Best Free File-Based Backup Program

 

Introduction

The theme of this category is to provide reviews for the most popular and best free file-based backup programs that provide adequate features, ease of use and ability to set and forget. File based backup programs do not usually support the creation of a system boot restore disk.  The intention behind backup software is to backup important data you create, not generally to restore your operating system or applications.  Use backup software to save document files, browser favorites, pictures, videos and other data, documents and media.  There are other options for creating system restore disks and restoring applications. Some of the backup programs are easier to use than others usually at the cost of some features.  Backup programs do have their own nomenclature for processes.  Please take the time to educate yourself on the process and terminology.  Gizmo's has several articles for reference, some mentioned later in this review and the Freeware Forum to post questions. Downloading and trying two or three different programs to perform a test backup may be preferable to determine the proper fit for your needs and experience.  

Important Features:

  • Shadow Copy or VSS - Comodo Backup
  • GPT drives - AOMEI & EaseUS
  • Create System Restore - AOMEI
  • Incremental & Differential Backup - Comodo, Backup Maker, AOMEI
  • AES Security Encryption - Comodo, Backup Maker, AOMEI,

Note: There are a lot of free backup programs that have some unique features and excellent functionality that really deserve mentioning, but room here does not allow. If you are looking for more advanced programs, or some specific functionality, please check out the three links directly below. Special Review: AOMEI is not a file based backup program, however it's extensive abilities and member requests have warranted a review in this category.

Recommended Reading:

  Read this article in Spanish (Español)

 

In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 

Discussion

enlightenedTIP — Can't Find What You Need in the Choices Below? Try Our Extended List of Backup Programs.


Comodo Backup represents what a truly full functional free backup software should be.  Although lacking a wizard for novice users, the essential functions are clearly laid out.  Installation notes; you can opt out of using the cCloud 10GB free storage.  The software will reboot your system after installing, so make sure you don't have any other applications open.  Comodo Backup starts out with the option to perform a System backup with their default settings when you run it for the first time, I skipped this step.  To begin creating a backup, click the Backup menu from the left sidebar to configure specific source files and folders or select from the Shortcuts menu to easily backup common folders like My Documents, My Pictures, My Videos and My Music.  Once a backup has been configured and run, on-demand is easily selected from the Home Summary list of backups already performed.  Like most backup software once configured, it's easy to do again.  Tip: in the backup window there is an option to choose Fewer Options or More Options.  Select the view you are most comfortable with.  Comodo does offer full backup, incremental and differential as well as Shadow Copy.  There are options to choose the level of compression from none to maximum, and the backup format.  Types of backup formats include CBU file, simple copy, ZIP file, ISO file, self-extracting CBU file and file sync.  Comodo can only restore CBU and Simple Copy formats.  Comodo does offer scheduling.  From the backup screen, near the bottom in the middle is a gray clock icon to use for setting the backup schedule.  The good, this program is full of usable features.  The bad, they take time to learn and it lacks GPT format support.  I recommend their online help guide as a resource to getting familiar with the program.  The step by step image filled help is easy to navigate and very informative.  If you are short of drive space and need another source, try Comodo's free 10GB of cloud storage.  Comodo's extensive online help includes RSS feeds in the lower left corner of the main console view to the latest news releases and video's explaining many of their features and offerings.  I really like this program for it's unrestricted functionality.


Backup Maker Screen ShotBackup Maker: Backup Maker opens with a clean console inviting the user to start with a backup or restore.  Click backup to start the restore wizard.  Choose presets or specific files and folders, scheduling, full or partial backups, a target location, and a backup name, those are the basic wizard features.  The advanced features include the ability to catch up missed backups, creating settings for not overwriting older backups, security options, back up condition options, actions to occur before/after backup, and splitting the backup.  The wizard did a good job of walking me through the options.  The developer has fixed the system slowing or freezing when drilling down directory trees that one of our user's pointed out.  I've tested this feature again and cannot recreate the issue.  The software has one of the most extensive sets of options for customizing backups.  Unfortunately imaging, cloning or system boot backups are not supported.  Backup Maker does not limit any of the functionality versus the paid version.  The omissions from the paid version are commerical use and technical support.  For restoration, assuming your operating system is installed and functional, Backup Maker will restore data in a few short steps.  Click the restore button, select the files to restore and where to restore them.  Keeping with the program's trait of selection detail, the options to select specific files to restore from a group, and being able to select an alternative destination or restore the original path are nice options.  
 


FBackup: starts with a Getting Started window over the main window.  The Getting Started window can be turned off after the first use however this window is also a Wizard that novice users may find beneficial.  The Getting Started options are Backup, Restore and Links. Select Backup another window will open.  Name your backup, choose the target destination, click next. The following window is for selecting and excluding files.  This requires a familiarity with file tree structions and locating the information you want to backup on the hard drive.  The next window is for encryption and selecting full or mirror backup. Mirror backup will essentially copy files from one location to another.  Mirror backups cannot be compressed or password protected. The next window is for scheduling.  A nice feature is each window has a help link associated with the information on that window.  There is also an advanced button at the bottom of the screen to access other options.  Essentially there are four steps to creating a backup.  After the backup is complete a notification window will pop-up showing the files backed up. This is part of the CRC32 test.  The test cannot be performed again after the backup.  FBackup will return to the main window.  FBackup free does not offer incremental or differential backups. Compressed files are zipped so no need for mounting/unmounting. Backups can be password protected but they are not encrypted.  A unique feature of FBackup is the use of plugins which can be used to automate backups.  These plugins are preset for specific applications like game saves, email data, web browser settings, anti-virus configurations, etc.  The developer has created a rather long list of available plugins to help capture specific application files. The options menu under the File tab provides access to configuring essential functions of the software.  Since FBackup is heavy on pop-up notifications, the Notifications option is very handy for customizing what pop-up windows you see and for how long.  The UI is similar to MS Office 2010's ribbon toolbar making FBackup more comfortable for users of MS products.  Overall a nice backup program for users of moderate computer knowledge. My dislikes are the restrictions in the free version compared to the paid version.
 


AOMEI Backupper is good for the user who wants a fast efficient way to perform large backups.  This program does not allow the user to choose files and folders. It's the only program in this category that isn't a file based backup program.  Instead Backupper offers fast methods to backup or clone hard drives and partitions with a couple of easy clicks of the mouse.  There are utilities for checking file integrity and creating bootable rescue media.  NAS (network storage) is also supported. The primary backup options are Disk Backup, Partition Backup and System Backup. AOMEI does have some good options for all backup modes, like the ability to create comments about the backup, select levels of compression, whether or not to encrypt, the ability to split large backups, whether or not to optimize sectors during backup and the option for Shadow Copying aka VSS.  Incremental and Differential backup is supported.  Unfortunately the type of compression is not optional, nor is the type of encryption which uses AES.  AOMEI supports UEFI boot and GPT disks.  AOMEI software is good but not for everyone.  It has many of the essential functions omitted in FBackup and EaseUS, and now offers individual file/folder backup.  I recommend it for those seeking methods of backing up drives or individual partitions, and cloning. I also give kudos to their online support which is rather extensive and well organized with detailed articles and videos in a user friendly layout.  
 


EaseUS Todo Backup: EaseUS is designed to be user friendly by simplicity without a wizard.  However this assumes a level of experience that may exclude some novice users.  The main menu has three quick link options, Disk/Partition backup, System backup and File backup.  System backup is essentially the same as Disk/Partition backup only the presets are fixed for backing up the system files.  In the free version EaseUS will not create a bootable system restore disk. Using the cloning or imaging features however hard drive information can be completely restored by using a seperate boot disk/drive like a system CD or Flash drive.  Using File Backup the default view is a directory tree to manually select files or accept the default settings.  There is another option by clicking the arrow on the file tab and selecting File Type to see a list of presets or create your own.  Once the files are selected, a small row of links will open other windows for additional options.  There is a link for scheduling, backup options and Image-Reserve Strategy.  The backup options are limited in the Free version.  Compression is either none or normal, splitting, and priority settings of normal or medium.  VSS is not an option, incremental backups are available, not differential with the Free version.  Once configured however backups are essentially two clicks away using presets.  The Clone menu on the left sidebar has links to perform Disk and Partition Cloning.  The Tools menu on the left sidebar offers Check Image, Wipe Data, Enable PreOS, Create Emergency Disk, and Mount/UnMount.  EaseUS does support GPT disks and is for personal use only.  Admin level use is required to restore and perform other functions.  Overall EaseUS ToDo Free is a quick simple program to use.  Being a restricted version of their full version leaves it lacking in overall features compared to other backup programs.  EaseUS must be downloaded from CNET or use this link, because the verification code system on the developer's site doesn't work.  I used the CNET download without incident.
 

Related Products and Links

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Quick Selection Guide

Comodo Backup
5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Offers Shadow Copy, incremental and differential backup, seven levels of encryption, unrestricted features. Short 3 step process.
Lacks a wizard, options may be confusing to novice users.
4.3.5.2
24.3 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Win XP sp2, Vista, 7, 8, Server 2003, 2008
Backup Maker (Personal Edition)
4
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Has many features for basic and advanced selection. Nice scheduling options. Clean console, helpful wizard.
No Shadow Copy
6.507
6.6 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Free for private use only
There is no portable version of this product available.
Win XP - Win 8
FBackup
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Easy to use wizard featuring plugins to make it easy to back up data from various other programs, like browsers, email clients, or media players.
Lacks partial backup ability, no Shadow Copy, no high level encryption. Free version restricted functions.
http://fbackup.com/
5.0.325
1.15 MB for the installer, 51MB for the application
32 and 64 bit versions available
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Win XP, Vista, 7, 8 / Win Server 2000-2008

See the following website for free plugins for your favorite program. http://www.backup4all.com/en/backup-plugins.html

AOMEI
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Lots of features, supports GPT, System Restore, Incremental and Differential backup, AES Encryption
The file management lacks the ability to select multiple parent folders at the same time.
http://www.aomeitech.com/
1.6
60 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 7, 8, Vista, XP and Windows Server 2003, 2008, 2012
EaseUS Todo Backup
2
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Cloning and imaging features. Straight forward user interface.
No Shadow Copy, no differential backups, lacks a wizard.
http://www.todo-backup.com/
6.1
113 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Free for private use only
There is no portable version of this product available.
WIN XP - WIN 8

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Tags

best free back up programs, top backup programs, free backup tools, free backup utility, free disk backup, free drive backup free disk imaging, free file based backup and sync, free folder sync programs.

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Comments

by Timb (not verified) on 6. January 2011 - 14:07  (63954)

I was wondering if anyone has a recommendation regarding backup to DAT tape - are there any free products that will do this - as I have not found any so far.

I use tape, because it is the only method that allows for a robust backup mechanism - if you backup to two separate hard disks, you still only have two separate backup devices: but you can backup to 20 different tapes for trivial cost.

Any ideas would be most welcome.

by Scott Youngman (not verified) on 9. January 2011 - 0:43  (64163)

Based on the critera you give for inclusion in this list, I don't think Toucan belongs. To have any significant control, the user needs to write their own rules and scripts. I'm sure that is beyond the average user; personally, I had no idea what to do beyond selecting source and destination. So I would say Toucan fails on "ease of use" and "over burdening the user."

by Ritho on 9. January 2011 - 17:02  (64183)

I only stated that those were the main things I took into consideration. I understand that Toucan is not the easiest thing to use, but Toucans inclusion in the list is because it is a very popular portable app. None of the others mentioned are portable. If you would like to suggest a better reliable portable backup please do, and I will replace Toucan.

by Ritho on 9. January 2011 - 17:40  (64186)

Sorry Timb, I did not get back with an answer sooner. I have run across several free backup solutions that support tape, but unfortunately I have forgotten most of them. The ones I do remember are Amanda http://www.amanda.org/ Bacula http://www.bacula.org/en/

There is also BackupPC http://backuppc.sourceforge.net/ it is capable of using Amanda or Bacula as "back-ends" for backing up to a tape drive.

by GaryG (not verified) on 20. January 2011 - 3:32  (64880)

One reason to not use the built in backup on Windows 7 is that it only allows you to back up to CD/DVD.

by Ritho on 20. January 2011 - 6:23  (64888)

Gary, I am afraid you are mistaken. It allows you to select another internal or external hard disk, or other drives as well. Under the dialogue "Set up backup" it says "Select your backup location." Are you sure you were looking at "Windows 7 Backup and Restore?"

by BobS (not verified) on 21. January 2011 - 11:09  (64950)

It seems that FBackup overwrites the previous backup. Surely the lack of backup versioning is a serious omission?

by Ritho on 21. January 2011 - 21:43  (64970)

I clearly mentioned in my review that it only supported full or mirror backups. The fact that it does not do versioning is not an omission it is just a basic backup. There are many backup softwares that don't do versioning.

by BobS (not verified) on 21. January 2011 - 22:11  (64973)

I can live with just full backups but not with having my previous (full) backups zapped. I have now gone with Areca which does what I want with the only minor gripe being that scheduling is not built in (but easily overcome). Anyway thanks for the reviews - I did find them very useful.

by Mr. Bill (not verified) on 4. February 2011 - 3:26  (65815)

What happened to Macrium Reflect Free Edition? It used to be part of this list? Or am I looking in the wrong place? As a matter of fact, it used to be a recommendation in late 2009-2010? Here's a link that was good as of 2/3/2011: http://www.macrium.com/reflectfree.asp

by kendall.a on 4. February 2011 - 4:45  (65817)

I think you are looking in the wrong place. I search of this site for "Macrium" will give you the following link:

http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-drive-imaging-program.htm

by russell (not verified) on 16. February 2011 - 21:15  (66562)

which backup or imageing program saves in a non proprietary manner.
I wish my backups to go to a portable hard drive . I wish to be able browse and open files with any computer. I want to be able to exclude hidden and system files automatically.

by rithotest (not verified) on 17. February 2011 - 5:31  (66583)

Russell I replied to your comment in the other section. But both of the first two products reviewed above will do what you want. Either use Zip format for compression or use use a non compressed option.

by Anonymouse (not verified) on 28. February 2011 - 23:18  (67207)

I just ran into the following program: Cobian Backup 10

http://www.educ.umu.se/~cobian/cobianbackup.htm

It can run unattended (as a service) and can backup locked files (via volume shadow copy).
Might be worth to have a look at.

by amaro57 (not verified) on 2. March 2011 - 15:31  (67314)

Running Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. Backup Maker gives me an unknown zip error in the middle of back up procedure.

by Paul Hodgson (not verified) on 5. March 2011 - 13:35  (67464)

Here's another free backup software. I've used this for many years now and whilst it appears Karen is no longer updating the product, it does exactly what it say on the tin...so to speak.

http://www.karenware.com

by Tenere on 10. March 2011 - 12:59  (67738)

What a minefield! Such an important process so badly neglected by OS's or poorly implemented by third parties.
Pretty much tried most of them and still looking. I backup to a removable HDD in a caddy removed at end of day. I need to schedule backups preferably using OS scheduler (XP)and not have the unnecessary and cumbersome running processes I have encountered. I would like the backup in a universal format like zip. I do not want my backup set dangerously overwritten without a preserved copy left safe and untouched (last but one deletion). I fail to be impressed with programmers who create inerrant issues jepordising data to push you to commercial products or have the Linux like mentality of 'look how clever I am and how thick you are' attained by too many late nights playing 'quest' games - life's too short! Just simple safe backups through an intuitive menu.

So far the closest has been FBackup but I have to double up alternate staggered backups to protect my data sets.

If anyone can recommend something better for my needs, I would be most grateful.

by Ismael R (not verified) on 10. March 2011 - 13:15  (67739)

Cobian Backup 10 deserves a preview. I have tested all those and I think by far is the best.

by Andy Licious (not verified) on 17. March 2011 - 19:14  (68115)

I see no mention of either Cobian or GFI both of which work only on Windows. Both are fairly intuitive without being overbearing.

by PaulMcDonald65 (not verified) on 27. March 2011 - 4:46  (68631)

Hello,

What backup program would work well with a laptop that doesn’t permanently have a portable drive plugged into a usb port? I do this because my local computer shop said the drive will overheat if left in continuously. Maybe they are full of it?

Obviously any scheduled backups won't work as the drive isn't plugged in. I guess as Mr Ritho says above, you would get warnings etc that the backup didn't happen and then you just plug the usb in and do the job manually right?

But I want a backup program that does one huge backup first (excluding Windows files etc) then after that just backs up any changed files.

But I don't want the earlier versions of the files deleted but rather kept and clearly identified as older versions and I want them kept for say 12 months before being deleted.

Can Backup Maker do this?

Thanks very much.
Paul.

by Ritho on 27. March 2011 - 10:58  (68650)

Yes Backup Maker should work out for you. Use the incremental "partial backup" feature which will make your initial full backup for you. Although it is a good idea to make a full backup every once in a while.

A better reason not to leave your backup drive connected at all times, is because if a virus or a power surge were responsible for data loss on your main drive, your backup could be affected at the same time. It is best to only plug in your backup source when you are actually backing up files.

by zach (not verified) on 29. March 2011 - 16:55  (68783)

I've been using Cobian for a long time but it's time for a change. I really don't need a restore function but I need to at least be able to FIND the file that I want! Cobian does not maintain a catalog of files backed up, so if you want to restore a particular file, you'll have to manually search through the full and incremental backups. Possible many of 'em.

by TBev (not verified) on 5. April 2011 - 16:38  (69526)

Hello,

I currently have two external HD's and basically would like to have them sync up when the other is changed or modified. The primary one is a desktop HD that is always plugged in to my computer, doesn't travel with me and is used mainly for photos and music. The secondary drive is a portable one that I use both as a backup and to share music and/or photos. Since I already have a around 100GB of this kind of media, I want it to be in two places and updated on both drives when I edit photos or acquire new music.

Which (if any) of these programs would you suggest I use? Would I be better off using a file-syncing program instead?

Thanks!

T

by Ritho on 7. April 2011 - 7:11  (69607)

You could use a syncing program and that may be best suited for your purposes, but you could also use a backup program set to mirror style backup. You would need to create two "jobs" one for each drive and run one after the other it you add files to the "travelling" drive away from home. Mirrors don't propagate deletions like a sync program does but set up just right you should be able to do what you want.

by Lorenzo (not verified) on 9. April 2011 - 17:27  (69847)

I have what seems to be a simple need in a backup external hard drive or backup software. I want:
1) Complete clone of my primary internal HD, including system files, boot files, program files--evefything.
2) After the first backup, I want all changes that I make to my internal HD to be backed up automatically on the extternal drive--this includes new files or programs, changes in files, or deletion of files, programs, or anything else.
3) I don't need or want old versions of files or programs saved on the backup HD. After every automatic backup I want the backup HD to look exactly like the primary internal HD.
Is this a possibility anywhere? If not, why not?

by Ritho on 9. April 2011 - 18:43  (69853)

It sounds like what you want is Drive Imaging/Mirroring software with propagation of deletions. I know of nothing that meets all three of your criteria that is freeware, and am pretty certain none exist. I believe there are a few commercial options that come close to what you want. I know of one off hand that will do it except the backup is not bootable, which you can only get with a drive imaging software. If you register you can message me and I will give you the name of the product. (We try to avoid mentioning commercial softwares to discourage spam and the like)

Ritho

by No Name Available (not verified) on 13. April 2011 - 13:42  (70100)

Sounds like you need to use RoboMirror.
http://sourceforge.net/projects/robomirror/

by Ritho on 13. April 2011 - 18:31  (70110)

Thanks "No Name!" RoboMirror is a great suggestion. It is a front-end or gui for Robocopy. Robocopy does indeed have a mirror option (/mir) that will keep the two volumes in sync by deleting files from the target that are deleted in the source. Most GUI's for Robocopy in my experience are very limited compared to the actual power of Robocopy from the command line. Unfortunately the RoboMirror website very poorly documents the features of the software, so I can't quickly assess its usability.

Once again I must point out that while RoboMirror can copy an entire system partition, as far as I know it cannot produce a clone that is capable of booting. The only way to do a "full restore" after a full system drive crash, would be to reinstall the exact same version of Windows and then use Robomirror to restore the files. However, you will most definitely encounter a lot of complaints by the operating system because it will not allow you to copy over in use vital system files. So it defeats the purpose of backing up the system files in the first place.

Another choice for is Richcopy which is basically Microsoft's GUI for Robocopy. http://www.softpedia.com/get/System/File-Management/Microsoft-RichCopy.s...

For backing up an entire system partition with the ability to restore the same or new drive to bootable state, you must use some sort of drive imaging technology. I know of not drive imaging technology that will to a sync style mirror that removes deleted files from a previously created image. If anyone knows of such a program free or commercial please let us know.

by Jim Crockett (not verified) on 14. April 2011 - 15:57  (70184)

Some time ago I tested [a commercial product]. Are there any freeware programs that use real-time backup strategy? (i.e. after original backup, files are monitored and any changed files are backed up to the source specified).

Thanks,
Jim

[Edit] Reference to commercial product removed.

by Ritho on 14. April 2011 - 19:10  (70197)

For realtime backup, you might try Genie Backup which is mentioned above, or try Yadis! Backup. http://www.codessentials.com/products/yadisbackup.html

Ritho

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