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Issue #866: Feb 25 – Mar 3, 2024

Q: Jeff, your columns are always outstanding. My questions concern backups via cloud storage, specifically Carbonite. A year ago, my video output crashed and I bought a new Dell PC. In the set-up, I downloaded my files from Carbonite, which took a good week. Then I noted many files from years ago – maybe a decade! Email from 2015 that had been long deleted. As I tried to clean up these unwanted files on the new computer, I tried, unsuccessfully, to import my personal address book back into Outlook. Each time I tried to download the pst file from Carbonite, my computer was again repopulated with email and many other files from years ago. It looks like Carbonite keeps ALL files, year after year, even though they been deleted from the computer. When you try to download to a new computer you actually go back to the beginning of the first backup. There must be a better and cleaner way to restore from cloud storage. Can you comment? Again, thanks for all you do.

 – John L.
Niceville, Florida

A:  Outstanding?  I hope my columns stand out for the good they do, and the information they convey.  I’d hate to think that they stand out for providing unhelpful information, or for being boring to read.  But most of the feedback I get from my readers is positive, so let’s just assume that outstanding means good.  Thanks, John.

I will freely admit to having no direct experience with Carbonite.  Once upon a time I contacted then with an offer to review their service if they would provide an account for that purpose.  Apparently I.G.T.M. was too small for them, and they weren’t interested, and I never bothered to go back.  Nevertheless, in reading over your description, I almost hate to say it, but it sounds to me like Carbonite has done pretty much everything one would ever want from a backup and data protection system.  It backed up your files and has retained them, apparently ad-infinitum.  It did so with all manner of files, including Outlook e-mail, which can be notoriously difficult to include in backups because it resides in ever-growing monolithic files.  The backed-up files were then available to you for restoration to your computer on-demand.  You didn’t say what quantity of files are involved, but I’m a little taken aback to hear that it took “a good week” to download them all.  Based on the e-mail address you supplied, I’m guessing that you have cable-based high-speed internet.  At your carrier’s advertised download speeds, it should have taken you a few hours at most to recover your files, so I’m not sure what happened.

But I’m getting off track here.  In response to your statement “It looks like Carbonite keeps ALL files…even though they have been deleted from the computer,” I would offer the idea that you’d be pretty sore if you accidentally deleted something, then, upon trying to recover it from your cloud backup, you found that Carbonite had deleted it to match the computer configuration.  That’s not really the definition of “backup”.  That’s more like “synchronization” and that’s not what you’re paying Carbonite for.

During my research of Carbonite to formulate answers to your questions, I gave their website a pretty thorough going-over.  I found that the service’s “Features” list includes the point that Carbonite “Lets you restore all or only selected files with just a click. You get to choose which files you want to recover, so you get back only the ones you need.”  That sounds to me like either you’ve asked Carbonite to back up your entire system, rather than your data files, or that when you did the restore, you asked for everything that’s ever been backed-up to be restored to its original location.

I don’t think you can really blame Carbonite here.  It seems like it zealously performed the requested backups, tenaciously locked-up and guarded your files, then obediently relinquished copies on demand.  I suggest a dive into how Carbonite works is in order, so you can fine-tune how you use it both for this, and for future requests.  Carbonite also maintains what appears to be a fairly comprehensive online support library, such as an article I found on how to transfer your Carbonite subscription to restore files to a new PC, which you can read at  If all else fails, almost every page on the Carbonite website has a line that says “We’re here for you.” along with a link that says “Contact us any time.”  You can use these to have a live chat with a Carbonite Customer Care Agent if you can’t get what you need from the support library.


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