After hardware and the games themselves, your save files are probably the most important things in video games. If you couldn't save then resume your progress, well, most modern video games simply wouldn't exist. So you're going to want to look after them.
These days, thanks to cloud saves and reliable hardware, that's easier than ever. The era of corrupting a memory card, or a NES cartridge battery dying, are thankfully over.
Just because things are better now, though, doesn't mean they're perfect. If you're smart, you're going to want to take out an insurance policy and protect your save games from catastrophes like hardware failure and accidental deletion. Just in case.
After all, there's almost nothing worse than losing an important save file. Replacing a broken controller or even console is expensive but relatively quick and painless; replacing 70 hours of progress is the very definition of heart-breaking.
Below you'll find a guide to backing-up your save game data on each of today's major gaming platforms. Experienced users may already know this, or even be doing it; that's fine! This is a guide for those who haven't yet taken advantage of these services/options.
Microsoft has two main ways of backing up your saves. The first, and easiest, is to simply back them up to them the company's cloud servers, though you'll need an Xbox Live Gold subscription to do this.
Here's how to enable cloud saves.
- On the Xbox 360 dash, go to "settings", then "system"
- Hit "storage", then "cloud saved games".
There's more info on Xbox 360 cloud saves here.
If you prefer something more tangible, you can also copy your saves to a USB stick. This solution is a little more laborious, but also for many a "safer" option, since you're responsible for the files yourself, not Microsoft.
You can learn how to transfer Xbox 360 saves via USB here.
Nintendo's latest handheld has recently introduced the capability to backup just your save games.
There are some caveats, though. The feature is only available for downloadable games, not retail titles. And it's capped at 30 saves.
You can learn how to backup your 3DS game saves here. For extra insurance, once you've done that, you can copy data from one SD card to another, which is as painless as dragging and dropping the files on a PC.
Oh boy. There's no catch-all solution to backing up PC game saves, as being an open platform, there are no standards. Some games will save your progress within the title's main file directory. Others will create a folder in your "My Documents".
For the sake of commonality, though, let's talk about Steam, which does have some universal backup options. The best, and easiest, is for games on the service that are able to take advantage of the Steam Cloud, saving your games on Valve's servers. You can read up about that here.
Those that don't, well, know that when you uninstall a game on Steam, it leaves your save games on your HDD, so if you ever want to reinstall a title, your progress will be maintained.
Prepare for sadness. The Wii U doesn't have a proper means of backing up save games. You can transfer data to an external HDD, but in the event your Wii U breaks, or goes missing, that data won't work on a new system, as it's tied to the console it originated from. Hopefully this is something Nintendo can address in a future console update.
Like its rival the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3 is able to save your games to both an external physical location and the cloud.
Cloud saves are only available to PlayStation Plus subscribers. If that's you, you can move your saves to the cloud by finding them on your PS3 system, then copying them to the cloud folder, which is located on the XMB under Games -> Saved Data Utility -> Online Storage.
To backup your saves to a physical location, you've got two options. You can either copy saves individually, by inserting a USB stick and copying the files over (remember, they're located in the "Saved Data Utility folder), or you can copy much of the contents of your HDD to an external drive. Note that the games themselves, paid-for movies and music and trophy information can't be backed up this way.
The latter is a far more involved process, even with the PS3's built-in backup utility, but it's also pretty handy; there's a good tutorial on how to do it here.
UPDATE: As some have noted, you can't physically copy saves from every game. Some publishers have locked their game's files down so that they can only be backed up to the cloud.
Backing up save data on the PlayStation Vita is a breeze. If the game in question saves its data on the memory card, all you need to do is use the Vita's Content Manager software to drag and drop it to your PC.
If it's stored in the system memory, you can't export it to a physical location. You can, however, upload it to the cloud, provided you're a PlayStation Plus subscriber.
If you need help with how the Content Manager works, you can head to the program's official site here.
That's it for the official methods! If you've got an unofficial method you like to use to keep your save games safe, let us know in the comments below!