How to Protect Your Game Saves on Any System | MakeUseOf

If you’ve ever lost a video game save to a power outage or corruption, you know how devastating it feels. Here’s how to make sure you never lose save data again.

You're dozens of hours into a super-long video game when the power goes out. When you reboot your console and try to load up your save, 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 add up to just a few megabytes on your system's internal storage, and how quickly it can disappear.

Don't let this happen to you again. We'll show you how to back up your game saves so that you never lose progress again, no matter what gaming system you play on.

Note: Your progress in online games, such as Overwatch or Destiny 2, is tied to your user account and kept on the game's servers. Thus, you don't have to do anything to back those up.

How to Back Up Your Saves on All Systems

All modern systems have some form of built-in functionality to back up your saves. Here's how to set them up.

How to Back Up Save Data on PlayStation 4

You have two options for backing up on the PS4.

The more convenient one is backing up to your PlayStation Plus cloud account. One of the benefits of being a Plus member (which costs $60/year) is 100GB of cloud 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 Enable Automatic Uploads to upload saved data for all games to your cloud storage; you can uncheck any games you don't want to automatically upload. The system will back up save data when your system is on or in rest mode.

For uploads to work in rest mode, you must give your system permission to perform internet functions in this mode. Go to Settings > Power Save Settings > Set Features Available in Rest Mode and enable Stay Connected to the Internet.

To upload a specific game save, press the Options button while you have it highlighted on the main menu. Choose Upload/Download Saved Data to compare your local and cloud saves, uploading or downloading if needed.

If you don't have PS Plus or want to back up locally instead, browse to Settings > System > Back Up and Restore > Back Up PS4 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.

How to Back Up Save Data on Xbox One

Similar to PS4, the Xbox One lets you sync game saves to the cloud for safekeeping. 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 your console is connected to the internet, its save data syncs with the cloud.

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. Unfortunately, there's no way to back up saves to a USB drive for Xbox One, but it's not necessary as long as your console is online.

How to Back Up Save Data on PC

Unsurprisingly, for PC games 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 regularly. Select a game in your library and click the i icon on the right side to show details about it. You'll see a Cloud Saves field for games that support the feature.

To make sure you have Steam Cloud enabled for your account, go to Steam > Settings > Cloud and the Enable Steam Cloud synchronization for applications which support it box. You can visit the View Steam Cloud page in a browser to see what save data you have in cloud storage.

To back up other save data, including games 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 moves 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.

How to Back Up Save Data on Nintendo Switch

You'll need to be a Nintendo Switch Online member to back up save data from your Switch to the cloud. Once you are, your system will automatically enable cloud data backups for all games that support it. You can check in on these options and the status of your cloud saves at Settings > Data Management > Save Data Cloud.

To back up save data manually, highlight a game on your Switch's main menu and press the Plus button on your controller to access its menu. Select Save Data Cloud to check its status. If you want to back up the data manually, select the appropriate user and choose Back Up Save Data to send it to the cloud.

Not all games support cloud saves, but the ones that do will back up automatically. Notably, you'll need to follow Nintendo's instructions to back up save data for Animal Crossing: New Horizons, as that's a special case.

How to Back Up Save Data on the Nintendo 3DS

The 3DS family of systems has a built-in backup utility, but it comes with a few caveats.

First, it only backs up data from downloaded 3DS games and "most" Virtual Console titles you've purchased from the eShop. It won't work for physical copies of 3DS games (since those save to 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. Some games, such as Animal Crossing: New Leaf, don't work with this function.

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.

For an extra layer of backup, place the SD card in your PC (you'll need an SD card reader, like this Anker model, if your PC doesn't have an SD slot) and copy its contents to your computer's storage drive using 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 on wireless 3DS file transfer for help.

How to Back Up Save Data on PlayStation Vita

Like other Sony systems, the Vita supports backup to the cloud via PlayStation Plus.

To make sure you have automatic saves enabled, go to Settings > PlayStation Network > Automatic Update Settings. There, confirm that you have Update Automatically and Upload Saved Data to Online Storage checked.

To manage individual saves, go to Content Manager > Copy Content > Online Storage. Choose PS Vita System -> Online Storage to back up specific local saves to the cloud.

To prevent some games from backing up automatically, chose the Select Saved Data option instead.

To back up your Vita saves 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's manual page for this 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.

How to Back Up Save Data on Wii U

You must have a USB storage device connected to your Wii U to back it up. Check out our overview of external storage methods for your Wii U if you don't have external storage yet.

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 select 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. Keep in mind that once you copy the data to your external drive, your Wii U will use that drive as the default save location for the game going forward.

How to Back Up Save Data on PlayStation 3

Check out our guide to backing up and importing PS3 game saves for everything you need to know about this.

How to Back Up Save Data on Xbox 360

The Xbox 360 supports cloud saves, but you must be an Xbox Live Gold member to use them. 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. Your console will sync your save data to the cloud when you quit the game.

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 Copy > Cloud Saved Games. This copies 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 1GB. 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 Copy > USB Storage Device just like with the cloud backup to send a copy over.

How to Back Up Save Data on Nintendo Wii

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 select the Wii button at the bottom-left of the main menu.

Browse to Data Management > Save Data and select the Wii tab. Choose a game that you want to back up, then hit the Copy button. This will make a copy of your data to the SD card. Repeat this for every game that you want to back up.

For a proper backup, take the SD card out of your 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.

General Tips for Protecting Your Game Saves

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 can also use some more practical tips 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 might 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.

This won't work with certain games that only let you have one save file. However, while some games have only one player file, they let you make as many saves as you like; Skyrim is one example. 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 one hour instead of 50 hours.

Password-Protect Your Account

Another threat you might not have considered is saving over your existing file with a new game. Use 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 overwrite your save file 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 to using them depends on your system. Here's a brief summary:

  • For Xbox One, press the Xbox button and go to Profile & system > Settings on the Guide. Choose the Account tab and pick the Sign-in, security & passkey option. Choose Change my sign-in & security preferences, select Ask for my passkey, set one if needed, and you're all set.
  • On PS4, navigate to Settings > Users > Login Settings > Passcode Management. Here you can set a passcode, which you enter using the buttons on your controller.
  • 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 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 the PIN once you set it, 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.
  • 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, even the best parental control tools aren't perfect.

Create Separate Accounts for Other People

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 Game Save Data Is Safe

Now, no matter what systems you play on, you can make sure that you never lose your game saves. Automatic cloud backup is simple and lets you set-and-forget, while local backups are still available for another layer of protection.

Combined with general tips for losing progress, you should never have to go through the pain of replaying many hours of a game over again.