Paragon throws their hat into the “free image backup software” category with Paragon Backup & Recovery Free Edition

I have discussed many image backup software on dotTech before, including but not limited to Macrium Reflect Free, EASEUS Todo Backup, DiscWizard, and Acronis True Image WD Edition. At the same time, I have reviewed many Paragon software before. We all know Paragon makes quality software. So Paragon + free image backup software = Ashraf’s wet dream best birthday present.

Of course, Paragon has always had the gimpy Paragon Drive Backup Express. However, as I just said, it was gimpy and not really worth using. Paragon recently bumped that Paragon Drive Backup Express to Paragon Backup & Recovery Free Edition and what a great makeover it is indeed.

Paragon Backup & Recovery Free Edition offers all of the norm features one expects in a free image backup software:

  • The ability to easily create and restore backup images of select partitions or whole hard drives.
  • The ability to compress the backup image.
  • The ability to place backup image on a local hard drive/partition, burn directly onto a CD/DVD, or put on a “hidden” partition.
  • The ability to “mount” the backup image and “explore” the contents of the backup image just like they are normal files on your hard drive.
  • Selectively restore specific files instead of the whole backup image.
  • The ability to password protect the backup image.
  • Automatically splitting backup images at specific size intervals.
  • The ability to schedule automatic backups.
  • The option to create a Linux-based bootable CD/DVD (don’t worry – “Linux based” can still be used for Windows).

However, Paragon Backup & Recovery Free Edition also has unique features you will be hard pressed to find in other free image backup software:

  • The ability to filter, by file type, the files that are backed up/restored.
  • The ability to create a bootable USB/flash drive.
  • The ability to do differential backups.
  • The ability to shutdown computer after creating backups has finished.
  • The ability to do basic partition management (NTFS, FAT 16/32, Ext2/3/4, Linux Swap, HPFS, and limited read/write access to HFS+ are all supported):
    • Create Partition
    • Format Partition
    • Delete Partition
    • Assign/Remove Drive Letter
    • Hide/Unhide Partition
    • Mark Partition as Active/Inactive
    • Modify: change volume label,Test Surface
    • Check File System Integrity

The two most notable features of PBRFE (Paragon Backup & Recovery Free Edition) which are not present in many rival free image backup software are the ability to create a bootable USB/flash drive and the ability to do differential backups.

The ability to create bootable USB/flash drives is really nice because it allows users, who cannot or do not use CD/DVDs (i.e. netbook users), to be able to take advantage of the bootable features.

The ability to do differential backups is very useful because it allows users, who do continual backups of their computers, to only backup the new files/changes made to their partition or hard drive every time they run the same backup instead of having to do the full backup every time (do take note, as Stephen pointed out below, differential backups will eat up hard drive space since each differential backup creates a new image file while a full backup just replaces the original image file). However, differential backup is done a bit differently with Paragon than with other backup software. In order to do differential backups, the user must first do a full backup (“Back up a Disk or Partition”). Then every time after that whenever a user wants to perform a differential backup, he/she must use “Differential Partition Backup” instead of “Back up a Disk or Partition”. While using the differential backup feature, the user will be prompted to select a full backup he/she made earlier. Paragon than uses that full backup as a baseline to compare and see what are the new files that need to be backed up. The differential backup then creates a new image archive of the new files instead of modifying the original backup image archive. When restoring a differential backup, a user has the ability to select which differential backups to restore from. At the image backup archive tab, a differential backup is marked with a small flag to clarify to a user what is a differential backup and what is a full backup:

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Using PBRFE is as easy as any other Paragon software. The interface, although not flashy, is to the point…

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…and all features are accompanied with a step-by-step wizard guiding the user through whatever needs to be done:

Create Backup

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If you decided to check “Change backup settings” (see screenshot #2 above):

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If you decided to schedule backup instead of do it right now (see screenshot #5 above):

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Backups can be scheduled to perform automatically “once”, “at system start”, “at logon”, “daily”, “weekly”, or “monthly”.

Perform Differential Backup

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Restore Backup

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Take note of the fact when restoring a backup, you have the ability to restore the whole backup image (with the partition/hard drive structure “in tact”), restore just the files, or restore selective files.

Of course with all these features, PBRFE is useless if it doesn’t put out – if it doesn’t perform well. However, according to my tests, there is no worries about PBRFE performance; it can hold its own amongst the best of the best. It took me 6:54 minutes to create a backup of a 10.4 GB (4.77 GB filled) partition. The end image backup file size was 4.58 GB at the highest level of compression. During the backup, PBRFE used ~40% CPU and 56 MB of RAM. Taking everything into consideration, those numbers are not bad, not bad at all. There is one annoying thing however: while going through the steps of making your backup, PBRFE will give you “estimates” on the file size of the backup image. The problem is the estimates are inconsistent (i.e. sometimes it told me 3.3 GB while other times it told me 3.6 GB) and inaccurate (the end image backup file size came out to be 4.58 GB not 3.3 GB or 3.6 GB).

There is one thing I wonder about PBRFE but am not sure because Paragon does not clarify this point. As we all know, one feature that is really useful in terms of image backup software is the ability to restore a backup image to a hard drive different than the one the backup was created for in the first place. Now my suspicion is PBRFE can restore backup images to a hard drive other than the ones they were created for because of PBRFE’s ability to selectively restore just the files of a backup image instead of the whole structure. However I have not had the chance to test this theory and Paragon is not very clear on the fact (only stating “restore with shrink to restore a backup amount of actual data of the image”).

Lastly, there are two (potential) drawbacks to PBRFE and they are not related to its features or performance:

  • Like with all other Paragon software, for PBRFE you must register with Paragon to attain a free serial key to use. During installation you will be prompted to grab a serial key (registration is free and getting the serial key is free):

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Paragon is known to not spam, but you are still free to make use of Mailinator, 10MinuteMail, or Trashmail anti-spam services.

  • PBRFE is a 102-103 MB download!

All in all, though, Paragon Backup & Restore Free Edition is a welcome upgrade to Paragon Drive Backup Express and a very viable option for a user’s choice of free image backup software. You can grab Paragon Backup & Restore Free Edition from the following links:

Version reviewed: v10 Build 8927 (30.09.09 ) Free Edition

Supported OS: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Win7

License limitation: Non-commercial use only

Paragon Backup & Restore Free Edition homepage [download page]

Thanks amozai!

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26 comments

  1. jurobalasko

    @Stephen Cohen:
    one could add, that Differential backups will always include / duplicate in their image files all the changes since the initial Full backup, while Incremental backups use to save Increments / Differences SINCE THE LAST Incremental backup (in addition to initial full backup and all previous incremental backups – in restoration process all images need to be processed, not only initial full and selected differential backup, which may take more time). Is my understanding correct? Thanks.

  2. Fred

    Hi Ashraf

    I have a problem with PBRFE 2012 w.r.t. Differential Backups.

    I did a full backup which was estimated at 53GB but ended up at 66GB. A few hours later I thought I would try a Diff backup. It estimated it would take 45GB. This made me suspicious. However I let it got ahead and it has done another full backup but called it a Diff backup and put it in a sub dir of the full backup. This also ended up as 66GB.

    What is going on?

    I am running Win XP SP3

    Fred
    Fred

  3. Vic Carroll

    I used Acronis True Image 9 on XP and found it quite reliable, however when I went to Win 7 I bought Acronis 2011 and rue the day. I have 2 x HDD installed and the backup drive would end up “raw” and I would have to reformat. Acronis support were no help. I downloaded the 2012 free version and got the same result…still no help from Acronis even though I had paid for both v9 and 2011.

    Bad karma

  4. Howard Hoyt

    Thanks 4 the review.
    I have used TI11, Macrium Reflect-free and commercial versions.
    Problem (for me) is that I have quite a few ext4 disks (linux) that I want to be able to backup. Macrium and TI do not support.
    Pargon seems to handle it all. I prefer the interface on Macrium but they just do not support ext4.
    btw, fsarchiver might be of interest to some of your readers. No incremental or differential but it supports change of filesytem, and incr or decrease of partition file size. Additionally fast and compact.
    All the best, Howie

  5. CSRK

    Thank you for this very useful review and post – having had problems with Acronis 2010 .tib file corruption, which prevents restoration/mounting/exploration of any part of an incremental image, even from the original full backup (it just advises it’s not the latest image – very frustrating!) I’m going to try PBRFE. Apparently I’m not the only one to have experienced this problem with Acronis. However, for those such as Pehr Lundgren wishing to try earlier FREE versions of Acronis, I came across Seagate/Maxtor FREE versions here. It’s not widely known, but both DiskWizard and MaxBlast (aka Acronis!) ship with their One Touch External Hard Drives and are freely available if you know that fact – and now you do! Perhaps you’ll test these two also and give your invaluable opinion? Thanks for all your hard work.

  6. Steve

    Thx for the write-up.  Very useful.  I’m just starting this process so it may be too late for me.  I have a notebook drive which wont boot windows back up, so I have connected it to a different PC to copy the data off of it.  I was wondering whether I could use PBRFE to create an image of the drive and only reload the Program Files and the My Docs to a clean Windows install?

  7. Thamza

    @John Kula: I have been trying to figure that out too my brother.

    Let me humbly try him again John, watch and learn. Brother Ashraf, Would u kindly tell us(TJ)the difference between this software and Paragon Drive Backup 9 Professional? We understand u are working hard, it is just that there is no one in any forum, who provide better and clearer reviews like u do.

  8. Sunny

    Very interesting.

    Do you know if this program features ‘Paragon Adaptive Restore’ functionality? It allows users to make dissimilar hardware restores. Apparently it’s available in some of their software, but possibly not in their free versions.

    In their words: “Want to move from a unicore system to multicore one? Want to have a more powerful configuration but need your old programs and system on a new ma

    If it’s there it may be in the basic Restore Wizard as an option to ‘Restore to a different hardware configuration’

    If it’s available in this program I’d certainly download it. If you get a chance please let’s know.

  9. Abdul Rafay

    As for Acronis True Image.. I used version 11 and it is too buggy for me.. takes some time to load up and is kinda laggy on my Laptop(Toshiba- Dual Core 2Ghz-3Gb ram).
    however the time it takes to make the image backup is significantly lesser like 15-20 min for my 16Gb data.
    Though i tried to use Highest prirority in the setting(to get it done faster) but it hanged my system and had to terminate the process.

    so, suggestion will be not to go for Acronis so soon.. maybe they released the version in a hurry.. wait till the performance issues get resolved or try 2009 version(found very stable)

    Regards

  10. Abdul Rafay

    Thanks for the detailed review. Really appreciate it.

    I was trying out Macrium free on Windows7 and made a System Image with it.The partition was 16GB(full) and backup size came out to be only 8 GB(pretty impressive) in 20 min.
    Now with Paragon.. I made an image backup of the same drive with the same settings and it came out to be 7.8GB in 35min(yes 35min).
    I also made the image using the native Windows7 Backup & Restore and it came out to be 13GB in around 28min.
    I used highest Compression level on Macrium and Paragon and didnt use the laptop in that time.

    So, in my opinion the best option is to make System or Drive images with Paragon(bcoz it is more customizable than Macrium) and using native Windows7 File Backup to do incremental backups of your Documents and Programs Weekly(it does have significant comression level on it) or use GFI backup for it.

    Regards

  11. Stephen Cohen

    For those who may not have thought of it:

    DIFFERENTIAL backups saves time restoring a system as one only has to restore the original full backup and the latest differential backup. HOWEVER, your backup HD, etc. will fill up quickly.
    INCREMENTAL backups require require one to restore the full backup and all the incremental backups, but they take up much less space.

  12. Pehr Lundgren

    Thanks a lot for this!

    Did you check how PBRFE compares to Acronis True Image home?

    It seems from a superficial review that the featues are the same except the this can make a bootable USB stick and not only CD. And Acronis TI is not free!

  13. Ateiyev

    @Ashraf: Maybe there are some compatibility issues. The system was only usable again after running the system recovery utility that removed the software using system restore. I use Avira premium security suite, Iobit 360 pro and of course windows defender that comes bundled with Win 7.

  14. Wheezer

    Thanks for finding this.

    I’ve been trying to do an image backup of my hard drive to an external hard drive for a while now and keep running into error messages that won’t let the backup happen. I’ve used Macrium, Easus, and a couple other free ones I found. Hopefully this one from Paragon will work.