Best Free Hard Drive Backup Program

 
Introduction

The theme of this category is to provide reviews for the most popular 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, but doesn't offer 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.
 


 


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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
Drive and Partition backups only. No file management.
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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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 Anonymous on 22. June 2010 - 4:07  (52685)

For disc image backup what about macrium reflect, brilliant

by Anonymous on 23. June 2010 - 9:17  (52830)

I just tried the latest Areca build (7.1.7). It is slow (7 hours now to back up a 1.36 GB music library, with no end in sight) and a resource hog (locks up PC for minutes at a time). I'm running Windows 7 64-bit on an AMD 720 X2 triple core processor with 4 GB RAM.

by Anonymous on 23. June 2010 - 11:06  (52837)

Useful post. Thank you.

I use and recommend Handy Backup, it's easy and reliable backup software, and works great...

http://www.handy-backup.com - freeware

Best,
MikeGeek

by Anonymous on 23. June 2010 - 11:09  (52838)

I tried Yadis! (it's their exclamation point, not mine). It is poorly documented and its error messages are cryptic. It stopped on me several times; whether this was due to bugs or limitations of the program I can't say.

by Anupam on 23. June 2010 - 11:19  (52839)

I have removed the link pointing to the trial version of the product. Please, we are a freeware site... so post about freeware only. Anything commercial, or shareware, and it will be removed.

by Anonymous on 23. June 2010 - 13:53  (52861)

Also, it doesn't uninstall cleanly.

by Anonymous on 29. June 2010 - 12:37  (53428)

Dmailer is OK and simple, however it will not backup Outlook nor Mozila files. It focuses purely on basic data files: Pics, Videos, etc. At least from what I could ascertain. When I emailed them, they indicated you had to buy Sync to get the Favorites backup capability. Has anyone else found differently??

by Russ (not verified) on 4. July 2010 - 21:15  (53755)

None of the backup programs are as good as Cobain Backup, it's simple, flexible reliable and runs on Win 7 and best of all it's free.

by Frutchy (not verified) on 13. July 2010 - 20:55  (54220)

Well, I would agree, except that it does not take into account the fact that a lot of people use external media (USB stick, external hard drive). And that they often forget to stick it in or switch it on! And than Cobian will just report that the backup failed but I know by experience that a lot of people don't even look at the blinking icon anymore to see whether the backup had errors or not. They wanted a set-and-forget system and that is how they use it!

I asked Cobian to be able to generate a customizable prompt before backup starts, along with a timer in which you can specify how long the tool has to wait before it cancels the backup job because the destination (or source) is not available. But he replied that his tool is designed for unattended usage, so no pop ups. A pity.

Actually, I just got across this forum and saw that there is a real user experience available here. Maybe someone can point me to the tool I am looking for.

Such a prompt and/or wait option can also be useful if you want to do backups from/to network drives at systems start up. Since not all systems are up and running at the same time (it may even vary from day to day), it would be useful to be able to tell the backup job to wait a couple of minutes before it triggers the job. If then, within the specified time period, the remote drive is still not available, then the job should be skipped.

Otherwise Cobian is great, it now also includes mirror copying with a simple "safe mirror" concept: All files and folders that are deleted from the destination because they are no longer present in the source, are still kept in a separate place. But this "safe mirror" is common to all backup tasks so it might be difficult to find the deleted files you are looking for if you have several mirror backups with similar or identical folder structures and names.

I also use Drive Image XML for imaging purposes, great tool. And people who are looking for partition copying, resizing, and so on, should use EASEUS PARTITION MANAGER. The Home edition is freeware and really works great.

by Ritho on 15. July 2010 - 12:06  (54315)

Frutchy,

It is regrettable that Cobain does not have the feature you mentioned, as I can see it would be quite useful. I think I have run across backup programs that request that you plug in a volume if it is not found and proceed with the backup as soon as it became available, but alas I can remember the name of it. Hopefully one of the readers here can make a suggestion. In the mean time you might want to ask in our forum. In the section called "I want a freeware program that.."

Ritho
Editor

by ddendaas (not verified) on 19. July 2010 - 13:46  (54524)

What about Saftbackup?

http://www.saftware.net/en/index.html

Also read:

http://www.addictivetips.com/windows-tips/backups-made-quick-and-easy-with-saft-backup-windows/

by rKAnjEL on 7. August 2010 - 12:33  (55570)

I wonder why "Comodo Backup" isn't mentioned?

It's FREE, and although I only tried it briefly it seemed like a capable product and I'd like to see how it stands compared to applications mentioned in this review.

http://backup.comodo.com/

~Yaser

by Neuromancer on 15. August 2010 - 10:33  (56062)

Will Fbackup automatically reschedule missed tasks? In other words, if the computer is off during a scheduled time, will Fbackup run the backup the next time the computer boots? If not, which of these backup programs does that?

by Neuromancer on 15. August 2010 - 16:49  (56071)

Gave up on FBackup. Tried GFI Backup next...What a horrible product. Backup sceduling does not work properly at all, and I spent a few hours playing with it. Auto-rescheduling doesn't reschedule according to working days. Scheduled periodic backup on shutdown does backups on EVERY shutdown. The scheduler seems to be entirely worthless. If this is how it worked for you, how could you possibly give it a 9 out of 10 rating? Perhaps the scheduler broke in the most recent build which you haven't reviewed. Is there a way to get my hands on earlier builds?

by Ritho on 15. August 2010 - 18:50  (56082)

Scheduling in GFI Backup has been buggy from the git go. Titan Backup (GFI's Ancestor) did not suffer from these issues. I keep hoping that GFI developers will fix these issues, but as of yet it seems to have been ignored in the freeware.

by John1 (not verified) on 16. August 2010 - 23:54  (56139)

Comodo BackUp is a GREAT freeware. Should be in the list.

by Ritho on 17. August 2010 - 5:54  (56159)

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I agree that Comodo Backup has matured quite a bit, and is on its way to becoming a decent product. I do have a few complaints about it though.

Note: Comodo has release a new version of their backup product, Comodo Backup 3.0, and that may negate some of the criticisms below.

1. No differential or incremental style backups. How can this be? Even the most basic backup software has such features.

2. Only a proprietary compression format for backup. At the very least they could include Zip as an alternative.

3. If you are going to use a proprietary compression format, at least offer a rescue system in case of a major crash. How does quickly get at his back ups without first having to do a full install of Windows, followed by Comodo Backup just to open his archives. That is just silly! A simple bootable disk feature would be such an easy solution.

4. Does it do backup verification? Maybe. Nobody is really sure about it. The verify feature is hard to find, because it only shows up when you go to "Restore." You can verify before you restore? What good is that? It is a little late to verify your backup if you need to restore. So okay you can still use it immediately after you make a backup, but it seems strange to have to go to restore to access it. Then there is the matter of the method. All they say is that it verifies the integrity of the backup file. That sounds to me like it verifies it can be read by CB, but does not say it actually verifies each file in the backup against corruption. I feel like this all important feature, could really let you down hard. No way would I ever use CB's archive format to store my data without a something like a hash check of every file being done. Even with simple copy there should be something.

5. This one is minor, but they claim backup support for open and locked files. They don't however use shadow copy but rather their own method. In my testing it fails to copy locked files at certain times. It is better to not claim it than to claim it and not deliver.

by BuzyBee on 17. August 2010 - 6:20  (56161)

I read somewhere that data backup functions of disk imagining software may not be the best/reliable -- true?

Anyway, I was going to try out GFI Backup but then I checked out its support forum @ http://forums.gfi.com/GFI_Backup/forumid_52/tt.htm. Yikes! My needs are fairly basic, but definitely need ability to schedule regular backups and this appears to be a huge problem with GFI. Also, apparently GFI Backup 2009 will ignore empty folders during backup (because there's no data inside them) even if I need them backed up for future use/organization.

I would try Cobian but really need program with restore function. So still on the hunt... any other suggestions?

by chrisgiz on 17. August 2010 - 16:08  (56215)

Ritho, I couldn't agree more, I was about to post basically the same thoughts. I have used a number of Comodo products over the years (currently CIS which has matured considerably and seems to do a good job) but their backup product is nowhere in the same league and should NOT be listed here unless they make significant changes.

I disagree slightly one one point, that of ZIP files or equivalent. In this day of cheap gargantuan storage, I can't stress enough how important it is that the backup software at least offer the option of copying/backing files AS THEY ARE, with no compression or changes to checksums whatsoever.

I'm still using my old registered (paid) copy of SecondCopy for basic data files. It has incremental backups (up to 9 versions) which is incredibly useful when a file gets corrupted (Photoshop users will relate...) BUT it drives me crazy because the author still doesn't give a hoot about using VSS, so even a simple 3 Kb Wordperfect file in use generates errors and doesn't get backed up.

I've temporarily solved that problem by using Genie Timeline Free which has no incremental features but does a superb job of running in the background unnoticed while saving just about any opened file to an external USB drive.

But if anyone knows of a free backup program (aside from GFI free which I have extensively tested and is IMHO way too buggy to deserve its TSA ranking) that does incrementals while also using VSS correctly, I'm all ears!

by Ritho on 17. August 2010 - 18:19  (56224)

I have been testing Areca Backup. So far it has impressed. It uses more technical terminology than most home consumer grade products, so it takes a little to get going with it. It does not have a built scheduler which is what you are looking for, but it has a couple of wizards that will help you create 'shortcuts' to the backup jobs. Then you can easily use Windows Task Scheduler to schedule the jobs to run automatically. Incidentally you can to the same for GFI since it can be executed from the command line.

In the next week or so I hope to have some new reviews posted. So stay tuned.

by Ritho on 17. August 2010 - 18:47  (56226)

I agree about saving files as they are, as that is the way I personally store files. Besides that a lot of the files I backup are image files which for the most part won't compress anyway. The reason I say they should offer none proprietary compression if possible is so that the files can be accessed without using the program itself.

I also agree that GFI does not deserve its ranking. It sort of inherited it from Titan Backup, which was a Gizmo's original 46 best I believe. (Before this site was born) But it is time to move on. They have ignored the problems to long, in the free version.

I Do like Genie Timeline, and it will probably make it in the list with reservations. I don't believe it allows for more than one job at a time. I just am not sure where the delta / block level style backup comes into play, because it seems to create multiple copies of the same file. Any idea about that?

Ritho

by Ritho on 17. August 2010 - 19:09  (56227)

Actually after a little research I answered my own question about the block level backup. It only applies to Outlook pst files apparently. Silly! Why not allow the user the choice of which files to apply delta technology to?

by Mark vB (not verified) on 18. August 2010 - 17:35  (56318)

Uranium backup looks ok, and its portable, BUT the free version doesn't have VSS (need to buy minimum of Gold version).

Thanks

Mark

by John 28 (not verified) on 21. August 2010 - 12:16  (56464)

Does seem very interesting but appears to be only for Windows 2000/XP. I'll keep a watch as I will need a backup program for Windows Vista & 7. Anyway, I'll stay tuned!

by Ritho on 21. August 2010 - 19:51  (56478)

Actually the somewhere Vista Support is mentioned. I have been testing how it functions on Windows 7 professional 32bit and so far have had no problems at all. Their forums indicate that it works well with 7 as well.

by XsummusX (not verified) on 22. August 2010 - 1:51  (56495)

This is an excellent summary of backup tools.

Im looking for a backup utility that will allow me to backup to multiple DVDs. For example, I have 19.8GB of data I would like to backup to some number of 4.7GB DVDs. GFI does not do this.

Anyone know of a backup utility that will do this?

by Ritho on 23. August 2010 - 6:09  (56546)

You might try Yadis! Backup http://www.codessentials.com/products/yadisbackup.html it supports backing up directly to DVD.

Another option is to use any backup program you like, then use a zip utility like 7zip or ZipGenius which will break up archives into dvd size "bites." That can then can easily be written to disk.

by CyberWolf64 (not verified) on 23. August 2010 - 17:44  (56587)

Cobian Backup Boletus (v10.1.0.789 is latest version) supports 32 bit and 64 bit and SUPPORTS VSS in BOTH!

See this link for what is new is this version:

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

Looks like since I last ever used Cobian (which was like v , I think 6, he has MOST DEFINITELY improved the programs abilities.

Just thought I would drop this into the thread as an update/FYI.

by CyberWolf64 (not verified) on 23. August 2010 - 18:20  (56589)

Um, I just looked at their site, and the information about the program states at the beginning of the features list: DOES NOT BACKUP OR RESTORE SYSTEM FILES, I consider this to be a big red flag to me. And I also saw NO MENTION of if it supports VSS. So, I would only consider using this for say My Documents and any other personal files, but nothing major.

by mincevv on 26. August 2010 - 10:33  (56753)

Maybe replace it with AutoVer?
http://beanland.net.au/AutoVer/

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