Manager > Copy Content. Select PC and then choose to connect via a USB cable or Wi-Fi. If you choose Wi-Fi, you must follow the steps to register the device with your PC.
Select Back Up, then follow the prompts to complete the process. Sony notes that you can create a maximum of 10 backup files, and you can’t restore a backup file to a Vita that’s linked to a different system.
Nintendo Wii U
You must have a USB storage device connected to your Wii U to back it up. Head to System Settings > Data Management. Select Copy/Move/Delete Data and pick the drive that you want to move the save data from (likely System Memory). Press Y to select data to copy, then tap each game you want to back up. Once done, press Y again to initiate the copy procedure. Confirm that you want to overwrite the existing save if applicable, then let the system run a backup.
This backs up both the game and save data, which is the only method the Wii U provides.
PlayStation Plus provides a cloud backup option for the PS3, too. On the home screen, navigate to the Game column and scroll to Save Data Utility (PS3). Press Triangle to open the menu and select Copy Multiple. You can choose Select All to check boxes for all games on your system, then OK to upload it. This will copy your saves to the cloud. To automatically back up saves for a game, highlight it, press Triangle, then set Saved Data Auto-Upload to On.
If you want to back up to a USB drive instead, insert it and use the above method to copy the saves — just select your USB device instead of PS Plus cloud storage. You can also perform a full system backup by visiting Settings > System Settings > Backup Utility. In addition to games, this backs up photos and music on the device, if you have any.
The Xbox 360 supports cloud saves, but you must be an Xbox Live Gold member, unlike with the Xbox One. To turn on cloud saves, head to Settings > System > Storage > Cloud Saved Games. Choose to Enable Cloud Saved Games to start backing them up. Whenever you start a new game, it will usually ask you where you want to save your progress. Select Cloud Saved Games to keep it in the cloud.
To move an existing save to cloud storage, go to Settings > System > Storage and choose the device that contains your save (probably Hard Drive). Then, select Games and pick the game you want to move. Choose your current save data, then Move > Cloud Saved Games. This takes the data from your system’s hard drive into the cloud.
If you prefer to back up to a USB device, insert a flash drive that’s bigger than 1 GB but no larger than 16 GB. Head to Settings > System > Storage. Then, choose USB Storage Device > Configure Now > Yes. Your Xbox will format the drive so it can use the device for game saves. Once that’s done, from the Storage page choose Hard Drive > Games and select the game you want to back up. Hit Move > USB Storage Device just like with the cloud backup to send it over.
The original Wii has an SD card slot, which is how its data backup method works. Insert a standard SD card into the front of the system (behind the small cover) and navigate to Options > Data Management > Save Data and select the Wii tab. Select a game that you want to back up, and then hit the Copy button. This will make a copy of your data to the SD card. Repeat this for every game you want to back up.
Then, take the SD card of out the system and insert it into your computer. Use a file explorer to navigate to \private\wii\title. Inside, you’ll see a folder with a strange name for every game you’ve copied. Just drag and drop these onto your computer for safekeeping, and you’re all backed up.
Tips for Protecting Save Data
The above methods let you back up your save data so that even if you lose it, another copy is safe and ready to replace it. For additional safety, you should also put these tips into practice to make sure that your data doesn’t get erased in the first place. Don’t forgo backing up, though — this advice won’t help you recover from a dead hard drive.
Save in Multiple Files
Many games provide three (or dozens) of save files. You probably only save in one of them, which makes sense. But if nobody else needs those slots, you should utilize them. Occasionally save your progress into another file to have an extra copy in case something goes wrong.
— Grandpa Tone (@ToneLoc21) December 8, 2016
This won’t work with games like Pokémon that only let you have one save file. However, some games have only one file, but let you create as many saves as you like, such as Skyrim. Use this to your advantage, and don’t stick to just one save. Should your current save become ruined due to corruption, glitches, or even an event you can’t reverse in-game, you can load up an older slot and only replay an hour instead of 50.
Password-Protect Your Account
Another threat you might not have considered is saving over your existing file with a new game. Exercise extra caution if you have young children that play on your system. They could easily play around on the menus, create a new file, and save over it without knowing.
Thankfully, most modern systems let you set a passcode to sign into your account, while others feature parental controls. This ensures that others can’t log into your account without you knowing and possibly erase data. The method depends on your system:
- For Xbox One, press the Xbox button and go to Settings > All Settings from the slide-out menu. Choose the Account tab and pick the Sign-in, security & passkey option. Click on Create my passkey, enter a PIN, and you’re all set.
- PS4 users, navigate to Settings > Users > Login Settings > Passcode Management. Here you can set a passcode, which you enter using the buttons on your controller.
- On PC, ensure that you have a password or PIN on your Windows account.
- For PS Vita, navigate to Settings > Security > Screen Lock to set a PIN. Don’t forget this, or you’ll have to reset the system.
- The 3DS has parental controls that can block games by age rating. You can use this to block most games so you must type a PIN to play them. Navigate to Settings > Parental Controls and run through the steps to add a PIN. You can (and should) also add your email address to reset the code if you forget it.
- The Nintendo Switch has parental controls that work in a similar manner. Navigate to Settings > Parental Controls to get started. You can use the parental controls smartphone app, but that’s designed for monitoring a child’s play time. Continue through the steps, and you can set a restriction on software to block games of a certain rating.
- On a Wii U, tap the Parental Controls option on the main menu and follow the steps to restrict software in the same way.
Of course, you should still keep an eye on how your children use your system. After all, kids are great at bypassing parental controls.
Create Separate Accounts for Others
Most systems allow several users to log in with their own accounts. If multiple people use your system, take advantage of these accounts to keep save data separate. When your brother who’s never played Fallout 4 on his account starts the game for the first time, he won’t even see your saves. This prevents him from accidentally starting fresh and deleting yours.
Your Save Data Is Safe!
Now, no matter what systems you play on, you can make sure that you never lose another save file. Automatic cloud backup is simple and lets you set-and-forget, while local backups are still available for another layer of protection. Combined with our general tips for losing progress, you don’t have to go through the pain of replaying hours of your current game. Now, stop worrying about saves and go have fun!
What’s the worst game save loss story you have? Which save backup options are you using on your system? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below!