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 - EaseUS - AOMEI
  • Incremental & Differential Backup - Comodo, Backup Maker
  • AES Security Encryption - Comodo, Backup Maker

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

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.
 


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.
 


AOMEI Backupper Well worth a mention in this category because of its additional ability to quickly make backups of files and folders. The latest edition at time of writing is 2.0.1 and now has a few extra features such as the ability now to select multiple files and folders at the same time for backup along with support for performing a backup or restore across a network or NAS (Network Attached Storage), in addition you are now able to import and export all the backup tasks in XML format. The developers at AOMEI are constantly improving on their software whilst still maintaining a clean and easy to use GUI.

Please follow this link for the full full review and rating: AOMEI Backupper.  


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

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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Editor

This software category is maintained by volunteer editor AndyR. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or questions they might have by clicking here.

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 joeguru on 28. December 2013 - 17:29  (113253)

I was unable to recreate the issue with version 6.506.

by AScomp on 28. December 2013 - 20:38  (113257)

We fixed this issue in version 6.506 - thank you for your support!

by joeguru on 17. August 2013 - 16:40  (110180)

Sorry to hear of your experience. As new editor of this category I have particular interest in your issue. As a first time user myself, I installed Backup Maker and successfully backed up and restored files both on my C: drive and USB Flash drive without issue. It would appear there may be some irregularity unique to your system configuration that caused your experience. If you're interested in resolving your issue, please contact product support by email at support@ascomp.de.

by jmahun on 6. July 2013 - 16:27  (109005)

Most backup software reviews concentrate on the backup aspect of the software: types (full, incremental), user interface, tweaking settings, compression, etc, etc. To get the most out of even the "user-friendly" versions still requires quite a lot of time investment on the part of the user to learn all the options. On top of that, it's not knowledge that you use every time you fire up the computer so you tend to forget it. The next time you might need it is when your system crashes and you have to figure out how to restore it. Then you have to relearn the backup software all over again, only this time there's more at stake.

Reviews of backup software should culminate with a system crash and evaluation of how easy or difficult it is to restore the system from the backup. It doesn't matter how fancy or what settings the software has to create backups if you can't figure out how to use it to bring the system back to life.

What I want is BU software which is simple and nonobtrusive - set and forget. I don't want to spend a lot of time figuring out how to set it up. I want software that makes it simple to restore my system if it crashes. I'll trade speed (on either BU or restore)for simplicity and reliability; hard drive storage is inexpensive so data compression isn't a big deal. Heck, I'd consider an extra tera-hyte HD and DOS batch file to copy my system and data drives overnight.

While I think the BU software evaluated here is very capable and sophisticated, it's just above and beyond what many home users need (which may explain why so many aren't running any type of BU software in the first place). I applaud commercial developers for providing free home versions of their software and the open-source/freeware developers who create sophisticated offerings. But sometimes, all we need is something simple.

by joeguru on 20. August 2013 - 6:02  (110217)

The objective is to provide review and recommendation of a program's functionality. I suppose most reviewers may not have a computer they can wipe then restore, so your requested feature isn't fully integrated in the review process. I'm in the process of trying to setup another system so I may be able to write something about it later, I do appreciate your suggestion.

In the mean time I suggest you try using Fbackup for quick on demand backups in 3 easy steps. If you want to include scheduling, I suggest Backup maker because it's included in the 5 step wizard. Make sure the Advanced option box is unchecked on the first page of the wizard before starting or 5 steps will become 12.

Your other concern about remembering how to restore your software can be addressed by printing the instructions and keeping them on file. It's usually a simple process but I can't explain it here because it depends on what type of backup you are trying to restore. For example you may have full backups or partial or an image. Different procedure for each.

I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

by jmahun on 20. August 2013 - 13:16  (110220)

Thanks for the reply. Sorry if I came off as being over-critical; it wasn't my intention to take out my frustration on you. I do appreciate the effort you, and others like you, put into software evaluation and provide a feedback forum so people like me can weigh in. That's not always the case with commercial software developers who tend to dictate instead of relate. I'll try your BU suggestions.
And I long ago resorted to printing out specific instructions for various software and keep it in a binder. So much for the "paperless office."

by not recognized on 26. June 2013 - 10:27  (108735)

note: Backup Maker is 64 Bit compatible according to the maker's webpage. https://www.ascomp.de/en/products/show/product/backupmaker/tab/details

Quote: "Supported operating systems:

Windows 8(32-bit & 64-bit)
Windows 7(32-bit & 64-bit)
Windows Vista(32-bit & 64-bit)
Windows XP(32-bit & 64-bit)
Windows Server 2008(32-bit & 64-bit)
Windows Server 2003(32-bit & 64-bit)"

by MidnightCowboy on 26. June 2013 - 11:08  (108736)

Thank you. I have now updated the product details. MC - Site Manager.

by ZikO on 22. April 2013 - 14:45  (107255)

Hi,
It's a really excellent piece of writing here and explanation. I finally understand what I should be looking for to choose best option. Really thanks for this.

Some people mentioned Areca Backup:
http://www.areca-backup.org/features.php

I find this program one of the best free tools. Before, I thought I'd go with Backup Maker, Genie Timeline Free Edition, or Toucan. However, after reading comments a few readers pointed out some issue with Toucan (apparently, it crashes) and Genie Timeline. The others mentioned Areca Backup.
So, Areca Backup is free and very functional. How about its file validation feature, if there is any at all? I don't really understand how validation works to be honest. I'd be grateful if someone would explain that :)
In FAQ, I found some explanation:
"How does Areca detect modified or new files when incremental backups are chosen ?
Areca uses the file's size and last modification time to detect modified files. If one of these attributes is modified (whatever its value is), the file is flagged as modified.
Since v7.2.17, Areca can also inspect the file's content to detect modifications of its content (which is much slower than detection based on attributes) "
but I don't know if this is the same as validation.

Cheers.

by snakyjake on 16. April 2013 - 19:50  (107145)

I like Cobian. Very simply backup. Easy to restore a file too. Sometimes I just want to restore a version of file, not an entire backup set.

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

by JP on 14. April 2013 - 5:47  (107062)

I have been trying for four days to do a backup using Backupmaker. After several attempts taking many hours each, I have been forced to give up.

On only two of the attempts has it got as far as completing verification. On both of those, it has failed to write to the DVD. Each say" Taghet directory cannot be readed(sic)/verified.

by crombierob on 14. April 2013 - 8:30  (107069)

If you held a gun to my head, I would not be using application programs to do live writes to DVDs.
If I must end up with the storage on a DVD, then I would tell the 'applications' to backup to somewhere else, and then I would use [edited] to burn the files to a DVD (with Verify set.)

I am not saying you would do the following, but a lot of people do.
Even though I am Scottish, I would not be tight enough to be adding data to an existing DVD. It amazes me that people do that, with something as important as a backup.
(And that goes for you people out there that do Incremental backups.)

by JP on 14. April 2013 - 17:12  (107089)

Thanks for the reply, rob. Since I am only one sixteenth Scottish, perhaps one sixteenth Scotch and the remainder, human, you lost me.

I have very little understanding of computers and use them to search for information and to write with - I do a lot of writing, mostly on political matters. In my youth, the only calculator was called a comptometer and it was the size of a typewriter ( or a desktop PC.)

(I have not backed this one up in years: Windows keeps telling me to insert a certain Disk - thatdoes not exist. But, after enduring a couple of years of freezes and crashes, I thought it about time to back up since there are score of articles I have written on there and many hindreds of emails.

I assumed that "Backup" means having a copy somewhere. If not on a disk, then where? Without technicalities. Why can I not just stick a DVD in the slot and click something that copies to it?

by crombierob on 15. April 2013 - 4:44  (107105)

Burning to a DVD should be done with a reliable program, that has years of development experience in that specific area, such as [mention of commercial software removed]
Also I prefer it to be a single action. EG You list the files for the program, and it then burns them in a single action.
I am assuming that you don't have a network, and don't have external drives connected ?
Some people might recommend having your backups write to a thumb drive, but I am a bit nervous about that.
I would create a folder for your backups (eg C:\BKUPs\) and get your backup program to copy to there. And then every so often burn that folder to a CD or DVD. If your data is not massive, and fits on a CD, I would burn to a CD. (Get a decent brand.)
How often you burn, will depend on how important your feel your recent 'typings' are to you.

by Panzer on 26. February 2013 - 9:23  (105765)
by MIddioSW on 17. May 2013 - 8:48  (107803)

Now there is a new function:

Copying and zip compression of paths over 255 characters

by crombierob on 17. May 2013 - 12:29  (107805)

You have caught my attention, with that.
I used to organize my own folders, with the intention of being able to manually Zip them, and then burn to CD.
I came unstuck because of long paths, and I have never attempted zipping (for backups) since.

by Victor Delta on 19. February 2013 - 21:13  (105557)

Users of the excellent Backup Maker may be interested to know that, after several requests, Ascomp.de have added an English language forum at https://www.ascomp.de/forum/ (NB If the page appears in German, click on 'Deutsch' on the bottom left of the page and select the English option). Great!

by kyengineer on 15. February 2013 - 19:59  (105449)

Has anyone used Toucan on a desktop. I used it to sync files with a memory stick. I would like to use it to backup files from a PC to an external hard drive. It's a program I am familiar with and would like to keep using it.

by Wolfram on 14. February 2013 - 13:42  (105397)

I would like to invite you to take a look at another free backup client - called "Duplicati".

http://www.duplicati.com/

I quote its developers:

"Duplicati is a free backup client that securely stores encrypted, incremental, compressed backups on cloud storage services and remote file servers. It works with Amazon S3, Windows Live SkyDrive, Google Drive (Google Docs), Rackspace Cloud Files or WebDAV, SSH, FTP (and many more).

Duplicati has built-in AES-256 encryption and backups can be signed using GNU Privacy Guard. A built-in scheduler makes sure that backups are always up-to-date. Last but not least, Duplicati provides various options and tweaks like filters, deletion rules, transfer and bandwidth options to run backups for specific purposes."

Perhaps the responsible of this rubric will test Duplicati, in the near future; and then will share his impressions about it.-

by SinisteR on 25. January 2013 - 10:22  (104801)

Hi guys

software looks great, I'm looking for file backup software that allows me to backup files over the network, and being able to see what link did not backup.

any suggestions ?

by crombierob on 2. January 2013 - 17:35  (104173)

velhote posted a question re incremental backups.
I cannot believe that people fool around with incremental backups.
If your data is important enough to backup, then -
- Don't save money, or space, by doing incremental backups
- Keep your backups as simple as is humanly possible

by Tim Brison on 22. February 2013 - 17:18  (105664)

Just thought I should point out the huge error in suggesting that using incremental backup process is "foolish".

On the contrary, for some backup processes it is ** essential **.

Yes, if you have ** very ** small amounts of data, then it is advisable to use the full backup process.

However, every business I have ever worked in as a system administrator has used incremental backup extensively. The reason for this is simple: if you have 100GB of data to backup, and you back it up using a full backup method, you will be buying a £50 1TB disk every ten backups.

These days 100GB is not a lot of data - people have amateur photo, music and video archives that are easily 3 times that amount.

It is simply too easy to say that everyone should backup using a full backup process - yes in a perfect world they should. But in the real world this would be a very expensive solution.

by velhote on 2. January 2013 - 17:19  (104172)

Your review is one, if not THE best, of all of the many backup reviews I've ever read in internet. Congratulations. I have a question concerning parcial backup: I installed a lot of programs listed in this review and tested them. But when I deleted a file in the original source, the parcial backups (ie.: incremental or differencial) didn't recognized that. That is, they only ADD files to the partial backups, but do not mirror/equalize them (do not delete in the backup the deleted file in the source). The only exception for that was Toucan, but Toucan didn't work in my computer (crashed all times). Is there another one that does that? Thank you.

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