[Windows] Best free file backup, drive backup (aka imaging), and system backup software

Nowadays, computers are quite the keys to our kingdoms. While I’m sure it varies from person to person (and age group to age group), many people have critical data on their computers which, if lost, would be hurtful at best and devastating at worst. So it is always a good idea to make regular backups of your data to keep your data safe.

To make those backups, you can spend roughly $50 purchasing a shareware backup program… or you can read this article to learn about the best free file, drive, and system backup programs. Yeah, you heard it — based on your feedback, our own research, and diligent testing, we have reviewed the best free backup programs out there for Windows and compiled a list of notable backup programs which you can use to backup your data and stay safe in case of a disaster. Keep reading to learn more!

This review is part of our Best Free Windows Software section. Check out more articles on the best free Windows programs from here.

BEFORE WE BEGIN

There is one thing I would like to clarify before we begin.

When talking about backup programs, there are two distinct types: file-level backup and drive-level backup (also known as system-level, sector-level, or imaging programs). While there is overlapping functionality between the two types (e.g. some drive-level backups allow you to do selective restores, essentially allowing you to restore individual files instead of your whole drive), the two backup types serve two distinct purposes.

File-level backups are for when you have some specific files and/or folders you would like to backup. Let’s say, for example, you have important work-related files on your computer. If your computer were to ever crash, all the other files, programs, data, etc. on your computer is replaceable and wouldn’t be missed. However, if you were to lose those work-related files, you would be screwed. Since only these specific work-related files are important to you, you may decide that they are the only ones you want to keep a backup of. It is in this situation (and similar situations — this doesn’t just have to be for work) that file-level backups come into play.

You see file-level backups allow you to pick specific files and/or folders to backup. While you can, in theory, tell file-level backup programs to backup the files on your whole computer, these type of backup programs are generally for the purposes of backing up only select files and/or folders as opposed to your whole drive or your whole system.

Drive-level backup programs, on the other hand, are at the drive or system level. These programs are intended for those that need to backup whole drives, partitions, or systems. If, in case of a crash or whatnot, you would require the data on your whole system (or on a specific drive or on a specific partition), then you need a drive-level backup program.

As already mentioned, many drive-level backup programs allow you to do selective restore which essentially means you can restore specific files from a backup. However, the main purpose of drive-level backup programs is to backup a whole operating system, drive, or partition — not only specific files or folders.

In this article, we look at both drive-level and file-level backup programs. We have broken the article into two separate sections and ranked each type of backup program separately. First we will discuss the best drive-level backup programs and then we will discuss the best file-level backup programs. Skip down about half-way if you want to read about file-level backup and don’t care about drive-level backup. If you want to know about drive-level backup, no need to skip anything — just keep reading.

That said, let’s begin…

Drive-level Backup Software (aka System-level, Sector-level, or Imaging Backup Programs)

For the purposes of this review, we not only looked at the features of the backup programs but also did tests on each program, specifically looking at restore-ability We know that many backup programs can create a backup but have trouble restoring backups when the need arises. So we made sure to restore each program’s ability to restore backups.

The following is the main criteria we looked at when judging each backup program:

  • Is rescue/recovery bootable media supported?
  • Are restores successful?
  • What type of backups can be carried out (i.e. does it only do full backups or can it carry out differential or incremental backups)?
  • Does it allow access to files from backed up images, i.e. selective restore?
  • Does it check the integrity of backups made?
  • Can backed up images be encrypted or password protected in any way?
  • Does it allow for automatic shutdown of computer on completion of backup?

It should be noted that all of the programs reviewed here have scheduling capabilities, make use of Microsoft Shadow Copy (or similar functionality) to allow for creation of a backup while files/drive/system is in use, can carry out full backups, and check the integrity of the backups made. So we didn’t use any of these three factors as differentiators. Unfortunately, none of the programs have the ability to restore backups to dissimilar hardware (i.e. a different computer). We have yet to find a free drive-level backup program that can restore backups to dissimilar hardware — you need to go paid for that capability.

All testing was performed on an Acer Aspire 5315 with a T7500 2.2GHZ Core2Duo processor and 2GB DDR2 RAM running Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit. These are quite humble specs, so unless you have an extremely old computer, you should have no issue running all of the programs mentioned below; if I can run it, you probably can too. All of the backups were of a 14.6GB partition with 8.20GB of data, except for the backup done with Paragon Backup And Recovery Free 2012 as it could not detect the 14.6GB partition for some some odd reason.The backup carried out with Paragon was of a 477MB partition with 171.4MB of data.

After carrying out the backups, the restore function was tested and the outcome noted.

The time it took for each program to make the backup (under default settings) is noted by the line labelled “Backup Time” for each specific program, while the outcome of the restorations (i.e. was the restore of the backup successful or not) are given by the “Restore Successful” line. Please note that the backup times we note will vary from computer to computer and will depend heavily on how much data you backup and what type of data. The notes are not absolute numbers that you should rely on to determine “oh this is how long a backup of my computer will take”; rather, they should be taken into consideration relative to the other programs. In other words, which program is the fastest? Slowest? Etc.

The following are two terms that are necessary to know to fully understand this review:

Recovery Media

Recovery media — also known as rescue media, bootable media, rescue disc, etc. — is a CD/DVD/USB drive that allows you to run the backup program from outside Windows.

Why would anyone want to run a backup program outside of Windows? Well, for one, you cannot restore a backup of your whole operating system or main drive or main partition while booted inside Windows. In other words, you cannot restore a backup of your Windows while inside Windows (duh). Using recovery media to boot into a backup program while outside Windows nullifies this issue.

Recovery media also helps if your Windows installation ever becomes corrupted (for whatever reason) — you can restore a backup using the bootable CD/DVD/USB and be up and running in no time.

There are three ways in which recovery media may be implemented:

  • First is the Linux-based option. Linux-based bootable media run a customized Linux kernel in order to run the user’s computer temporarily, load the backup/restore software, and perform the necessary functions (often which is only the ability to restore, not make backups). Even though these are Linux-based bootable media, they work just fine with your Windows backups.
  • Second is the Windows Preinstallation or WinPE-based option. This type of backup is licensed from Microsoft and works similarly to the Linux option, except most WinPE-based recovery media allow you to create backups in addition to restore.
  • Finally there is the Windows Automatic Installation Kit (WAIK) way. WAIK is the successor to WinPE and it has several advantages over it, but it requires a huge 1.7GB download to use.

Most free backup programs provide Linux-based bootable media due to the fact that it costs them to provide WinPE, but some also allow for WinPE-based.

Full, Differential, and Incremental Backups

There are three different ways a backup of a drive, system, or partition can be made.

  • A full backup backs up all of the data on the source drive, system, or partition. This type of backup takes the most time out of all three types because it backups up all files, regardless of if they have been changed or not. When you run a new backup, the first backup is always full. Then, after the first time, if your backup program supports differential or incremental backups, you can use them.
  • Differential backups save only the changes made to the source partition, system, or disk since the last full backup (i.e. new or changed files/folders). In other words, differential backups do not re-backup unchanged files that are already stored in a full backup you made previously. Because differential backups only backup changed or new files and not all files, differential backups are quite a bit faster than full backups.
  • Incremental backups back up new or changed data since the last full or incremental backup. For example, if a full backup is made and then an incremental backup is made, the next incremental backup will only backup data which is new or has been changed since the last incremental backup. (The difference between differential backup is, in this situation, differential backup would backup all new or changed data since the last full backup, not since the last differential backup.) Incremental backups are the fastest of the three because incremental backups backup the least amount of data.

There is no hard-set rule for free drive-level backup programs when it comes to type of backup. All of them obviously can do full backups, but many can do incremental backups and some can also do differential backups. Take note that not having differential backups isn’t as critical as not having incremental backups.

With that being said, below are the best free drive-level backup programs for Windows.

Table of Contents [AOMEI Data Backuper vs EaseUS Todo Backup vs Macrium Reflect vs Paragon Backup & Recovery vs DriveImage XML]

Note: Typically we only feature one program as the ‘Best Free’ in a specific category. For drive-level backup software, however, we have two. The reason being is our first choice is the best out of them all but is a relatively new program; as such, some people may not feel comfortable trusting their backups to a new program. This is why we have a second choice for best free drive-level backup program.

Best Free Drive-Level Backup Software 1

AOMI screenshotProgram Name: AOMEI Data Backuper

Note: AOMEI Data Backup is free for all

Developer: AOMEI Technology Co., Ltd

Download Size: 52.1MB or 14MB

Note: 52.1MB version has the ability to create Linux-based and WinPE-based bootable media. 14MB can only create WinPE-based bootable media.

Note: Windows XP/Vista/Server 2003/Server 2008 users must download the 52.1MB version. The 14MB version only supports Windows 7/8/Server 2008/Server 2012 but the 52.1MB version supports Windows XP and higher (i.e. Windows XP/Vista/Win7/Win8/Server 2003/Server 2008/Server 2012).

Version Reviewed: 1.1.0.0

Requires: Windows XP/Vista/Win7/Win8/Server 2003/Server 2008/Server 2012 (32-bit and 64-bit)

Approximate memory usage when idle: 12.99MB

Backup Time: 12mins, 11secs

Restore Successful: Yes

Type of Rescue/Recovery Media Supported: Linux-based and WinPE-based bootable CD/DVD/USB drive

Ability to Password Protect Backups: Yes

Pros

  • Supports full, differential, and incremental backup
  • You can backup whole drives, your whole system, or just specific partitions
  • Backups can be made sector-by-sector (i.e. of used and unused space) or just data only (i.e. used space only)
  • Ability to password protect/encrypt backups
  • Allows you to compress backup images, and control the amount of compression
  • Has the ability to check the integrity of backup files, to ensure they haven’t been corrupted
  • Ability to automatically split large backup image files into smaller files
  • Allows for exploration/mounting of backup image files, which in turn allows for selective restore of specific files and/or folders
  • Supports both MBR (up to 2TB in size) and GPT (up to 4TB in size) disks
  • Supports all types of disks that are recognizable in Windows: internal, external, removable, flash, USB, IDE, SATA, SSD, etc.
  • Supports RAID
  • Has the ability to store backups anywhere — locally on your computer, external drive, networked folder, etc.
  • Supports Linux-based and WinPE-based bootable rescue CD/DVD/USB drive
  • Supports Volume Shadow Copy Service, so you can backup files even while using your computer
  • Cloning of disks/partitions is supported
  • Is true freeware — free for home and business use

Cons

  • Does not allow for scheduling of backups
  • Some people may need to install Windows Automation Installation Kit (WAIK) in order to create WinPE-based bootable media (regardless of if you download the 52.1MB or 14MB version). If you don’t have WAIK installed, it is a 1.7GB download. Data Backuper will prompt you to install WAIK when creating a WinPE-based bootable, if it is necessary for you.
  • 2013-02-09_011848Linux-based bootable media can restore backups but cannot create them (WinPE-based can create and restore backups)
  • Cannot restore backups to dissimilar hardware
  • Is a new program, so it may have some bugs. (However, as per our tests, it is able to successfully create and restore backups.)
  • Unknown if dynamic disks are supported
    • Note: Most people use basic disks. Unless you specifically configured your computer to use dynamic disk, you use basic disk and don’t have to worry about lack of dynamic disk support.

Discussion

Like with AOMEI Partition Assistant, AOMEI Data Backuper is the new “new kid on the block” in the backup arena. And boy has it landed with a bang!

Similar to what AOMEI did with Partition Assistant, Data Backuper is looking to attract users by offering a freeware program with features that other rival freewares don’t have. Most notably, AOMEI Data Backuper has the ability to create full, incremental, and differential backups (after you create the first initial full backup, you must select incremental or differential from the ‘Home’ tab for each backup), provides users with the options to create either Linux-based bootable media or WinPE-based bootable media, and is free for everyone… home and business users.

Aside from those, AOMEI Data Backuper has all the basics you expect to have in a drive-level backup program: the ability to compress backups, the ability to password protect backups, the ability to automatically split backup files to smaller pieces, the ability to selectively restore files from backups or to fully restore backups, and more.

The only feature AOMEI Data Backuper is missing that can be found in most other freewares is the ability to automatically schedule backups. Hopefully this feature is added in new versions of the program but, as it stands, Data Backuper doesn’t have it; so if this feature is critical to you, keep reading this review for other software suggestions.

Overall, AOMEI Data Backuper is an excellent drive-level backup program.

That said, it should be noted AOMEI Data Backuper is a new program. Yes, it has a lot of features but there is an inherent risk of using a new, not-time-tested program for backups. Now, as per our tests, AOMEI Data Backuper does successfully create and restore backups, so it isn’t like the program is buggy and doesn’t work. But, as with all new programs, there are bound to be some bugs lurking around. So the question really is do you want to trust your backups to a new program? Or would you rather stick to a program that has been around for a few years? The choice is yours. If you pick the latter (aka better you get less features than be sorry later), then keep reading to learn about more time-tested programs.

Best Free Drive-Level Backup Software 2

2013-02-06_220504

Program Name: EaseUS Todo Backup Free

Note: EaseUS Todo Backup Free is free for noncommercial use only

Developer: Chengdu Yiwo Tech Development

Download Size: 112MB

Version Reviewed: 5.6

Requires: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/Win7/Win 8 (32-bit and 64-bit)

Approximate memory usage when idle: 14.86MB

Backup Time: 8 mins, 33 secs

Restore Successful: Yes

Type of Rescue/Recovery Media Supported: Linux-based CD/DVD/USB drive

Ability to Password Protect Backups: No

Pros

  • Does full and incremental backups
  • You can backup whole drives, your whole system, or just specific partitions
    • Doubles as a file-level backup program — has the ability to backup select files and folders, too, in addition to whole partitions/drives/system
  • Can do sector-by-sector backup or backup of data only
  • Allows you to compress backup images, and control the amount of compression
  • Can schedule automatic backups
  • Has the ability to check the integrity of backup files, to ensure they haven’t been corrupted
  • Ability to split large backup image files into smaller files
  • Allows for exploration/mounting of backup image files, which in turn allows for selective restore of specific files and/or folders
  • Supports Linux-based bootable rescue CD/DVD/USB drive
  • Notification of backup operations can be provided via email
  • Supports both MBR (up to 2TB in size) and GPT (up to 4TB in size) disks
  • Has the ability to store backups anywhere — locally on your computer, external drive, networked folder, etc.
  • Supports Volume Shadow Copy Service, so you can backup files even while using your computer
  • Has the extra features of
    • Being able to clone (i.e. copy just data or do sector-by-sector copy) drive or partition to another drive or partition
    • Being able to wipe disks or partitions

Cons

  • 2013-02-09_013124Does not allow for encryption/password protection of backups (need paid version of password protection)
  • No differential backup option (need paid version for differential backup)
  • Free for home-use only
  • No WinPE-based bootable media (need paid version for WinPE-based bootable media)
  • Cannot restore backups to dissimilar hardware
  • Supports basic disk only, not dynamic disks

Discussion

EaseUS T0do Backup Free is a simple but effective option for carrying out all of your disk imaging or cloning needs. EaseUS Todo Backup Free allows users to backup and restore their entire disk or the individual partitions on the disk. It also offers users the options of backing up only the partition(s) which contains the operating system with the ‘System backup’ option. EaseUS Todo Backup also offers users the facility of cloning their entire disk or individual partitions (aka copying your disk to another disk or partition to another partition). EaseUS allows for the adjustment of the compression level of backups with the highest level allowing for the smallest sized backups but taking the longest amount of time to perform. Additionally, the option is given for image files to be split into smaller files which may be more manageable depending on the situation. It is also possible to notify administrators via email of the results a backup session. One of the great features of EaseUS Todo Backup is that it allows for incremental backups. EaseUS Todo Backup also offers users the option of shutting down or rebooting the computer after a backup operation is completed.

EaseUS allows for additional options such as:

  • Checking the integrity of an image
  • Creating a bootable disk
  • Wiping the data from a disk
  • Mounting a disk or partition image to a virtual partition
  • PreOs

The PreOs option allows users to access a pre-Windows environment on the next boot of their computers allowing for recovery options to be accessed without actually booting into windows. This is not meant to be a replacement for rescue media as it does not guarantee complete safety in the cases of boot or hard drive failure.

While EaseUS does offer users an incremental backup, differential backups may be more suited for the purposes of some users and this option is not offered. There is also no ability to password protect or encrypt backups in the free version.

Overall, despite its shortcomings, EaseUS Todo Backup Free is an excellent drive-level backup program.

Runner Up

macrium shotProgram Name: Macrium Reflect Free

Note: Macrium Reflect Free is free for noncommercial use only

Developer: Paramount Software UK Limited

Download Size: 33.2MB

Version Reviewed: 5.1.5529

Requires: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/Server 2003/Server 2008 (32-bit and 64-bit)

Approximate memory usage when idle: 8.92MB

Backup Time: 10mins, 28secs

Restore Successful: Yes

Type of Rescue/Recovery Media Supported: Linux-based and WinPE based CD/DVD/USB drive

Ability to Password Protect Backups: Yes

Discussion

Macrium Reflect Free is a powerful drive-level backup program which allows users to easily backup the contents of their hard drives.

The main screen of the program clearly displays a list of all of the available hard disks and partitions and allows users to easily carry out tasks on either by selecting the required disk or partition. Users can either choose to clone or to create an image of their entire hard disk or do the same for selected partitions.

2013-02-09_130221There is also an option for backing up only the partition which contains Windows. Macrium Reflect also allows users to create rescue media using either the Windows-PE option or the Linux option; the Windows PE option offers users greater flexibility as it supports a wider range of PC hardware. In addition users can easily verify the file systems of their drives as well as all created images. Macrium gives users of setting their computer to automatically shutdown after the program has completed a backup task.

When restoring backups, you can restore whole backups or selectively restore files.

Users are given several options for tweaking the performance of Macrium Reflect Free. For example, the compression level can be adjusted, where backups can be compressed into smaller files. Also, there is an intelligent sector copy option which allows only disk sectors used by the file system to be copied, as opposed to making an exact copy where even deleted files may be recovered and will generally take longer.

My only issue with this program is that it gives users no incremental or differential backup options — only full backups with this program. Despite that, however, Macrium Reflect Free will ensure that you have a stress free backup/restore process. This is yet another excellent free drive-level backup program

Honorable Mention 1

paragon screenshotProgram Name: Paragon Backup & Recovery Free

Note: Paragon Backup & Recovery Free is free for personal use only

Developer: Paragon Software Group

Download Size: 103MB

Version Reviewed: 2012

Requires: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7/8 (32-bit and 64-bit)

Approximate memory usage when idle: 25.52MB

Backup Time: 14 seconds (for 477MB partition)

Restore Successful: Yes

Type of Rescue/Recovery Media Supported: Linux-based CD/DVD/USB drive

Ability to Password Protect Backups: Yes

Discussion

2013-02-09_014952Paragon Backup & Recovery Free possesses some powerful features considering the fact that it is a free program and it may surprise users.

Paragon allows users to backup or restore images of a single or all of the partitions contained on their computer’s hard drive and gives the option of performing a differential backup. This program also allows users to create a secure partition which remains operable even if the system partition is damaged. Additionally, it allows users to create recovery media as well as to check the integrity of both recovery disks and image files. It also allows users to transfer files between partitions and to access files from backed up images. Paragon Backup & Recovery 2012 Free also allows users to set their computers to shutdown after carrying out a backup operation.

As an added bonus, Paragon Backup & Recovery 2012 has basic partitioning features which support Windows, Linux, and Apple file systems.

The only issue I had with this program is that it offered no option to make an exact clone of an entire hard drive. Also, this program offers users differential backups but no incremental backups which may not be ideal for some users, and that differential backup method is a bit quirky.

Overall, this is a good program and a viable option for backing up your data

Honorable Mention 2

drive shotProgram Name: DriveImage XML

Note: DriveImage XML is free for private use only

Developer: Runtime Software

Download Size: 1.78MB

Version Reviewed: 2.44

Requires: Window XP/Server 2003/Vista/7/8

Approximate memory usage when idle: 18.35MB

Backup Time: 18mins, 24secs

Restore Successful: Yes

Type of Rescue/Recovery Media Supported: Linux-based LiveCD and BartPE

Ability to Password Protect Backups: No

Discussion

DriveImage XML is quite a simple program but it gets the job done. DriveImage XML allows users to:

  • Backup drives to image files
  • Browse image files
  • Restore images to the same or another drive
  • Clone drive

Don’t let this program’s simplicity to fool you as it is quite an effective drive-level backup program.

DriveImage XML allows users to backup and restore an entire disk or individual partitions. It also allows users to browse files contained within backups as well as to clone the entire contents of one drive to another. Additionally, it gives users the option of creating a backup of a partition even as it is being used. It also allows users to access a command line interface which allows the running of the program from batch files. . DriveImage XML also allows users to schedule their backup tasks as well as to fix Vista boot problems. Users can choose the level of image compression they desire a well as choose to split large image files into smaller, more manageable files. DriveImage XML also allows users to create backups which can be processed with third party software as backups are stored as .XML files. Although the program does support recovery media, users can not create their own recovery media from directly within the program and must use a program such as BartPE in order to create their own recovery disk. You can also directly download the LiveCD ISO and burn that to CD/DVD, if you wish.

However, DriveImage XML did not allow for differential or incremental backups. Also I did not encounter any option which allowed for the shutdown of the computer after a backup operation was carried out.

DriveImage XML is simple and effective but requires a level of comfort with the technical in order to create compatible recovery/rescue media.

Other Alternatives


File-level Backup Software

As already explained, unlike drive-level backup programs which aim to backup whole drives/systems/partitions, file-level backup programs are for the purposes of backing up specific files and folders that are deemed important.

Because the purpose of file-level backup programs is different than drive-level backup programs, our main judgement criteria is a bit different. We evaluated file-level backup programs on the following:

  • Time taken to conduct backup?
  • Type of backup archive used (i.e. is it proprietary or non-proprietary format — can files be restored without using the backup program itself)?
  • Does the program check the integrity of backups?
  • Can backups be scheduled?
  • Are filters supported to exclude or include specific files or file types?
  • Are restores successful?
  • Is it capable of carrying out full, differential, or incremental backups?
  • Is encryption/password protection of backups possible?

All of the file-level backup programs have filtering capabilities, we did not use that as a differentiator.

All programs were tested on a 1.84GB folder containing 105 files. The testing computer was an Acer Aspire 5315 with a T7500 2.2GHZ Core2Duo processor and 2GB DDR2 RAM running Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit.

With that being said, here are the best free file-level backup programs for Windows…

Table of Contents [BackUp Maker vs Cobian Backup vs Areca Backup vs FBackup]

Best Free File-level Backup Program

bk shotProgram Name: BackUp Maker

Note: BackUp Maker is free for private purposes only

Developer: ASCOMP Software GmbH

Download Size: 6.5MB

Version Reviewed: 6.504

Requires: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/Server 2003/Server 2008 (32-bit and 64-bit)

Approximate memory usage when idle: 31.76MB

Backup Time: 7 mins

Type of Backup Archive: .ZIP

Restore Successful: Yes

Ability to Password Protect Backups: Yes

Can Schedule Backups: Yes

Pros

  • Does full and partial (incremental/differential) backups
  • Users can either manually select the files or folders to backup or easily select Libraries to include in backup (Documents, Music, Pictures, Podcasts, and Videos folders), backup bookmarks from Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox, and backup emails from Outlook, Windows Live Mail, and Windows Mail.
  • Can create multiple backup jobs
  • Allows for scheduling automatic backups
    • Allows for backups to be carried out if scheduled time is missed for some reason
  • Gives backup reminders
  • Supports storing backups locally, to network shares, to external drives, to external media (CD/DVD, USB drive, etc.), and FTP
  • Verifies backups (i.e checks integrity)
  • Supports optional compression and password protection/encryption capabilities
    • Has ‘intelligent’ compression (i.e. prevents already compressed files from being compressed again)
  • Allows users to choose which types of files to include in backups (aka filters)
  • Backup archives can be split into smaller files
  • Has ability to automatically conduct backup at Windows login/log off
  • Has ability to automatically conduct backup when a USB drive is inserted into computer
  • Can open files or execute system commands before/after backups are conducted
  • When restoring files, you can selectively restore specific files/folders or restore it all; select to keep the folder structure; and select to restore new files only
  • Can be run as a service (but this appears to be for Windows NT/2000/XP/2003 only)
  • Backup start hotkey combination

Cons

  • Is free for non-commercial use only
  • For the purposes of restoring, does not remember backed up archives. In other words, does not remember that Job1.zip is the backup archive for Job1, so when you go to restore a backup, you need to manually navigate to where the ZIP file is and select it yourself as opposed to simply restoring Job1.

Discussion

BackUp Maker has a very simple interface and is quite straightforward to use. However, it has many powerful options which allows users to customizes backups to their preferences.

When creating a backup with BackUp Maker, you can guided step-by-step in how to do it. Step 1 allows you to select the files or folders you want to back up. Here you can select any files/folders you want or make easy selections of Libraries, bookmarks, or email. Step 2 allows you to use include/exclude filters, to include/exclude specific file types, specific files or folders, and/or files that are above a certain file size (e.g. above 200 MB). Step 3 allows you to setup automatic backups. Step 4 allows you to decide what to do if automatic backups are missed. Step 5 lets you pick between doing a full or partial (differential/incremental) backup). Step 6 allows you to select how many backup archives you want to keep of this backup job. Step 7 allows you to encrypt backed up files with a password (PkZip, AES 128, AES 192, AES 256 supported). Step 8 allows you to set some pre-conditions for a backup to be run. Step 9 allows you to setup before/after backup tasks to happen (such as open a file or run a command). Step 10 allows you to pick if you want to split backed up archive into smaller pieces. Step 11 lest you pick where you want to store the backup archive(s) (locally, CD/DVD, network folder, or FTP). Step 12 allows you to set a backup name plus assign a global hotkey that allows you to make the backup run whenever you press the hotkey.

If all that is confusing to you and you won’t want to mess with it, you can uncheck the box for ‘Active expert mode’ in which case you are only shown five steps — step 1, step 3, step 5, step 11, and step 12 of what is mentioned above.

When you want to restore a backup, you must find where you saved the backed up archive and select it. You then have the ability to selectively restore specific files/folders or restore it all.

One thing I really like about BackUp Maker is that it tests backup archives for integrity, which helps serve piece of mind that your backup is not corrupted. Another thing I really like is that backups are stored in non-proprietary .ZIP format meaning you can access the backed up files (and/or restore them) without having Backup Maker installed. This is handy in the situation that Backup Maker no longer works for you or you can want to restore your files to a computer that doesn’t have it installed.

Overall, BackUp Maker is quite a solid program Backup Maker is simple but solid with plenty useful options. It will makes sure that users successfully and efficiently carry out the necessary task of backing up their files.

Runner Up

cobian screenshotProgram Name: Cobian Backup

Note: Cobian Backup is free for all

Developer: Luis Cobian

Download Size: 18.8MB

Version Reviewed: 11

Requires: Windows XP/Server 2003/Vista/Server 2008/7 (32-bit and 64-bit)

Approximate memory usage when idle: 2.04MB

Backup Time: 5 mins

Type of Backup Archive: .ZIP, .7z

Restore Successful: Yes

Ability to Password Protect Backups: Yes

Can Schedule Backups: Yes

Discussion

Cobian is a powerful file-level backup manager with plenty of features for protecting your data.

Cobian allows users to carry out full, incremental, or differential backups. Backups are easily accessible by third party software as the file formats of the backups are .ZIP and .7Z. Like BackUp Maker, Cobian Backup allows users to make backups to a network location as well as to physical storage media. Cobian Backup also allows users to select file types which are not to be included in backups. It also allows users to encrypt their backups. Additionally, users can schedule backup tasks to run at their convenience. It also gives the useful option of shutting down when a backup task is complete.

My only issue with Cobian Backup is that it gives no evidence of checking the integrity of backups made. It is quite possible that it does this in the background but the peace of mind of seeing this in action would be great if this functionality is indeed there.

Despite these issues, it should be noted that Cobian is undoubtedly one of the most versatile free file-level backup programs out there today.

Honorable Mention 1

acrea shotProgram Name: Areca Backup

Note: Areca Backup is free for all

Developer: Olivier PETRUCCI

Download Size: 4.7MB

Version Reviewed: 7.2.17

Requires: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 (32-bit and 64-bit)

Approximate memory usage when idle: 44.33MB

Type of Backup Archive: .ZIP

Backup Time: 5 mins

Restore Successful: Yes

Ability to Password Protect Backups: Yes

Can Schedule Backups: Yes

Discussion

Areca Backup is one of the more powerful free file-level backup programs out there.

Areca Backup allows users to create archives in the .ZIP format and therefore the back up files created are accessible with 3rd party software. It also allows for backups created to be encrypted. Backups can be either stored locally or at a network location which is always a useful feature. As expected of a great file-level backup program, users can choose which types of files they wish to be included in their backups. Areca Backup displays very detailed log information, showing users potentially useful information about backups. Areca Backup also allows users to verify their backups. Areca Backup is capable of full, differential or incremental backups plus an interesting ‘delta’ backup feature that only backups the parts of files that have been changed.

Areca Backup is definitely powerful and contains all of the features you could want in a program of its type, however it can be slightly complex to set up at first. This however is not my main issue with the program. My main issues is with the lack of an internal scheduler. Users must rely on Windows’ scheduler to carry out scheduled tasks. You may argue that this is not particularly difficult but it would have been nice for an internal scheduler to be included. These two issues were why it was rated below BackUp Maker and Cobian Backup.

Despite the issues I had with it, Areca Backup is guaranteed to handle all of your back up tasks if you spend a little time familiarizing your self with this powerful piece of software.

Honorable Mention 2

FbackupProgram Name: FBackup

Note: FBackup is free for all

Developer: Softland

Download Size: 17.6MB

Version Reviewed: 4.8.289

Requires: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/Server 2008/7/8

Approximate memory usage when idle: 19.76MB

Type of Backup Archive: .ZIP

Backup Time: 7 mins

Restore Successful: Yes

Ability to Password Protect Backups: No

Can Schedule Backups: Yes

Discussion

FBackup is both comprehensive and straightforward to use. When creating a backup, users are given the option of either operating the program in simple mode or advanced mode. Backups can be stored basically anywhere, from on the local hard drive itself, to external flash memory and hard drives and even to network locations. Users can also choose which files they want and which files they do not want to include in their backups. Also, users can choose to create a backup in which the files contained in it are compressed or uncompressed. Backups can also be encrypted and the option is given to test the integrity of the backups after the backup process is completed. Users can also schedule their backups.

A very useful feature of FBackup is to make use of ‘plugins’ which basically allow FBackup to easily backup data for specific programs.

FBackup is a solid program and the only major issue I have encountered is the lack of password protection/encryption of backups. And, it does not allow for differential or incremental backups while the other offerings do therefore it can be considered to be lacking in that aspect.

If you want a program which allows you to backup your files with as little hassle as possible, FBackup is definitely the program for you.

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156 comments

  1. Vera

    Now AOMEI Backupper update to V 2.1 wich with many new features, such as, schedule backup, system clone, Support for restoring system to a smaller partition, command line backup, file backup, email notification etc. : http://www.backup-utility.com/new-features.html can tell you the changes. In addition to the Standard version, it also has Server version, professional and technician version. If your system is Windows Server 2012, and you want to do incremental backup, this article can help: http://www.backup-utility.com/windows-server/windows-server-2012-incremental-backup.html

  2. Steve C

    [@InMocean]
    I never tried the CD, because other emergency boot CDs I already had would not boot.

    I ended up using a 3-week old backup made from another backup program. I restored this backup from one external HD to another, blank external CD, and then transferred files and folders to C:. Some problems arose, but most have been solved.

    Reminder: If one incremental backup is bad, all subsequent ones will be bad.

    I’m still looking for backup software that can copy a backup directly to a C: that already has the original factory Win system on it. Acronis seems to be able to do it, but forget about any support for a version one or two years old.
    P.S. Microsoft’s latest automatic updates wiped out my fantastic MasterSeeker search program.

  3. InMocean

    [@Seve C] Although the Restore program would be running in RAM, it still needs an operating system to talk to, not all of which is in RAM at all times. When you wipe it off the disk during the RESTORE process, that can hose the RESTORE process itself. Anyway, did it work from CD? If not, did it show (from the Utilities menu) that the backup was a good and valid one?

  4. Seve C

    [@InMocean] [@InMocean] That “MAY” solve the problem, and I have created a Linux boot disk using the AOMEI link. HOWEVER, the AOMEI instructions do NOT say one has to use the boot disk if one has a working system on C: It just warns that the material on C: will be deleted. Perhaps Restore hung because the Backupper Restore deleted the Backupper program that was running from C:??? (Although the Restore program should have been running in RAM.)

  5. InMocean

    When you install it, you should use the AOMEI menus to burn a CD/DVD of the AOMEI backup program. I think you can either do Linux or a Windows version if you have the Windows AIK installed (as mentioned in the review). Then boot from the CD/DVD and run AOMEI Restore from the CD. I expect that will solve your problems.

  6. Steve C

    Has ANYBODY successfully used AOMEI Backupper to restore their system?

    After my laptop crashed, I reinstalled XP using the manufacturer’s CD ROM. I then Installed the AOMEI program, connected my external HD with the backup and ran AOMEI Restore. The screen went blank and the laptop’s HD stopped running. Everything froze.

    I then tried it again, this time telling Restore to use my laptop’s entire hard drive. Restore started working, my screen displayed it, but after the restore had reached 10%, it stopped working. Everything froze. I gave it hours to start up again…no luck.

    If anyone has actually gotten AOMEI Restore to work, please tell us, STEP-BY-STEP how you did it.

    Thank you!

  7. Sputnik

    [@Steve]

    Hi Steve,

    try to run under an administrative account when you will unwrap the setup file from GOTD.

    Take note that this unwrapper doesnt work with an “activate” file, but only with the “setup” files.

    I am running under Windows 7, so I dont really know how the unwrapper works under XP3, I’m just guessing…

  8. Sputnik

    [@Steve]

    Hi, Steve.

    A week ago it was still working correctly. Note that you must start it with administrator privileges…

    Concerning today’s GOTD giveaway it doesnt work because the setup.exe is not the same as usual and I really dont know if this kind of setup.exe will be used for all the furuture giveaways.

  9. Steve

    AOMEI Data Backuper has PROBLEMS:

    I run Win XP SP3.

    Problem 1: The progress bar shows the backup (100%) has completed long before it has completed. Possible solution: Check the “Shut down at backup completion,” and wait until your computer really does shut down.

    Problem 2: Differential Backup does not work properly. I tried it 3 times:
    a. First try: I waited a looong time after the progress bar said 100% complete. Apparently it wasn’t.
    b. I erased the bad Differential file and tried again, this time checking the “Shut down at backup completion,” after the backup had started. The computer froze and remained frozen 30 minutes later.
    c. Tried a third time: This time I checked the “Shut down at backup completion,” as soon as it appeared. Three+ hours later and after my hard disk had stopped all activity, my laptop had not shut down. I did a forced reboot and used AOMEI Data Backuper to check the differential backup. AOMEI said it was bad.

    Three strikes and it’s OUT!

  10. RobCr

    [@jobardu]
    Glad to help.
    Another thing to look out for when if you ever have to do a Repair Install –
    MS embeds IE into XP (whereas normal programs are independent of the OS)
    When you do a Repair Install, the XP CD will have an early version of IE in it (IE6 I reckon). If you had previously updated your IE to 7 or later, then the Repair Install will try to fix IE back to IE6. And trust me it is not a pretty sight after that happens. Windows will boot and run, but the flakiness of IE will frustrate you, and you will spit the dummy, and do a fresh Install of Windows out of frustration.
    The solution is to ‘uninstall’ all recent versions of IE, so that it reverts back to IE6
    You have to do that prior to creating images, or cloning.

    Regards,
    Rob

  11. Sputnik

    [@Steve]

    P.S. :

    Also, you must know that the setup file of certain of these freebies are just a wrapper of the real setup file.

    At this moment you have to find where exactly, in the file system, the real setup file is “temp”orarily extracted before being installed… You have to find this place and make a copy of the real setup file.

  12. Sputnik

    [@Steve]

    OK I see…

    To avoid this kind of problem you have to bypass the limitation of the “same day installation as the day the software is given”…

    Like you I have a large quantity of freebies and I have absolutely no problem to install almost each of them long after I got them.

    You have to find some little tricks to help you for this…

    I will just give you the trick about the way to install whenever you want the freebies you will get from GOTD.

    For this one you will need to download “UnWrapper GOTD” from this place :

    http://archives-giveawayoftheday.toile-libre.org/Unwrapper/

    You will find the way to use this software on this other website :

    http://www.raymond.cc/blog/unwrapper-gotd-saves-newer-giveawayoftheday-setup-installer-file/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+RaymondccBlog+%28Raymond.CC+Blog%29http://www.revenge-crew.com/

    For the freebies that need to be installed and registered on the same day than the day you obtain it and that you get from any other website, you will need to use different softwares which will allow you to know exactly what is done in your OS at the moment you register the freebie. Just use a little bit of your imagination…

  13. Sputnik

    [@Steve]

    Hi Steve,

    your lost of 3 years of work because of Acronis does surely concern your data and not your operating system. At first sight it seems that you did an image backup of your data and that is maybe not the best way to do data backup.

    You should preferably :
    -Keep your data apart from your OS on a separate partiton.
    -Do the data backup with a file level backup software or even better with a synchronisation software as was said in a couple of my previous comments.

    I think that one should keep the usage of an image backup software only for the OS’s backup and nothing more.

  14. Steve

    My first full backup (to external drive) using AOMEI Backupper and its backup verification seemed to work fine.

    I did a second full backup using its “no compression” option. The backup file appears on the external drive, but AOMEI Backupper program does not recognize its existence!

    I have asked AOMEI support for help and await its reply.

    NOTE: Even if a backup seems to be successful, that does not mean that a restore of the backup will be successful. ACRONIS proved that, much to my dismay — I lost 3 years of work.

  15. RobCr

    [@jobardu]
    I use XP Pro.
    I use Seagate DiscWizard (which is free)
    I always have Windows closed and use a bootable CD
    (The bootable CD is created from the Seagate Program, which I earlier installed solely for the purpose of creating a bootable CD)
    If I clone from one drive to another (say IDE to IDE OR Sata to Sata)
    Or create an image, then ‘Restore’ that image into another drive,
    XP does not consider that as dissimilar hardware. So Windows will boot up as if nothing has changed.
    If I do the above, but place the drive into another PC, then XP will get testy.
    However I can get away with it, provided that I DO NOT BOOT INTO WINDOWS.
    Instead I place the XP CD into the computer, and boot into that. I then do a Repair Install (that is NOT using the Recovery Console). That allows Windows to correct the various drivers.

    Regards,
    Rob

    PS If you always keep your original drive safe, then you can experiment until you get it right. If worst case, the other drive does trigger ‘disimilar’, then you can do my Repair Install trick.

  16. jobardu

    I suspect this is answered, but couldn’t find the answer and I think it is important.
    The question is what constitutes dissimilar hardware?

    One key task for me is restoring my system after a hard drive crash or corruption of some sort. That basically means restoring to a new hard drive, which most likely be dissimilar in brand or size relative to the original.

    So my question is whether a new hard drive is considered dissimilar hardware? In not then great! If it is then I need to have an extra hard drive to restore my system and find a program to transfer my system to another hard drive (clone?)

    Thanks for any help on this matter. It has been bothering me for a while.

    Jojo

  17. jonjof

    [@Sputnik]
    This may have been answered clearly already, but just to address the concern about syncing. Syncing is very fast in most cases as only changed files are added or deleted or changed. Doing an Image backup, the Complete partition or drive needs to be recreated, unless on does an incremental backup, and in my opinion this is not a good option!
    And as per Janet, be careful to do the Correct type of sync, namely a mirror backup rather than a pure sync, where you are making a backup!
    J

  18. Sputnik

    I would just like to add a little something to my last comment.

    Those who are afraid of a bad handling of a synchronization backup may consider to create 2 or more different large folders in each of which to keep an entire sync backup of their data. You just have to make certain to rotate the different backups.

  19. Sputnik

    [@janetb]

    Thank you janetb for your comment.

    Concerning the pagefile’s position : this system file does not need to be on the same partition or on the same hard drive than C:\.

    The best thing to do about it is to put it on a second internal hard drive and to put it also in the first partition of this second hard drive which is the partition near the outside of the hard drive.

    Why do I make these suggestions ?

    If it’s better to put the pagefile on a second internal hard drive, it is because this system file causes a lot of reading and writing for the hard drive’s heads. On the master hard drive, where sits the system partition (C:\), there is already a lot of readings and writings because you will find on this special partition all the system’s files, all the program’s files and all the temporary files. If the pagefile was on the same hard drive than that of the system partition, all the reading and writng activity of the drive’s heads would be shared between all those files, which would result in a slow down in the fastness of the reading and the writing of all that concerns the pagefile and the rest.

    And now, why is it better to put the pagefile on the first partition ? It is simply because this is the fastest part of any hard drive : all that is on the outside of a hard drive goes faster than that is on the inside. When the hard drive does one spin, that which is on the outside of the hard drive travels a bigger distance than that is nearer the center of the hard drive, resulting in a faster speed of that which is on the outside of the disc. That will make that all the readings and writings concerning the pagefile will be done at a faster speed. You just have to take care to put, on the rest of this second hard drive nothing that will sollicitate a lot of readings and writings…

    Concerning the backup of the data with a synchronization software, this idea came to me not long ago. I have never been satisfied with the use of an image backup software to accomplish the backup of simple data. You cannot access directly the backuped data, you are not certain that the image backup will not be corrupted, you have to manage the way you will handle your image’s system and keeping a certain number of images ends with a large place occupied by these images on the hard drive on which you keep them. Usually most people says that it is better to keep a couple of different images just in case you remove some important files which you will have more chance to recover if you have many image backups. Let me say to you that not a single time since I am doing backups (8 years) I have been obliged to seek an old removed file on a previous backup…

    When you write this :

    “But I thought syncing in general takes a lot longer and takes up a lot more space than backing up–especially for a file (i.e., not image) backup. Is that true…?”,

    I will say that, based on my own experience, the FIRST synchronization you will make will take a longer time than if you were making an image backup. But each other synchronization that you will do will surely be faster than about any incremental, differential or complete image backup. You have, however, to consider that if you move many large files from place to place, that will make in sort that your next synchronization backup will take more time, but when you do not change of place very often some large files you will not have this slow down.

    For the question of the space needed, a backup done with a synchronization software will always take more space than that of an image backup done with a certain amount of compression. But you have to consider that if, on another hand, you keep many image backups, that will annihilate the advantage of doing image backups.

    There is finally a last but very important thing to consider : when you do synchronization backups you have to take a great care (a very great care) to always do a mirror synchronization from the original towards the backup at each time, because if you do any other kind of synchronization you are at risk of loosing some of your data.

  20. janetb

    [@Sputnik]
    Sputnik,
    I found these comments very helpful. Thanks for the tip about putting pagefile and downloads on separate partitions to cut down on fragmentation! They do consistently seem to be the main culprits. But I thought pagefile has to be in its original position on C:…..or at least on the same drive as the OS…no?

    It was using syncs as backups that I found so interesting…. I used to do that. Then I started using Paragon, and now I use AOMEI Backupper. But I was always nervous about not being able to see what I had. I know a number of programs now let you explore the backup file, but one always hears stories about them not restoring properly, and you never know until you try it, and then it is too late…. So I like the idea of syncing, where starightaway you can know and see you have everything. I see that FreeFileSync even lets yo set it for real time syncing!!! But I thought syncing in general takes a lot longer and takes up a lot more space than backing up–especially for a file (i.e., not image) backup. Is that true…?

  21. Sputnik

    [@BearPup]

    Thank you, BearPup, for your comment : it makes me think that I forgot to talk, in my last comment, about the backup of softwares like Firefox, Thunderbird, RSSOwl or other softwares like these one that frequently accumulates new data which will be written in system folders like “Program Files” or else. Doing an image backup each time there will be new data accumulated by such softwares would be inappropriate, they have to be backuped by file level backup softwares like Cobian Backup and that is exactly what I do : in fact these special backups are made automatically a couple of times each day.

    You said that you take a less strenuous approach for your different backups, meaning maybe by that that my own approach is strenuous.

    The only strenuous approach in my way of doing has been to elaborate this whole way of doing, but now that everything has been done, I have almost nothing to do to make a whole backup of everything on my computer.

    Like you, I make an image backup of my C:\ everytime an important modification has been done to it.

    Beside of that each day I make a full backup of all my data which takes about only 30 seconds of my time and 6 to 7 minutes to my computer to achieve.

    Finally, tha backups of softwares like Firefox is done automatically a couple of time each day whitout any intervention from my part.

    That is not what I personally call strenuous…

    Also, as I said in my previous comment, by the way that I have organized all of my computer, my computer is faster than otherwise and the system partition is almost never fragmented and the position of its different files and folders are always optimized without any intervention from my part with the help of the automatic defragmentation option of Puran Defrag.

  22. BearPup

    I take a less strenuous approach. My C:\Drive is twice protected. First I clone the C:\Drive whenever there is a significant change to it (new software, new configurations, etc.) For that purpose (cloning) I use Easeus ToDo Backup (free Edition). Then every weekend whether there have been any changes or not I backup my C:\Drive using Keriver 1-click restore, With MozBackup to backup my Thunderbird and Firefox apps and data.

    To backup my “daily” files, of which there are few and far between (I’m retired and don’t generate much in the way of work products) I use Easeus ToDo Free Edition. For my archive files, and other files that rarely change, I back these up once a quarter, again using Easeus ToDo Free Edition. And of course, I always have the option of copying a file to my C:\Drive if I feared a potential threat might strike it before its quarterly backup was due.

  23. jonjof

    [@Sputnik]

    Sputnik mirrors my principles.. Backup all data via a File Synchronisation application. Many work very well. The one I like the best is called Vice-Versa [Pro]. I also use Easy2Sync.

    For Imaging [I only use for OS] I am also an EX user of Acronis!! I am very happy currently with AOMEI which I discovered via DotTech. I also use Paragon which does work very well for me, especially restoring to dissimilar hardware [a new computer e.g.].

    Jon

  24. Sputnik

    As RobCr, I usually prefer to do complete backups instead of incremental backups because I think it is safier.

    As Steve, I think that Acronis is becoming real crap. I am an old customer of Acronis : the first version I bought was Acronis True Image 10 in 2006 and since then I bought 2 more versions. It’s becoming too big and with some bugs; also it is becoming too much automatic, I really don’t like that because I prefer to work the backups manually. The only version I own that I consider user friendly is the first I bought, that one of 2006.

    Actually I work with AOMEI Data Backupper which I consider to be the best on the market for my own needs. This free software is very user friendly and has a very nice user interface, based on my own tastes.

    So, AOMEI Data Backupper is IN and Acronis True Image is OUT.

    Concerning the way to handle the backups of my OS and my data, I have recently changed my way of doing and here is the way I work that now.

    First of all, on the system partition there is only my OS and all the programs. I have put the pagefile on the first partition of a second internal hard disk on which I also put all my multimedia data on another partition. On the hard drive on which I have my OS I also have 4 more partitions for different kind of data and, finally, another partition on which goes my downloads. After a download is completed, I transfer it to its right place.

    Having the pagefile on a the second internal hard drive makes my computer faster and reduces the fragmentation of my system partition. Having a special download partition, this reduces considerably the fragmentation of the system partition.

    Now, concerning specifically my backups, I use AOMEI Data Backupper strictly to do the image backups of my OS. All the rest is backuped with a synchronisation software, FreeFileSync, using the one way mirror synchronisation.

    I have 2 external hard drives on which I put the backups. The first one, I put the OS image backups on it, plus the backups of all the other data partitions that are on the same hard drive than my OS. The second external hard drive, I put the backups of the multimedia partition which sits on the second internal hard drive.

    As I said, all the data is backuped with the help of FreeFileSync. There are many reasons for that.

    First of all, with an image backup software there is always the risk to get a corrupted backup file and with a synchronisation software there is about no risk of corruption.

    Second, to access your backuped data which has been done with an image backup software, you have to open the backup file with the help of the image backup software; if you do the backup with a synchronisation software you will be able to access directly your data.

    Third, the backup done with the synchronisation software is very fast compared to the one done with an image backup software : actually, to do a full synchronisation of all my data, wich consist of about 450,000 files for a total of about 865 Gb, it takes me no more than about 6 minutes. It would be much longer with an image backup software.

    Fourth, when you use an image backup software to do your backups, if you do some defragmentation of the original data partitions, you are always better to do a new complete image instead of an incremental backup because this last one would be almost as big as a complete image after the defragmentation of the data partition. You don’t face such a problem with a synchronisation software and a synchronisation done after you will have defragmented the original data partition wont make that the future synchronisation will take a longer time.

    Beside these advantages, you must consider that you must take care with your way of doing with the synchronisation software, but the way I proceed is very safe.

    It would be interesting to know how other people handle their backups : please let us know how you proceed.

  25. Steve

    Those whose comments state that backup software MUST be RELIABLE are CORRECT.

    I bought Acronis (not free) because it was supposed to be reliable. It turns out that Acronis is CRAP.

    I had to reinstall my system, and so made use of my Acronis backups:

    The original full backup and the first three incremental backups restored properly. But all of the remaining 12 incremental backups DID NOT!!! Each gave me the message “This is not an Acronis archive,” despite the fact that I used Acronis to create them.

    Further, I found (as many others have) that it was impossible to contact Acronis tech support.

    I urge everyone who has found that the backup software that he/she uses is unreliable to post a comment here and elsewhere naming that software.

    If you have found backup software that IS reliable, tell us its name.

  26. RobCr

    Mary,
    One thing I would have done if I were publishing an article on backups, is to have completely separate articles for –
    – File backups
    – Image backups
    I won’t say much about file backups, as I have never used them. Mind you prior to my imaging days, I did have folders such as C:\D and C:\D_Electronics and C:\D_VB and C:\ D_Web
    I would then have sub folders in there, and practically all of my data was stored in those folders. The D_ just means data to me (not a D drive). By having them all adjacent to each other in Windows Explorer, meant that I could readily burn copies of them to CDs.
    These days I don’t bother with File backups, I just image the whole drive.
    I would recommend that you get an external Dock, and shove a Seagate 3.5″ drive into it.
    Connect the Dock to your PC via USB or eSata cable. And store your images in there.
    Use the free Seagate DiscWizard, and first create a bootable CD. That will allow you to run the DiscWizard from the bootable CD, and thus Windows IS NOT RUNNING when you create your image.
    After you create your image, Verify/Validate the image.
    If you decide to take my advice, and use the DiscWizard, I will explain how to find the Verify/Validate option on the bootable CD. I have used two names for that one action, as Seagate used to use one terminology, and then decided to use the other in their latest version of the DiscWizard.

    HTH,
    Rob

  27. RobCr

    jobardu,
    Yes, should be no problem restoring to a new drive

    CompNetTeach,
    I would never use an imaging program, if I could not verify the image.
    The free Seagate (or WD) DiscWizard can verify/validate it’s images.

    Rob

  28. CompNetTeach

    Forgot to look at this when you first posted this article. But what is critical as far as I am concerned is the ability to validate a created image.

    I’ve had a long time beef with Paragon about the fact that up to 15% of the images I’ve created are unable to be restored – the image is corrupt. Whether the image was created as a single file or chunked, it didn’t matter. This still happens with the newer versions – I’ve tried it with giveaways in my classroom environments as a testbed. So, I’ve not updated my suite license in a long while.

    AOMEI I haven’t tried due to it’s newness. EASEUS didn’t like identical machines (same mobo, video & NIC) with different hard drives. DriveImage XML is generally slower and can be exceedingly slow in some instances. I can’t remember why I was not happy with Macrium – something not obvious.

    Clonezilla is great for fast mass restore in a classroom environment, but is a pain to set up properly, and not really meant for one offs.

    So, I’m using tried & true Ghost that I got on an educational deal for most jobs.

    Whenever you update or do a future review, I think it is very important to point out if an image can be verified by the backup software. Trying to restore a (unknown corrupt) image back to the original for testing / validation usually results in a drive / partition with lost data, so a test restore is not a viable verification scheme.

    After all, a backup is a complete waste if it is no good. That is always one of the biggest beefs with tape backups – all you need is a tiny weak spot in the media, a dirty head, too much jerkiness in the motor, etc. to make the backup useless.

  29. Mary

    [@DoktorThomas™] First, please don’t take my post the wrong way!

    You can say that the word “powerful” is a useless descriptor for everything, using your explanation.

    “What is “powerful”? a 455 V-8 with quad carbs?” Apparently not, since it does what it says on the tin. It either does what it says or it doesn’t. 0/1

    The term powerful is usually used on anything that you compare same like items, right? Which one can out perform the other. Usually. Sometimes the word is abused or misused.

    Lets take human beings for example. Is a dictator more powerful than the peon he or she rules over? Of course!!! A peon can’t snap their fingers and have the military at their feet. Are we made of the same stuff? Of course we are! Skin, bones, blood…nothing really different. We either work or we don’t.
    Those who work, are usually more “powerful” than those who don’t, even though we’re made of the same “stuff”. (Well, unless someone just has a huge ego and is narcasistic, and uses others to do their work, and takes the credit, in which case, I would say is pretty powerful! lol)

    Your definition is not wrong. But it can be applied to everything. Not just software. But, then it wouldn’t be used in a comparative sense. Does something need to have the title of “powerful” only if it does magic? If it does something that it didn’t intend to do, for the better? That too is powerful, but then again, you can just add that new information to the tin. Now it is no longer powerful.

    The word ‘powerful’, in this case, is just a comparative word. I guess we can redefine it as meaning ‘this’ has more bits than ‘that’, so it is more powerful. Advertisers may want to add in their description what they are comparing their product to, to make it “powerful”, but you know they will only choose a product with less bits than theirs has.

    I think the word we need to look at really is “assumption”. God knows everyone does it. So, why do we assume things? Lets just get educated and know, then we wouldn’t have to assume anymore.

    I am one of those people still scratching my head, because I have no idea what all the technical jargon used in these posts mean. I am clueless when it comes to this kind of stuff. So, apparently, all the posters in here assume, that those of us reading the article and replies know what they are talking about. I made a post early on here, post #21 to be exact, asking questions that never got answered in language I could understand. I just wanted to be educated, so I could do a proper backup. So, really, nothing here is powerful to me, because I don’t understand it. I have assumed though, that I had to look elsewhere to find my answers. Educating yourself, now THAT’S powerful…in the definition I think you are referring to! ;) (an assumption on my part!)

    I was debating whether or not to even post this, but knowledge is power, and I want to know ….still! :)

    *runs back under my rock*

  30. DoktorThomas™

    What is “powerful”? a 455 V-8 with quad carbs?

    “Powerful?” This is a useless descriptor for software. Either the software does what says it does, or it does not. 0 or 1.

    Unless a software is so exceptional that it does substantially more than the advertising hype implies, it probably is not “powerful”. Never encountered a software that did more than the writers claimed. (Usually the opposite is true.)

    Or, if a program is small in size (like less than a few mb) and handles gigs of processing, it is not a “powerful” software. It is just software … that works or not. 0/1.

    While technophiles probably can follow the various implications of the reports here, for the less agile user who has a suffering PC that has discovered HDD copying won’t boot her PC, it is not clear, for example, if the HDD registry is accurately and faithfully copied to resurrect PC’s with failing (God forbid) non-solid state HDDs.

    While the descriptors employed may clue the savvy, others are still scratching their wigs. Limiting assumptions in reviews, now that is powerful!

    Well? Do they? ©2013

  31. BearPup

    As long as people are talking about restoring to a different computer, a reminder: if you restore to dissimilar hardware that involves just a different hard drive, you can also restore your legal copy of Windows. But, if the dissimilar hardware involves a new motherboard, then you’ll need to buy a new or ‘fresh’ copy of Windows. This is true regardless of which version of Windows you use.

  32. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    [@jobardu] Restore to dissimilar hardware is only for when restoring to a different COMPUTER. Restoring to a different HARD DRIVE on the same computer is supported by many programs, including freeware (and yes, the hard drive can be larger).

  33. jobardu

    [@Rob (Down Under)]

    I have a follow on question regarding restoring to dissimilar hardware. One reason to clone a drive is to restore a crashed drive. So my question is:

    If my hard drive crashes can I get a replace it with a new hard drive of equal (or greater ??) size, do a restore and be up and running again?

  34. Sputnik

    [@Rob (Down Under)]

    Thank you for your answer, Rob.

    My concern was just about to know if we could easily restore an image containing simple data on another computer with different hardware.

    But your reflexions about the way to restore an image on a computer with diferent hardware, even if the backup software doesn’t inherently have this capability, is very interesting and may help many people.

    Thank you !

  35. Rob (Down Under)

    [@Sputnik]
    That comment would only apply to an image of the whole OS partition.
    What it means is – Restore an image into a different PC, and then attempt to boot into it, and Windows will throw a fit, as it is not expecting the different hardware.
    By the way there is a trick that I use to restore my OS partition into another PC.
    After restoring the image, you must not boot into it.
    Instead you put your Windows CD into the drawer, and boot into that. Then do a repair install (That is NOT the Recovery Console repair).
    I have done that many times with XP.
    One thing to look out for –
    Before creating the image remove all updates of IE (Only have IE 6 in your PC).
    MS insists on embedding IE into the OS like a goa’uld. When you do the repair install, the XP CD only knows about IE6, so it will make a mess if you have a later IE in there.
    Rob
    PS I have not tried the Repair Install trick with Win7

  36. Sputnik

    Question for Ashraf…

    For these two products, “AOMEI Data Backuper” and “EaseUS Todo Backup Free” you said that they “Cannot restore backups to dissimilar hardware”.

    Is that applicable only for images containing the operating system or also for the images containing only simple data ?

  37. Gully

    PS: The creation on my laptop of the bootable backup/restore flash drive took less than a half hour, including download times, reading AOMEI instructions (“AOMEI Backupper Helps to Create Bootable CD” at http://www.aomeitech.com/features/create-bootable-disc.html and “How to burn AOMEI Backupper bootable disc with UltraISO” at http://www.aomeitech.com/help/learnburn.html), and downloading, installing and using UltraISO. The source system I backed up was an old, used, single core Dell box; the creation of its 15GB backup image and the verification of the image took a little less than an hour.

  38. Gully

    Thank you again for a very useful guide. I have both EASUS and Paragon Pro backup and partitioning software on my systems but needed to create a solution for someone else. They will be upgrading a small business system and wanted to backup their current system (old hardware, old os-WinXP SP3, and old point-of-sale [POS] application) until the new version (new hardware, new os-Win7, and new POS application) is verified and operational. So this backup solution is intended for old hardware running WinXP SP3 to recreate (recover, restore) the old system to the original old hardware or to replacement hardware, whichever may be needed. To do this, however, I installed AOMEI Backupper on my own laptop running Win7 SP1, created the AOMEI iso, and wrote it to a 35GB flash drive plugged into my laptop, because (1) W7 can directly create the boot records and Win PE to CD or flash drive without having also to download the large Win AIK 3.0 into a WinXP system to create the bootable image; and (2) I could create the bootable WinPE flash drive at my convenience without interrupting business or staying very late after business closing. I had confirmed with AOMEI support via email that my plan should work. At this stage, the flash drive had only the boot records, the Win PE, and the AOMEI backup software (the complete installed program) but NO backup image. When the backup flash drive was ready, one evening after the shop closed, I inserted the flash drive, rebooted his business XP computer, entered BIOS, set boot source checking to start with flash drives, and rebooted. The Win7-created version of WinPE and AOMEI Backupper booted without problem on his old machine and through the AOMEI interface I created and verified an image of his WinXP and old POS system written to the same flash drive. Note that system and application (WinPE and AOMEI) run only from RAM and flash drive, so no Shadow functions are invoked to create the backup image of the source drive–true, independent restore CD/USB function. Now, if he ever needs to restore his original system, he only needs to insert the backup flash drive and boot; then from the AOMEI interface, he can select to restore the image. The 80GB source disk had only one partition with system and applications which together used up about 15GB, so the backup medium needs only enough space for the boot records, Win PE, AOMEI Backupper, and the backup image itself; it does not need to be the same size as the source or target hard drives. Last point: creating a bootable USB drive is still a little more arcane than a bootable CD/DVD disk as many iso burning software only work for optical disks, but it is still very easy and numerous free tools are available to accomplish it. Since this is not an ongoing activity for me (I will build a backup flash drive for his new system once it is operational), I chose–as recommended by AOMEI–the application UltraISO to write the AOMEI iso to the flash drive. UltraISO is shareware ($30) but has a free 30 day trial; it is a very useful program, but every thing can be accomplished with other, freeware tools-although that is it’s own long topic.
    Main points: (1) AOMEI can create backup/restore media under one OS and use for a different OS system; (2) backup medium can be different type of hardware and different size from both old source and new target drives, so long as it has enough space to hold the iso boot image with WinPE and AOMEI and the backup image of the target drive.
    Thank you for pointing out this software. Another winner from dotTech!

  39. Rob (Down Under)

    [@Janet]
    Are you making an image backup of the whole E partition, or are you doing a Files/Folder backup of all the Files and Folders in the E folder ?
    Which AOMEI product were you intending to use, and how were you planning to use it ?
    If it is a product that can do both an Image backup, or a Files/Folders backup, how were you intending to use it ?

  40. PixelWizard

    [@Sputnik]

    I did look at FreeFileSync before deciding on the other one, SyncBackFree. But thank you.

    My verbose tale was more of a complaint to no one in particular about my earlier backup programs, which all claimed to offer syncing (among other functions) but didn’t accomplish it. Either I really, really misunderstood or they malfunctioned.

    My needs are fairly simplistic. I understood the less-complex dialog screens of SyncBackFree pretty easily, and it worked from the get-go. Sticking with it.

  41. PixelWizard

    [@Trev (Down Under)]

    Thank you for pointing me at SyncBackFree. At last… software I can understand, that does just what I’ve wanted all along in terms of file-level backups. I’ve gone through several versions of Cobian, GFI Backup 2012 (*almost* it!!), BackUp Maker, and maybe half a dozen more obscure options, some fancy/some basic. Until SyncBackFree, not one of them would delete a file from the destination drive when that file no longer existed in the source drive… no matter how much I read the help materials and no matter how many settings I tried. Over and over, software after software, I would swear this one-way syncing function was supposed to be activated, but weeks and months later I’d find that files had been accumulating – never actually deleted.

    GFI even somehow managed to restore some stuff to the source drive – and this constituted copying in completely the wrong direction, given how I’d set the thing. That stuff had both (a) been deleted from the source repeatedly, and (b) was later manually deleted from BOTH the source (again) AND the destination!! Like a nest of roaches, it kept coming back, from where I could not say. But I saw the GFI task do it. Epic fail.

    Anyway, of course there are so many other SyncBackFree settings options, but for me it stores individual file copies, generically zipped with the compression strength I chose (btw ‘none’ is an option, yet zipping will still take place; zipping can be totally shut off too, but that kills encryption), and adds a password to every zipped file. It does delete a [zipped] file from the destination if I delete the original from the source. And it operates upon changed or deleted original files only – the rest remain in the destination, untouched.

    Hopefully this is the LAST file-level backup software I will need. Happy dance…

  42. Sputnik

    My favorite file level backup software is Cobian Backup.

    One very sad thing about Cobian Backup however is that the source code of this software is actually for sale as you can see on this website :

    http://www.cobiansoft.com/forsale.htm

    Will we see the same thing we saw a couple of years ago with Titan Backup which was bought by GFI and that GFI discontinued not much years after that ?

    Or will this excellent backup software be bought by a company which will make of it a shareware software ?

    Everybody should rush to Cobian site and download the latest version before any defavorable change happens…

  43. Bob

    While the AOMEI web page says Backupper supports GPT, it does not. If you install it on Win8 64-bit and click on System Backup, it will tell you it does not support GPT and it’s coming in the next version.
    But what is worse is that if you clickon partition backup instead of system backup, it *doesn’t* warn you that it doesn’t work with GPT. So if you back up your system with partition backup and then try to restore it your system will not boot, and you will have to recover by something that does work; luckily I had backed it up with Reflect and was able to restore that.

  44. Rob (Down Under)

    Janet,
    Are you backing up the main OS partition ?
    Are you referring to the Downloads folder that is down the mineshaft called Documents and Settings ?
    Are you wishing to leave your Downloads folder out of the image, because it is large ?
    . . .
    If all my questions are correct, I would do the following –
    Create a separate partition for storing stuff. I call mine ‘Garage’. And I store large files (or folders) in there to reduce the size of my OS partition’s images.
    I avoid the mineshaft like the plague,so I have my own downloads folder called C:\DOWNLOADS
    I use uppercase so that I can avoid accidentally allowing programs saving into the mineshaft. I train all my programs to save into C:\DOWNLOADS.
    Every so often I create another folder like C:\DOWNLOADS_20130503 and move everything from C:\DOWNLOADS into it. Then I move it into the Garage.

  45. Janet

    I can’t find any place on the AOMEI website to ask a question–no support, contact, or forum…..Is there a way to back up an entire partition ecxept one folder (Downloads)??

  46. Wenda

    I had been using the free version of EaseUS Todo Backup for some time, and had been very satisfied with it. I can recommend it unreservedly. BUT… I recently took advantage of this site’s offer of the full version (EaseUS Todo Backup Workstation 5.8), and am very pleased indeed with it. It does all the free version can do, plus a great deal more. However, if you missed out on that offer, the free version is a very good substitute. Thanks again, Ashraf, for the full version… :-)

    Wenda.

  47. Rob (Down Under)

    @Frobie you said –
    “So for any XP SP3 owners out there (if any are left now)..thats the answer to getting a WinPE creation and burn from Backupper. I’m off now to go download the 1.7Gb version 3.0 WAIK from MS and see if he’s right..well he should be he works at Aomei..mmmmm. !”
    I did try using XP sometime back with no luck.
    Do you have a link for the download ? (And did it work in XP ?)

  48. Rob (Down Under)

    @malc
    You appear to be mixing 2 concepts ?
    File backing up, which could be scheduled.
    Image creation, which I would never schedule. I just pop in the CD, and reboot into it, and create an image (and then verify it), whilst I am away cooking, eating, and watching TV.
    . . .
    Regarding dissimilar hardware, if you have XP, you can Restore into a different PC, AND DO NOT BOOT INTO IT, until you have popped in the XP CD, and done a Repair Install (That is NOT the Repair Console option).
    The other warning is, get rid of any later versions of IE, that you have. Because if you try to do my Repair Install to such a system, it will mess up, as the XP CD can only repair to the version it came with. And MS insists on embedding it’s programs into the flippin OS.
    . . .
    Regarding do a similar trick with Win 7, I have had no luck with that yet . Perhaps because the older version of Seagate DiscWizrd did not handle Win 7 well.
    I have updated my DiscWiard, but not tried a Repair Install yet.

  49. BearPup

    [@malc] I can think of several scenarios where a backup can be a real saving grace. One example: you get hit by a virus or piece of malware, you delete the offending bug, but still have traces of the infection affecting the operation of your system.

    You reformat the hard drive as the safest, most thorough way to get rid of the lasting effects of the virus. You use the backup you made the day before the virus attack to restore your drive to the state it was in before the virus hit.

    And a second example: I myself have needed to use a backup to restore parts of my hard drive that had gotten accidentally erased, certainly a better approach than trying to “unerase” deleted files and program settings.

    In both examples, having an exact backup to restore to identical hardware was what made the backup useful! In fact any non-destructive crash of the computer is a candidate for using a backup of the computer. So no, there are several situations where you would want a backup of your computer (or parts thereof) to restore to identical hardware that the backup was made on.

  50. malc

    [@Common Sense]
    i agree that any backup software that cannot be scheduled is pretty useless. However, what makes all of the picks for “best of” fairly meaningless, is that if you cannot restore to dissimilar hardware, you have to ask – what is the point of backing up in the first place!! to be able to restore to the equipment available at the time of a crash is what is important. isn’t this another case of the king’s clothes?

  51. RobCr

    You did give a fair amount of mention of bootable CDs (more than many do).
    However there are some of us who would not create an image, whilst Windows is running, if a gun was held to our head.
    It would be good if each of the reviewed programs clearly identified whether ALL OF THESE, can be done from the bootable CD –
    – Create an Image
    – Verify an Image
    – Restore an Image

    I have just spent over an hour (not picking on you), trying to ascertain whether the free Macrium Bootable CD can do all of that.
    It can’t.

  52. Rob (Down Under)

    [@JC]
    I was mainframe for 15 years, and I was the last to be switched over to PC (instead of a terminal). My boss had to force it on to me. But I have never looked back, since I decided to get into it (:PCs).
    I too believe XP Pro SP3 should be recorded in history as the pinnacle of windows development (and of course still be used, like I do).

  53. JC

    Thanks to DotTech for some extensive reviews.

    I was hoping to see a critique of Comodo Backup. But I presume it hasn’t really been tested. Generally Comodo has some excellent products, although some minor factors about their presentation can be somewhat annoying.

    Is anyone directly familiar with this backup program?

    As for XP Pro SP3, I am a big fan, and hesitate to change if if has run very reliably for years. It is very clearly the most stable version Windows has ever been IMHO. But then I’m a Mainframe guy, as opposed to PCs. So I may see it differently than some others do. Like, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.. :D

    I must include though that although EASEUS (ToDo Backup) seems to have great products in general, getting support if you are ever in a jam, can be a real challenge. Something to consider in selecting favored utility products.

    -JC

  54. BearPup

    Well, count me a fan of EaseUS Todo Backup Free, or as a call it in my Start Menu, Todo Backup & Clone! I needed to redo my Clone of my System Drive (the ultimate in backups against hard drive failure) as I had made far too many changes to my System Drive configuration.

    It was the end of a long evening after helping someone on a hard drive problem and I just wanted simple. My old software (Paragon) all of a sudden seem too complicated to get right. And in the discussion EaseUS had come up as this guys choice, so I figured I’d take a look at it. One button simplicity, maybe, maybe, a tad slower (could have been my own perceptions), free of course, and, did I mention easy?!

    I also agree with Marc (above) when he says its a file-level backup too, since all of the features available at the disk and partition levels are also available at the file backup level. I’m using it to backup my D:\Data Drive, minus the separate 1-Click Backup and Recycle Bin folders (a partition minus 2 folders). Clearly, a very simple to use, excellent software.

    Glad to be (finally) agreeing with you!

  55. Giovanni

    As a “file-level” backup & restore utility, I think you missed a great one called “Personal Backup” which is in my view better than “BackUp Maker” (namely your first choice):

    http://personal-backup.rathlev-home.de/index-e.html

    As you can see it can perform an UNLIMITED NUMBER of configurable BACKUP TASKS at the same time, and then backup your important files and folders on a local or removable drive, network and even on a FTP server.
    The current version supports 8 individually-configurable scheduled backup jobs (for instance at every system startup/logout) with several types of alternating backups.

    As far as File synchronization process is concerned, nothing can beat the free gem “Create Synchronicity”, which is also PORTABLE:

    http://synchronicity.sourceforge.net

  56. Marc

    Sorry if I missed this somewhere, but Easus ToDo Home Backup (from a GAOTD) can do both image backup and file backup. The file level backup goes to a proprietary PBD file, but you can recover any file(s) from that day’s PBD file, and very quickly too. The reviews gave the impression that you couldn’t restore to dissimilar hardware, but I think that’s only true of drive level backups (unless you’ve got a paid version with that ability).

  57. Frobie

    Update to my previous comment.
    I got a reply from Kim at Aomei and apparently the Windows 7 version of WAIK is needed to run the WinPE creation part of Backupper even when using XP SP3. This was his email response…
    “Thanks for contacting us.
    Yes you need WinAIK 3.0 and it works with XP SP3. The program to create WinPE is based on version 3.0 and above.”
    So for any XP SP3 owners out there (if any are left now)..thats the answer to getting a WinPE creation and burn from Backupper. I’m off now to go download the 1.7Gb version 3.0 WAIK from MS and see if he’s right..well he should be he works at Aomei..mmmmm. !

  58. Frobie

    Hi. In your testing of AOMEI Data Backupper did you try to create a WinPE boot disc? I tested the software on backup and it seems to work fine but I have not been able to create a WinPE boot disc and that is on 2 computers using different burners. I have XP SP3 and WAIK for that version installed so I wonder if that is the problem as the download on Aomei’s website is for the Windows 7 version of WAIK.
    The creation seems to fail about the 40% creation mark with the errors “Create WinPE ISO image failed!” and “process failed”. As I mentioned that happens on 2 different XP SP3 computers. The requirements mentioned for WinPE creation are Net Framework 2.0 and WAIK. I have up to Net Framework 4 and MS updates on all versions including NF 2.0 (SP2) so maybe thats the issue..the Net Framework SP2 update..who knows. At any rate I managed without a problem and using the same creation method of Backupper to create and burn the Linux version so I can’t understand why the program won’t create and burn the WinPE version. I have sent an email with failure log files to Aomei so if I get a reply and an answer to the problem i’ll post back with their suggestions if I get it working. Keep up the great work you DotTech guys.
    Frobie

  59. Common Sense

    Your sector-based winner can’t do scheduled backup. This makes it the worst possible option for your average user, as it means the pc will likely never again get backed up after the initial one.

    Most people would be much better off using Windows 7/8’s built in file- and sector-level backup, which is more than up to the job and doesn’t depend on a boot disk that may or may not work months from now when a restoration is needed.

  60. Giovanni

    This is a great article…I’ve just bookmarked it in my browser for future reference.
    Sorry for my previous blunder, but I was in a hurry and started reading it from the middle.
    Maybe, to make it perfect, you should add another section mentioning these two great freee tools, designed to perform a full data recovery system even on a completely destroyed machine and/or without OS:

    http://redobackup.org

    http://puppylinux.org/main/Overview%20and%20Getting%20Started.htm

    What do you make of it??

  61. Bill

    Pardon my ignorance, but for file-level backups, why not just use copy-and-paste for the required files/folders? I use the excellent Ycopy – quick and pretty failsafe.

    (Not trying to be funny, I just don’t get it.)

    (I do do proper system/drive-level backups from time to time.)

  62. Rob (Down Under)

    This info is in response to Keith’s post 73
    However it may also be of interest to others who have a need to recover individual files that were overwritten or for some reason are not present in the latest image.
    If you create full image backups like I suggest, and always keep a few (say the last 5 images), then you can actually rummage around within any of the images, and copy out individual files.
    Say you install the free Seagate DiscWizard, and immediately create a bootable CD, like I preach about. I have recommended that you do not make further use of the installed program. But here is an exception –
    You can use the program to browse within any of your images, and copy any files that you need.
    And getting back to Keith’s other point. Just ensure that you have a spare copy of the DiscWizard program that you downloaded from the Seagate web site. That will ensure that you can install it, at any time in the future, so that your image files can always be used.

  63. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @Trev (Down Under): No problem!
    @RealBull: You are welcome!
    @Godel: Yeah, it is slow.
    @Keith: We did mention the type of backup archive for file-backup software. We did not mention for drive-level backup simply because all of them use proprietary formats; there is no standard archive for imaging software. Plus there really isn’t that big of a need for a non-proprietary format for drive-level backup simply because of their purpose — backing up/restoring whole drives/systems, not restoring without the program.

  64. Keith

    Would have been good to have the type of files used for backups (ie: Zip files) mentioned. I would not like to run into proprietary filetypes if I could avoid it. I’ve been using Ocster (paid) and I like the interface – very simple – but have run into problems with the backup drive “going to sleep” during the backup and erroring out. I’m changing the power configs on the drive and removing indexing to see if it helps. Also, thanks for the info on syncing drives. I use that at work (thanks to the IT guy) but had no real idea how it works. Seems to be more what I’m looking for.

  65. Godel

    It’s been years since I used Drive Image XML, but apart from the annoyance of not being able to create recovery media (yes, I read that you can download an ISO) I seem to recall that it was incredibly slow.

  66. Trev (Down Under)

    @Steve: #59. What I think you are after is more of a Syncing Program. Try this, it does every thing you asked for, including backing up to uncompressed ordinary files, and replaces any old file versions in the backup. I like that it gives you the option of a preview “Differences Window”of what files have changed.
    #63 And its easy to add version numbers to keep older backups.
    “SyncBackFree”
    http://www.2brightsparks.com/freeware/freeware-hub.html
    I have found Seagate DiscWizard from Ancronis to be great for full image backups. It can restore backups to dissimilar hardware. Anyone can download it. I also found I only required to have one Segate or Maxtor Drive (includes external drives) if I used the boot disk. Restrictions can be overridden- see 2nd link below.
    http://www.seagate.com/support/downloads/discwizard/
    http://forums.seagate.com/t5/DiscWizard-and-MaxBlast/Using-DiscWizard-MaxBlast-to-back-up-non-Seagate-internal-hard/m-p/25406
    Ashraf #67 Sorry about that- Reposted.

  67. GiveHimABreak

    @Rob (Down Under): I have been with dotTech since the beginning (back when it was PoliticallyMotivated). Of all the things I have learned from this website, probably one of the greatest is about Ashraf himself.

    As I’ve followed this over the years, I’ve come to realize Ashraf is a very kind, cool-headed person. Not only is he very responsive to feedback, but he is often useful in answering questions, too. I’ve seen Ashraf kindly answer some of the most ridiculous questions and queries, questions and queries most people would respond with “are you serious, get out of here”.

    As you mention, I’ve also noticed sometimes Ashraf shows that he is human and gets upset with some comments. While there are incidents of where I could fault Ashraf, by and large I’ve noticed most of these incidents (which are far and few in between) are when people want to be spoon fed beyond belief; to the point that any normal human would get upset after s/he has spend hours writing something then someone asks a question that they could easily find the answer to on their own by either reading the article or trying the program in question.

    To top it off, as Ashraf as shown here, he is not one to back down from his mistakes. Once he realizes he is wrong, he is quick to accept his mistake and apologize. That, my friend, is a sign of great character.

    Give him a break — it isn’t like we are paying him to do this. I realize that he probably makes money from ads, but how many of us blocking his ads? Yeah…

  68. Rob (Down Under)

    @Ashraf:
    Have you seen Star Trek ?
    You should take a large leaf out of Spock’s book and stop reacting emotionally to members posts.
    When you do that, you then focus on a tiny bit of the post that upset you, and fail to calmly, fully address the issues the person was raising. (And you have done that a few times lately with my posts.)

  69. Steve

    @Ashraf: Yes…not in any compressed format. There was a program called WinZip that made zipped folders look and act exactly like ordinary (not zipped) folders–you never saw any extraction or recompression . It was marvelous, but the developer that bought it (Stuffit) could not get it to work properly in Win XP. I really miss it.

  70. Steve

    @Rob: Thank you for your suggestion. I already have a 1.5 tetrabyte portable external Seagate drive that I bought for a very good price and a desktop Seagate drive (also purchased at a good price). I also have Western external drives, but after having two go bad after little use, I don’t trust them. I backup to BOTH Seagate drives. I’ll have to check out Seagate disk wizard.
    P.S. I overwrite files unless I think I might need an earlier version, in which case I add version numbers to the file names.
    (I once had a contractor who took the revisions to a version four and added them to version one!)

  71. Steve

    @Ashraf:

    I had no intention of offending you. I did read the article, but it indicated that Backup Maker compressed the backups. I don’t recall the article indicating that it could also do uncompressed backups. Further, I could not determine if it would replace a file in the backup with a newer version. I did note that you specifically said that FBackup could create compressed or uncompressed backups, suggesting that it might be able to replace an existing backup file with a newer version of the file.

  72. Rob (Down Under)

    @RealBull:
    If you search DotTech for my posts on creating back up images, you will see that I dislike enclosed external drives, and I warn against creating images on to DVDs etc.
    You are going to need somewhere to put your images, so buy a couple of external docks, they are about $25 on eBay. buy two 3.5″ Seagate drives. In Aust a 500GB is $57, and a 2TB is approx $95 (Probably way cheaper in US).
    When you buy your docks ensure they can take 2TB (many only take 1.5TB)
    The only reason I stress 2TB, is the price of 2TB appears to be the sweet spot for a bargain.

    Don’t get Western Digital, as they don’t always follow the normal physical layout design conventions. If you already have Western Digital external drives, then their web site has a copy of the discWizard.

    Rob
    PS you can search in eBay for this –
    external dock 3.5″
    Don’t get a fancy one with card readers etc KISS

  73. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @Steve: Have you read the article? No offense but it took us many hours to put this together and you coming to ask for advice you could easily glean by reading the review is a bit insulting.
    In any case, I believe BackUp Maker (the program we ranked for best free file-level backup program) should do what you are looking for.

  74. Steve

    I used Acronis until my system was hacked. Now I do my backups manually using Beyond Compare, but would like something better/more automated that can perform the following. Suggestions would be appreciated.
    1. Backup is not compressed.
    2. Specific folders and files are backed up.
    3. Files that have been revised since the last backup replace the previously backup version.
    4. Backup is to an external HD.
    5. Running WinXP SP3.

    Thanks!

  75. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @RealBull: You arent. Seagate Disk Wizard is an Acronis-powered drive-level backup tool for Seagate drives only. Unofficial reports say it works for some people on non-Seagate drives but, in my opinion, it isnt worth the risk. Western Digital also has something similar. Don’t know about other drives.

  76. RealBull

    @Rob (Down Under):
    Seagate disk wizard seems nice, but it says on the website that you need a Seagate or Maxtor hard drive in order to use Seagate disk wizard. Therefore it would limit the users of this program because not everyone has that kind of HD. Or am I missing something?

  77. jonjof

    @Rob (Down Under): Thanks Rob. Will look at the Seagate tools.
    I have had excellent results restoring W7 images to dissimilar hardware using Paragon paid versions [P2P adjust], and sometimes using the W7 CD repair options.
    The Paragon tools via their repair boot CD [or flash drive] can also be used after restoring an image created by any other application. J

  78. Rob (Down Under)

    @Frank D:
    If you follow my approach, you will have a few generations of full backups that you can go back to.
    You will also have a fallback if your external drive dies.
    And you will not have all your eggs in one (incremental) basket.
    Rob
    PS I will confess to have never done an incremental backup, so there may be bits of the egg in different spots ?. But my rule is ‘keep it simple’ and the approach I have outlined is as simple as it gets. (EG a full restore is very straight forward, and avoids any complexity or risks)

  79. Frank D

    @Rob (Down Under): Quote: “Your question suggests that you did a backup on Friday, and on the following Monday, you realize that you need something from say Wednesday. Wednesday’s data should be in your Friday backup, unless you are doing something strange ?”
    When you say that Wednesday’s data should be in your Friday backup, I think you may not be recognizing that Friday’s backup may be missing Wednesday’s needed file (since it was deleted or modified erroneously), while the previous Tuesday’s backup will have the needed file. I like to be able to pick and choose from among the variety of saved versions, not just the last one. This also relates to Windows 7’s “previous versions” feature, where it will search and find previous versions of files from all the backups you’ve made. Anyway, we’re just comparing different ways of doing backups. Both work.

  80. BearPup

    @Frank D: Compared to your description, mine is relatively static. I have the same 103 programs on my main computer (73 on my laptop) that I regularly have. I rarely add or subtract anything, and the few files I modify or create I have a file backup program for (backup 4 all Lite version).

    If I followed your routine, I doubt I’d have any incremental files to backup on a daily basis. Maybe there’d be one backup during the week, and for that I have my file backup or plain “copy|file” to the external backup drive.

    As for the purpose of backups, I don’t keep them for the big meltdown, but rather for the little meltdowns, like when my (external) file manager erases a subdirectory of programs that I want to do something with. I’m more inclined to reinstall a misbehaving program than I am to restore it from a backup – I like a clean / fresh install rather than doing a restore and then restore the registry settings.

    And if it comes to it, beartter to reinstall many programs than fiddle with the registry. Can that be time consuming and a pain, yes it can. But I prefer that to a messed up registry and broken shortcuts. As I said at the beginning, your mileage may well be different.

  81. Rob (Down Under)

    @Frank D:
    You said –
    “Full backups only? What if you discover that you need to get something back from five days ago, and your only backup is from yesterday? Plus, as an added benefit, incrementals take only a fraction of the time to run as full backups.”
    . . .
    I say –
    Your question suggests that you did a backup on Friday, and on the following Monday, you realize that you need something from say Wednesday. Wednesday’s data should be in your Friday backup, unless you are doing something strange ?
    I have never had to go back to an earlier backup, as the most recent backup should (still) have that data.
    I will concede that something weird could have happened on Friday, and you need to peep into your slightly older backup to get something, or perhaps restore Thursdays completely as you may have got an infection during Friday.
    What I do is have two docks (with their own drive in each), and retain a few generations of backups. And I backup to alternate docks each time, in case one dock’s drive gets stuffed.
    . . .
    I never do incremental backups, as I do not wish to be stuffing with (risking) my precious images. AGH!

  82. Rob (Down Under)

    @jonjof:
    I have restored to dissimilar hardware many times, using the free Seagate discWizard. And I could do it with any of the other free programs that allow you to restore an image.
    I don’t use Win 7 very often as I don’t like it (MS’s smarmy changes, and more complexity such as the ‘smoke and mirrors’ with File folders). I have only tried my trick with Win 7 a couple of times, with no luck. However my trick has worked numerous times with XP.
    The trick is to NOT boot into windows after you have done the restore (aka recovery). You place your Windows CD into your PC, and let it boot into that. When you are offered a repair via the Recovery Console, DO NOT choose that.
    Proceed as if you are to install XP. It should list your partition and ask what to do with it. One of the options will be to repair it.
    What that Repair will do is, peep around at the new hardware, and then install replacement drivers.
    If all goes well, you will have transferred your full OS from one PC to another.
    Always do this with a spare hard drive, so you can do some ‘Groundhog Days’ until you get it right.

  83. Frank D

    @BearPup: I’m constantly adding new programs, uninstalling old ones, creating new and revised files and documents every day. If I didn’t have access to backups from days and even weeks ago, I’d feel unprotected and open to loss, which is what backups are supposed to prevent. Backups aren’t just for “the big one” (a total meltdown), they’re for everyday losses too. That’s why I do an incremental every day for two weeks, and then a new full backup, repeating on a schedule. I find AOMEI (free) backup does everything well, and you can’t beat the price.

  84. BearPup

    @Frank D: Call me lazy, but I don’t backup every day, I don’t know (m)any that do. Its a choice, no strategy is a guarantee….Unless of course you’re a business that backs up every night and stores it off site in (two) different locations!

    As for time, I do a full backup in 20 minutes once a week, which I can do while I watch my futbol (soccer) matches on Saturday mornings.

  85. jonjof

    Does anyone know of any Free Drive/Image backup solution that can restore to dissimilar hardware? Or have I missed that any of the one’s discussed here ARE able this? Or is it possible perhaps via a PE option on one of these programmes?

  86. Frank D

    @BearPup: Full backups only? What if you discover that you need to get something back from five days ago, and your only backup is from yesterday? Plus, as an added benefit, incrementals take only a fraction of the time to run as full backups.

  87. BearPup

    My choice is Macrium Reflect as well. I only do full backups, so the lack of differential / incremental backups isn’t an issue. In fact, it may be unfair to fault Reflect for not having differential / incremental as its billed as a drive imaging program.

    Why only full backups? Because with the other types of backup you still need that full backup to start with, so rather than risk not having the most up-to-the-minute partial backup, I just have the full backup to work with. This way when I need to do a restore, I know that everything’s there (and yes, I’ve needed to do partial restores, and Macrium has been easy to use for those).

    And of all the programs that I’ve tried, Macrium Reflect has been the easiest one to clone my system drive with. That’s my mileage, your mileage may well be different.

  88. Tom

    Macrium Reflect is my choice. So much so I bought the app for it’s ability to encrypt my backup images. It’s been a life saver for system for restores, drive upgrades, HDD to SSD transfers, allowing me to expand/shrink partitions on the fly. Best yet, is its developer support.

  89. Rob (Down Under)

    MS would not know ‘KISS’ if it touched their rear end.
    Just because MS builds in complexities into their OS, does not mean that it is RELIABLE to use it.
    If I were president of the US, I would insist that MS provide a ‘KISS’ version of their Windows, so that business (and me) can use it. They can have their smarmy, bloated version as well, if they like, and can even continue with their tricks to force the latest version on to us.
    Two quick defenses in case anyone wishes to pick on minor matters rather than the main point I am trying to convince people of (which is “don’t image from within Windows”). –
    1) If legislation was not appropriate, I would ensure that all government depts, avoid upgrading Windows, until MS come out with a simple version.
    2)No doubt ‘Shadow’ whatever has a valid other purpose, just don’t encourage people to indirectly make use of it, by imaging from within a running Windows.

    Surely you can see that there would be much less complexity for us to create an image from a bootable CD ?
    Let me illustrate this with an example.
    Say you had children, and you are about to go on an urgent business trip for a month.
    Say your wife said “let the children use your PC whilst you are away”.
    Say you had enough time to create one image of your OS partition.
    Would you do it whilst Windows is running, or would you do it from a bootable CD.
    If you would do it whilst windows is running, then we can end this debate, as I will have no hope of convincing you that ‘keeping it simple’ is the only way to go. Especially on something as IMPORTANT as our OS backups.

  90. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @Rob (Down Under): Well it does matter because most Linux-based bootables cannot create backups, only do restores.
    However, why should we never create images from inside Windows? We have the technology available to reliably create backups while inside Windows… so why not take advantage of it.

  91. Rob (Down Under)

    I don’t think it matters if the bootable CD is Linux or WinPE.
    That was not why I was raising the point.
    I was emphasizing a much more important point, that we should not be creating images from within a running windows EVER

  92. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @Rob (Down Under): We clearly mentioned the differences between Linux-based and WinPE-based media, and creating backups outside Windows is one of those differences as we pointed out. Any program that supports WinPE-based (i.e. AOMEI and Macrium) can create backups from outside Windows.

  93. Rob (Down Under)

    I believe that your list of drive backup programs (image creators) is ‘limited’ to those that can use ‘Shadow’ whatever (aka can image an OS while it is running).
    If I wrote an article on imaging, my list would be limited to those that can do it, whilst windows is NOT RUNNING.
    You rightly mention that a bootable CD is required to recover (restore) an image.
    You do not emphasize that such a bootable CD can be used to create the image.
    If you held a cocked double barreled shotgun to my head, you could not force me to image an OS, whilst Windows is running.
    Thus, my list of free programs would include the free Seagate DiscWizard, and I would be explaining how to create the bootable CD.

  94. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @Everyone: This article has now been updated to include the full review. Thanks everyone for your feedback, and enjoy!

    @Trev: Backing up to networks is supported by every program that can store locally. Saving to a network share is no different than saving to a local folder (technically speaking), as far as I know.

  95. Trev

    For File level backup, SyncBack Freeware.
    Great how gives the option of a preview “Differences Window”- a preview of what has changed/its going to change.
    http://www.2brightsparks.com/freeware/freeware-hub.html

    For Drive level backup with most features:-
    Seagate DiscWizard by Ancronis.
    Works with Seagate or Maxtor drives (includes external drives).
    http://www.seagate.com/support/downloads/discwizard/

    Or WD Edition also by Ancronis.
    Works with Western Digital drives (includes external drives).
    http://support.wdc.com/product/downloaddetail.asp?swid=119&wdc_lang=en
    You can over ride these Ancronis drive limitations by holding down the Alt key while you type t then o (for tech override).
    http://forums.seagate.com/t5/DiscWizard-and-MaxBlast/Using-DiscWizard-MaxBlast-to-back-up-non-Seagate-internal-hard/m-p/25406

  96. Frank D

    @RealBull: I’ve now used the AOMEI Backuper program to do a full system disk image backup. Results are in all respects equal to that produced by Acronis TrueImage Backup Home. The user interface is clean and simple, with no room for misunderstanding or errors, as Acronis is. I was able to mount and search the individual files of the backup and to restore them if I wanted to. And it does incremental backups. And it’s free. Hard to believe, but it is. It’s a keeper. Thank you for pointing me to it.

  97. Frank D

    @RealBull: It’s hard to believe that a free program like AOMEI will do full system image backups _and_ incremental backups, but it looks like this one will do just that. I’m trying it out right now and will report back ASAP. Thank you for this info!

  98. Frank D

    @RealBull: Thanks for the information! I downloaded and installed the versions you pointed out, but it turns out that the free one is a files-only backup, not the system image backup that I’m looking for. The trial Pro version won’t complete a system backup due to an internal error (repeated). I’m currently using the paid version of Acronis TrueImage Backup to do this, and it works — when you manage to tweak it just right, but it does have faults and quirks that I’d like to get away from (too detailed to go into here). I’ll continue looking. Thanks for your input.

  99. RealBull

    Here is another drive back-up program that works well:
    AOMEI Data Backuper.
    One-click backup your system drive to ensure system security
    Backup disk and partition, create disk images and cloning hard drive
    Support Windows 7, 8, Server 2008 R2, and Server 2012 (32bit and 64bit)

    Incremental & differential backups: Based on a full backup, the software supports to create incremental or differential backups to taking less time and save storage space.

    Encryption and Compression: You can set a password for each backups to prevent unauthorized access. When the backup process, specify an industry leading compression algorithm to compress image file in order to take up less disk space.

    Image file checker and explorer: Check data integrity of image file to ensure the backups can be restored successfully. Mount image files to a virtual partition so that you can browse the contents of the backups in Windows Explorer.

    Comment Backups and Splitting Backups: Add comments to backups so that the backups can be further identified and clarified. Let you know what a backup is for or what it contains. Splitting Backups can split backup an image file into proper sizes to fit storage media.

    Create Bootable Rescue Media: You can create a bootable media (e.g. CD or USB media) to restore system drive on the
    condition that Windows can not boot.

  100. jonjof

    I have been happy with both Easeus and Paragon products. Both Free and Paid. Paragon I find is exceptional for restoring to new hardware.
    For sync I have tried various products and the ones I have stuck with are Easy2Sync and ViceVersa. The Free versions are limited. For very large file numbers [e numbers of folders or files] on a 64 bit system, viceversa [www.tgrmn.com] has been the one I find without fail is exceptionally stable and reliable.

  101. mukhi

    for file backup, FBackup 4 hands down. show me a better software than this, and i will try it.

    some awesome features:

    # mirror backup option without creating full path including drive letter. i absolutely don’t like creating full path; unfortunately, most popular backup programs do create full path, and there is no option that you can disable it. when a full path is created, to find the backed up folder (say, my pictures), you need to navigate deep inside the directory that is created in the root folder of the destination drive.
    NOTE: GFI backup (formerly, titan backup) also has mirror backup option without creating full path.

    # differential backup. you can check the option of removing the excluded files or deleted files from backup. this will create a perfect mirror backup every time you have updated the source drive.

  102. stilofilos

    I am an absolute fan of Pure Sync. Lets you do both backup and sync, both on file and drive levels. And store lots of individual jobs for easy launching.
    Don’t like those image things, want to access each file individually when needed, and without hassles.
    Very intuitive, user friendly and Deutsche Gruendlichkeit.

  103. Mary

    I semi understand what backing up is. What I don’t understand is
    1). Why are there all these programs out there to the job.
    2). Doesn’t the backup programs already installed on PC’s do the job?
    3). What exactly is “image” backup, and how do you do it?
    4). How many cd’s does it take to back up an entire PC on discs?

    Explaining how things work is one of the things that brought me to Dottech in the first place. If possible, in the review, could you please either include that info, or link to an article which explains it to someone who has never done it before out of being uneducated on the subject. (and maybe too scared to screw something up)

    I did try doing a backup on my PC once, using the built in HP / Windows back up, and found myself burning cd after cd, and not knowing how many more I had to burn until it is was finished. So, after 8 burned cd’s I stopped! Now I keep getting a “message” telling me to check my backup.

    Also, when I have to do another backup, do I overwrite the cd’s I already burned or do I start over with a fresh set?

    None of the programs recommended are going to help me, if I don’t understand what I’m doing in the first place. When I look for answers on the web, all I get are explanations that use technical jargon that I don’t understand.

    I am going to watch this topic in hopes I get the education I need, and think is vital for everyone to know!

    BTW, I will never use a cloud service for my backups. As convenient as they may be, I don’t trust my data on the web anywhere, unless I put specific data there for something related to a site! ;)

    Thank you ALL for your input! You people keep making me a little bit smarter each or every other day! :)

  104. AFPhys

    @Ashraf:

    When reviewing, please have the reviewer pay attention to whether it is possible for the program (file or drive) to do incremental and/or differential backups, toggling “archive flag”, etc.

    In addition, scheduling capabilities would be good to have reviewed.

    Of course, with full drive backups, it is very important to know whether the restore can be done to a disk which is not identical to the original drive. It is also important that the restoration program can be placed on an independent area not dependent on the operating system from which the backup was made (memory stick?, or same media that backup is done on).

    It would also be nice to confirm whether the operating system has successfully been transferred to the new disk drive.

    In other words, for the full drive backup, imagine that the current hard drive dies a week after the backup is done, and I wish to to be able to use the backup alone to restore my whole system to a brand new hard drive.

    Thanks for letting me/us sound off on this .

  105. RealBull

    @Unicorn02:
    I agree with Unicorn02, I don’t like those programs which installs 100mb+ either… it makes no sense.
    I use Runtime Software’s DriveImage XML for HD cloning and Shadow Copy for file backup.
    For file backup I also sometimes use Fbackup and Microsoft’s SyncToy. I had used SyncBack Free which is very good, but not necessary for me. And Synchredible is a good one to try, too. XXClone Free, Macrium Reflect Free and O&O DiskImage Express are also good HD cloning tools which I had used.
    I’ve used MS Window 7’s own built in system backup which is very good, but I’m not sure if it qualifies for this article.

    I think the next topic should be about System Maintenance like WinOptimizer & Glary Utilities because there are about 1000 of them out there.

  106. Jeanjean

    I use DriveImageXML on XP-sp3 without problem.
    I don’t use a File-level backup program since I can browse the backup of DriveImage to find a file and especially because I use daily EAZ-Fix with which I can do the same.

  107. n.n

    You may wish to consider COMODO Backup. It performs file and sector-level full, incremental, and differential backups, compression and encryption, integrated scheduler, as well as more esoteric features, to destinations including: local, network, optical, and even COMODO’s online service.

    There is at least one drawback. It requires Windows AIK (1.7 GB) to creates its “rescue media.” Presumably because it contains Windows PE.

    http://backup.comodo.com/

    http://help.comodo.com/topic-9-1-455-4910-Comodo-BackUp-Introduction.html

    http://forums.comodo.com/news-announcements-feedback-cb/comodo-backup-42215-released-t90538.0.html

  108. BearPup

    @o(o.o)o: I used to use Keriver, until I absolutely needed it and then it wouldn’t recognize where it had stored the backup files!

    I was left with no backup at all at that point and was forced to do a complete reinstall of Windows. The theory is great, but when I needed it….

    I’d love to find aanother real-time backup that actually worked.

  109. Frank D

    @bobberup: So far (if I didn’t miss it) no one has mentioned full vs. incremental disk imaging backups. Most free backup programs will do full image backups, but it would be helpful to mention whether the free ones do incremental in addition to full image backups.

  110. WoodyCurl

    For files backup I use SE Backup.

    I use it to backup my documents to an external disk. The interface provides a very simple way to specify what to save and where. Then you can save the “project” in a xml file.

    I love this program for a very specific and perhaps geek reason: it does NOT have a scheduler built in. You don’t need to keep it always running.

    When you’ve got your xml configuration file, you can use the Windows Scheduler to choose when you want to do the job. All you have to do is launch the program from the “Command Line Action” and providing the xml file as first parameter.

    There is a second reason to love this tool: it saves your backup in a standard zip file you may open with your favorite compression tool. When I need to restore a file I do this with FreeCommander, navigating directly into the directory structure backed up.

  111. Unicorn02

    I really like Macrium Reflect free for disk imaging/backup. It might not offer all the features as the other free programs, but does exactly what I need. And it is so damn well optimized and really small. Just a handful of files in 1 directory. I never understand why I have to install nearly a 100 MB for doing just disk imaging (Hello Acronis and Paragon!). The boot CD for restore is also the smallest of all. Only 13 mb and boots damn fast! You can also create shortcuts to your defined jobs, so executing your normal backup is merely just 1 mouseclick away.

  112. o(o.o)o

    For drive backup, another suggestion for review would be Keriver 1-Click Restore Free. I’ve read good things about it. I personally use Paragon to backup my system drive.

    There are a bunch of free file backup programs around and I’ve trialled a bunch, including Karen’s Replicator, but i keep coming back to Syncback Free.

  113. bobberup

    I am sure you guys and gals know a lot more about these things than I do, but I have gone through backups on diskettes (5 1/4″ and 8″) Tapes and harddrive files and/or to hardrive backups and that goes way back before we were anything but MSDOS or DRDOS.
    But, so far the best I have found and that WORKS without fail for me (don’t know how many others us it)
    It is EASUS Backup. I realize it’s not an American product but
    1) it works
    2) backs up files as you pick out
    3) compression ratio is as you choose (more compression more time)
    4) it backsup entire harddisk drives
    5) you can restore one file or the whole blasted drive
    6) I have used this one now for several years and no screwups to date
    7) IT’S FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  114. PixelWizard

    Best free Windows file-level backup software:
    1.GFI Backup 2012.
    The company no longer offers any pro (paid) version; the 2102 freeware is available on various sites including http://gfi-backup.en.lo4d.com/. Well made and reliable. I use it for a preconfigured “task,” activated by a desktop shortcut, which puts an ISO-based backup onto my stick drive. It’s been great.

    2. Ashampoo Burning Studio.
    I’ve got a 2010 edition and I’ll bet most versions will have similar features. You can preconfigure a “project” and make a desktop shortcut that activates it directly. With this I make a full (not compressed) copy of certain files and burn the set of copies onto a rewritable DVD.

    Best free Windows drive-level backup software:
    Macrium Reflect, freeware. I have v5.0.5167.0 but have used other versions too. All have performed perfectly every time.

  115. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    Drive-level backup
    -Macrium Reflect Free
    -EASEUS Todo Backup
    -DriveImageXML
    -Paragon Backup & Restore Free

    File-Level Backup
    -FBackup
    -Cobian Backup
    -BackUp Maker
    -GenieTime Free

    @Paul D: The only issue is Karen passed away in 2011 so that program probably won’t ever be updated again.