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.
 


 


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
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 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 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 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 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 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 kudgn2346 (not verified) on 27. December 2010 - 21:08  (63366)

BackupMaker has a hugely annoying splash screen with a countdown for you to buy the paid version *every time windows starts*

I liked the features but this is too intrusive to make it a winner, please update the review to mention the annoying splash screen.

by Ritho on 28. December 2010 - 9:42  (63390)

Yes as Anupam said, the nag screen was already mentioned as a negative in the review, as well as in summary, you just overlooked it is all. As annoying as it is, I still think that BackupMaker is well deserving of its position in the reviews. The nag is a small price to pay for a very well designed easy to use piece of software. When I find another that is as easy to use, and does not suffer from other issues, I will gladly switch it out.

by Anupam on 27. December 2010 - 21:11  (63367)

The nag screen has been duly mentioned in the review... as well as in the Quick Links section.

by Paul McDonald on 24. December 2010 - 5:37  (63173)

Hello,

I am looking for an easy to use Backup Program that will work for XP and Windows 7 (64 Bit).

But I don't want any automatic backups or scheduling or anything like that. I like to manually backup each night. It is part of my routine.

In fact I don't want the backup program loading anything on startup at all.

Any suggestions?

Regards,

Paul.

by Paul McDonald on 4. January 2011 - 8:16  (63766)

Hello and thank you to everyone who gave me advice :-)

I have actually found a little gem of a program called Unstoppable Copier which is perfect for my needs.

This isn't really a 'backup' tool but as I only have a 40Gb hard drive on my computer and my external backup drive is 2Tb I just keep making more and more backups and it takes forever until I run out of space :-)

I will try that freefilesync thingy as well though.

Love this site!

by Paul McDonald on 24. December 2010 - 6:15  (63177)

Whoops sorry I forgot to mention I would prefer a program that not only was manual backup but also did not save the resulting backup in any kind of proprietary format.

Why do they do this? I want to be able to use the built in Windows Explorer to look through the backup files.

Will try the built in backup in Windows 7

Regards,

Paul.

by syntax_error on 2. January 2011 - 5:04  (63681)

FreeFileSync could do what you are looking for. "FreeFileSync is an Open-Source folder comparison and synchronization tool."

It is favourably reviewed under the best free synchronisation section rather than back-up, however it could be used in the way you have asked.

by Ritho on 24. December 2010 - 7:40  (63181)

Paul, did you try BackupMaker? I don't know if it will work with 7 64bit or not, but it should do the other things you want. If you use compression it stores the files in standard zip format, so you should be able to easily browse through them and restore any file you want.

Why do they do this? I want to be able to use the built in Windows Explorer to look through the backup files.

They do this because if you are using incremental or differential technologies in your backup, they must be stored in a proprietary format, as standard formats can't store partial files or the information to reassemble files to their original state from the archives. To understand the advantages and dis-advantages of using incremental and differential style backups see this article.

by kendall.a on 24. December 2010 - 6:04  (63176)

In Windows 7 I've found the built-in Windows backup tool to be excellent for this purpose. It is more than adequate to meet your needs. Some of the other programs here will allow you to do manual backups.

by Mike C (not verified) on 18. December 2010 - 22:38  (62910)

I really like Karen's Replicator. I especially like the global exclusions feature. The ease of use for creating various jobs is nice. Does anyone know of an app that is portable that has these features. Just can't figure out Toucan; the guides I've found for it just haven't been clear enough for me.

by elinav on 18. December 2010 - 13:12  (62892)

Hi,

I am looking for a backup solution that will be able to detect duplicate files.
I often save files in temporary folders and then move them to a permanent location. When I do my weekly backup, i have the file saved in the temporary folder, and then after i move it, again in the permanent location.
(not backing up my temp folders is also not an option)

Any suggestions?

by Deborah Aldridge (not verified) on 14. December 2010 - 4:53  (62426)

I am having a major problem with GFI right now. I backed up all my documents and pictures before a format, and now the program will not restore the file. There is no folder with the data in it. I've lost some invaluable data, pictures that can't be replaced. If anyone knows of any way I can get it back, I'd really appreciate you emailing me. I'm desperate!

[edit]
Email address removed for safety reasons.

by Ritho on 14. December 2010 - 6:53  (62430)

I am glad to help in any way I can. Please explain what you mean by "There is no folder with the data in it." Where did you store your backup of your documents and pictures?

by leojbourne (not verified) on 28. November 2010 - 7:06  (61720)

Thanks for the good info, all. I have used a variety of backup programs over the years, both free and paid. I have not found one for Windows OS at the XP or later level that I would trust to do a full system backup while the system was "live," regardless of VSS claims. If anyone knows of one that is completely bulletproof in terms of restores, please let me know.

Until a demonstrably robust full backup program is discovered and thoroughly tested, I will only do full system backups from a cold boot. If I buy an external Western Digital (WD) drive, or if my internal drive is WD, I can download a free Acronis for WD program that will generate a CD image. I can't recall if it burns it correctly also, but if not then imageburn or other burning software will produce the CD, which is bootable. Note that on my Averatec 2300 the boot led to a gray screen after the step of selecting and loading Aronis, but when I momentarily pressed and released the power button (just good luck -- I was getting ready for a hard power down), Acronis came up fine. I have no explanation for that anomaly. Acronis may have free versions for some other drive vendors, but I am not sure.

When I do a full backup, I want to be able to restore the system to a similar or different disk in an external case and then install that disk in my original machine to replace a damaged drive. A clone method would also work, but frequently I want to keep several levels of backup, so I don't want to commit an entire drive to each one. Upon restore to a larger drive, it is possible to use the disk manager in Vista to extend the partition to include the new, unallocated area.

There are many options for backing up data files alone, either with or without continuous synchronization. I have tried several, and for my own home use, copying the My Documents folder and a few other folders to an external drive or thumb drive or other media is an acceptable solution.

I have concluded that the difficulty and time required for a full cold boot backup of all partitions and the master boot record are vastly less than the problems of reinstalling a large number of software packages and OS updates. As an extreme example, the update of Windows 7 from my factory settings to complete installation of all recommended and optional upgrades took over 24 hours of wall clock on a laptop with a dual core CPU and 2 GB of RAM. Installation of Visual Studio on a laptop can take over an hour. I have dozens of programs, each of which would require reinstallation. This is not something I want to contemplate, and therefore the option of restoring to factory condition, moving forward with updates, reinstalling applications, and finally restoring the data backup is not satisfactory for me. There might also be some issues with software activation for those applications if one uses a different hard drive. Or one may have to use a different drive in a different but similar laptop if the first laptop fails entirely (assuming no violation of EULAs through this process).

So the free Acronis for WD with a WD external drive is my current choice. It is also possible to use a WD raw drive in a third party external case. This version of Acronis searches for at least one WD drive in the system, or else it hangs at the search. If this commentary is too far over the edge to qualify in the category of "free" backup, please feel free to delete part or all. I do feel that the discussion of "live" VSS vs. cold boot backup needs further analysis. It amazes me that nearly 30 years after the advent of the PC there are still problems getting reliable, restorable full backups.

by MidnightCowboy on 28. November 2010 - 7:30  (61727)

We don't view this as a promotional attempt so the comment is OK to stay, although for most users there are ample free alternatives without having to pay for software of this type.

We appreciate the other points you make although the comments section is not designed to accommodate posts of this length which should be placed in the forum.

Why not start a debate there for this subject? :)

http://www.techsupportalert.com/freeware-forum/drive-imaging/

by leojbourne (not verified) on 28. November 2010 - 7:13  (61723)

Correction. Installation of Visual Studio can take more than half an hour (more than an hour was inaccurate).

by TimB (not verified) on 18. November 2010 - 15:08  (61355)

Hi,

I see GFI Backup has fallen out of favour and so too Cobian Backup?

For me, the naq screen alone would exclude me from using your top pick - 'Backup Maker' - though I have tested it and it appears fine - apart from said nag screen.

Back to Cobian I think as my top pick :-)

Thanks

TimB

by Ritho on 20. November 2010 - 11:09  (61421)

GFI is and will still be included in the extended list. Even though it has some major bugs with its scheduler, I is still a very good program, and can be scheduled with Windows Task Scheduler.

Cobain also needs to be included in the extended list. It is rock solid, and very dependable.

Tim if you are interested, you can write a brief review of Cobain, and I will include it in the extended list and it will be credited to you. Any readers who wish to submit a review about a free backup program can simply create an account, and send it to me through the contact form and if it is approved I will include it the extended list. For ideas see the current articles in the extended list here. http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/more-free-backup-software-recomm...

by Johnny M. (not verified) on 16. November 2010 - 2:05  (61267)

I do not recommend Comodo since you cannot defragment your drive with Comodo.. I found out the hard way that you do not want to take the C drive out and defrag with Comodo either alot of problems and reloading... and now cannot reload Comodo either.. :((

by Ritho on 16. November 2010 - 6:38  (61272)

Are you talking about Comodo Backup? or Comodo Time Machine? They are two totally different programs, and I will warn everyone again as I have before, don't use Comodo Time Machine. It is not really a backup program, it is a system recovery program, and many many people have experienced severe problems with it. It often ends in total disaster. (Here is one such example http://www.lockergnome.com/shadowmyth/2010/04/07/nightmares-of-comodo-ti...)

Comodo Backup on the other hand, is fine. I am testing the new version, Comodo Backup 3, currently, and will be writing review of it soon. It would not cause the problems that are mentioned above. You should have no trouble defragging any drive it has been used to backup.

Johnny M wrote
"..you do not want to take C drive out and defrag."

What do you mean take it out? Take it out physically?

Ritho
Editor

by njbackup on 15. November 2010 - 21:04  (61260)

Hi,
I've used several backup software in recent months, Comodo Backup is the one I like the most, give it a try, it is a free software.
http://backup.comodo.com

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