You have a computer with a drive of 500 GB, and an external drive of 1,000 GB.

You create files on the computer, for things like software, art, music, photos, etc.

You "copy" your best files to the external drive to create a "backup".

It's a backup, because now the files exist in two locations (in case one of the drives fail).

But what if you have files that are not so important, and you only "move" them to the external drive, thus saving space on your computer?

What could that be called to differentiate the files on the external drive that exist in two locations as opposed to the files that only exist in one location?

I was thinking of using the word archive, but that doesn't seem specific enough to differentiate the two categories adequately.

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    Wouldn't 'transfer' work? Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 15:56
  • Whatever you choose, your keyword may be offsite. Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 16:19
  • @JeffZeitlin If you have an answer, please post it in the answer box.
    – NVZ
    Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 19:56
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    @NVZ - It's anecdotal, not backed up with any sort of citation, and therefore not really acceptable as an answer here. Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 20:03
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    Not here, @chrylis-cautiouslyoptimistic-. When I or anyone I know talk about a "storage location" we invariably mean part or all of a file system -- often somewhere on the organization's central massive data storage system. We do occasionally talk about the physical location of storage hardware, but that's not how we ordinarily understand the term "location". Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 15:19

7 Answers 7


You are referring to archiving data. This is distinct from a backup, and is differentiated.

Backups and archives are not interchangeable


An archive is

a repository or collection especially of information


A backup is

a copy of computer data (such as a file or the contents of a hard drive)


The archived item is not necessarily a copy of an item in the traditional sense that one would think of a copy of an historical document. In that sense, the archived item is the historical document. This has become muddy as purely digital information can be copied without modification, in that sense that the copy and the original are equally valid representations.

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    Indeed. The very process of "archiving" data often means moving the one-and-only copy of the data to a long-term storage medium. But a "backup" nearly always implies an additional, reserve copy of data, kept in case the working copy becomes corrupt. Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 17:09
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    Also, often the process of archiving a file means that it is not only removed from the primary storage, but also from the backup of the primary storage. The archive location often has its own backup method (hopefully!), which can have different (maybe cheaper) technological backing. So not only is archiving different from backing up, but the two can also be combined.
    – AnoE
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 11:33
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    Usually in computer/IT speak, archiving implies "move away". So if you keep using your external drive as just another drive, then you just "moved the files". Whereas if you use your external drive only to write and/or very ocasionally to read, then you "archived the files".
    – Pablo H
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 13:40
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    Archives are often slower or less convenient to access. Otherwise they're just considered an extension of the existing storage media.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 17:16
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    @chrylis-cautiouslyoptimistic- That’s the default assumption lacking context, but ‘archive’ is still occasionally used in the sense mentioned in the answer (usually in the plural form), or as a short form of ‘archival storage’ (though that usage has largely been supplanted by more descriptive terminology such as ‘near-line storage’). Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 20:12

Note: This answer applies to the question as posed in the title, for readers who may find this question via search. The question body uses "location" in the sense of "physical copy" instead of "geographic place".

The technical term used for a backup in another location (in the sense of some physical distance away) is an off-site backup.

An off-site backup is a copy of a business’ production system data that is stored in a geographically different location than the production system. Off-site backup includes:

  • Off-site server backup, where production data is backed up to an offsite server
  • Backing up to a media device, such as tape, which is then transported and stored off-site
  • Backing up to a private or public cloud

Acronis, a company providing backup products and services

Off-site backup is a method of backing up data to a remote server or to media that is transported off site.

TechTarget, a tech media publication

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    Even if you're answering just the question in the title, this answer is wrong. The title question explicitly states that the file is moved and not copied. Therefore, the resulting file cannot be any kind of backup because it's the only copy. Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 19:30
  • "off-site" in the context of backups, is usually used with the connotation that the backup scheme is immune to events like fires. When the external storage is in the same room, it's not "off-site". Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 16:41

Offloading or offload

In IT speak you're moving data to a lower "tier" of storage. That is, the storage is larger and cheaper but slower to access. However you're not freezing or preserving the data.

Here's a use on SE

I am looking for a way to offload most of the data away from active table/database. For daily operations my application needs only last 2 millions of rows. However, I still need all of the data for historical analysis, so deleting it is not an option.

An example on a data platform

Tiered Storage helps to lower storage costs by offloading log segments to cloud storage. You can specify the amount of local storage you want to retain in local storage.


This depends on the purpose of moving the files. "Archive" can be used if the purpose is to take the files out of frequently used storage and place them in a long-term storage location in case they is needed again.

"Migrate" is a better word if the files will continue to be used, but their location needs to be changed.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 2:14
  • Are you suggesting files migrate?
    – dotancohen
    Commented Jan 11, 2023 at 9:46

One differentiation is "online" versus "offline" data. Some operating systems (e.g. ICL's George for the 1900 series) had multi-level storage. Active data was held on disc, inactive data was moved to magnetic tape. George retained some information about the inactive data so when the user requested it the operators could load the required tape.


Since it doesn't meet my def of "off-site", which would protect from events like local fires, I would call this a "redundant" backup. https://www.techtarget.com/searchdatabackup/tip/Designing-a-redundant-backup-solution#:~:text=Redundant%20backup%20media,-Another%20way%20to&text=The%203%2D2%2D1%20rule%20essentially%20states%20that%20in%20order,with%20one%20copy%20located%20offsite.



COMPUTING a central location in which data is stored and managed. "the metadata will be aggregated in a repository"

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    Welcome to ELU. Please explain why repository is correct, and please read our rules on citation -- you must cite your source, and a Google definition is not a source because they are an aggregator of information from others.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 17:30
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    Where 'repository' fails is that it is the in-use, current copy of the data. OP is talking about when the data are moved away from that working location.
    – mcalex
    Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 10:17
  • @mcalex Curious, to me it rather fails in the "central" aspect, not applicable in OP's case. In academia at least, an "in-use, current copy" may mean months passing before the data is accessed again, and I have definitely heard data lakes being called reporitories. Still, I agree this is likely not relevant to the OP's case.
    – Lodinn
    Commented Jan 12, 2023 at 9:05

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