Best Free File-Based Backup Program

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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. There are other options for creating system restore disks and restoring applications.

Use backup software to save document files, browser favorites, pictures, videos and other data, documents and media. Some of the backup programs are easier to use than others usually at the cost of some features. 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.

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 including this Recommended Reading and the Freeware Forum to post questions.

Important Features:

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

 

Rated Products

Backup Maker  

Complete with most extensive sets of options for customizing backups.


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free (Private/Educational use)
Has many features for basic and advanced selection. Nice scheduling options. Clean console, helpful wizard.
No Shadow Copy
Read full review...

FBackup  

Built with a wizard featuring plugins for ease of backups


Our Rating: 
3
License: Free (Limited features)
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.
Read full review...

EaseUS Todo Backup Free  

Designed to be user friendly by simplicity without a wizard.


Our Rating: 
2
License: Free (Limited features)
Cloning and imaging features. Straight forward user interface.
No Shadow Copy, no differential backups, lacks a wizard.
Read full review...

Honorable Mention

AOMEI BackupperAOMEI Backupper is 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.

Since version 2.8.0 they added the ability to schedule the synchronization of files and folders automatically to HDD, USB and NAS, the current version is 3.2

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

 

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 for Special Reviews.

 

Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 

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.

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Comments

Rsync is Linux based though there is some Windows type interface's I do believe called Gsync and cwRsync, Rsync is able to handle files differently than the programs listed here. Personally speaking I would not use a Linux based program to handle backups for a Windows system (be it file or image)... Granted these days they do work fine with NTFS however they do tend to strip out file security permissions at times and if you have ever ran into that issue on a Windows machine before after doing a restore from something that is not native to Windows then you know what a nightmare it can well be to correct... I think the only time Linux should touch any of your windows files is in a true emergency situation when it really is your last hope of recovery. Exception to the rule being Windows software that creates a Linux boot CD's because the software is written specifically to perform said operation's on Windows systems. But that is just my personal opinion, however I do agree Rsync is an awesome piece of software without a doubt.

Although it takes up more space, because hard links have to be separate files, you can actually run Windows 7 SP1 on Fat32. No permissions whatsoever! You can use Unstoppable Copier, or some versions of Linux that don't care about the permissions, to copy the files off the NTFS partition. Wipe the partition, format fat32, and then give it bootsec.exe /nt60

ps. Don't forget to take out the symbolic links (junctions). They aren't necessary, despite what MS may say.

Oh, just remembered. The issue with FAT32, is that it can only hold about 8000 long name folders, and WinSxS easily goes beyond that. I was doing some things at the time to reduce the size of WinSxS, and while I managed to do it, I didn't want to go further into figuring out how to safely keep it from growing. It would require changing the underlying workings of Windows!

When I mentioned file permissions I was referring to them from a Windows perspective as if the permissions are wrong or in some cases not set all sorts of problems can arise over time, the same go's for Symlinks they ARE necessary especially for older software to function correctly, removing Symlinks is certainly not recommended even if not using older software, the User directory for one makes frequent use of those links... What you have mentioned is good for experimentation only and certainly not for a system that is used on a daily basis there is all kinds of things you can play around with but none of it has anything to do with actually making or restoring solid backups of files and folders and this is what this particular page is all about ;-)

Andy, you brought up file permissions, and it is an interest of mine. I use this modified system dialy, and it works great. I'm not sure what older software you are talking about? I have an assortment of 100+ programs. If you are truly interested in keeping this on-topic, please do not respond here, and send me a PM.

BackUp Maker is just so annoying with the popup for the paid version every single time it does a backup.

Lets say you have a folder to be backed.

Is there any file backup software that will make backups of any new folders in this folder?

They'll all backup subfolders, new or otherwise, typically with the default settings.

free file sync now has that ability however it is very basic and does slow down operations slightly when your accessing said folder.

In my opinion, and I'm sad it didn't make the list yet, but Cobian backup is probably the best free backup software available. UNFORTUNATELY, last Novemberish (2013) the developer has stopped releasing updates and sold off the source code, but its still free and the current version is as stable as cement. :)

It also unfortunately requires .Net 3.5 for VSS. If you happen to be trying to minimize all the versions of .Net...

That said it is very reliable and will work without old .Net if you don't want VSS.

As noted above, I've been using Cobain for data backup so don't really need VSC. It works very well without and thus no need for old .NET

I just downloaded all of the free versions from AOMEI
Make sure you'all get the bigger download (does XP and later OS's)
Even if you only need it for Win 7/8 get the other one (XP and Win 7/8)
The reason being with the bigger one, you can create a bootable Win PE CD.
And if you follow my instructions and only image when Windows is closed (ie use a bootable CD), then only the Win PE CD allows that.

Rob

PS I have the latest FF, and CANNOT LOG IN to here to make comments. Had to use an alternate browser (Comodo Dragon)

I got the smaller download. It included the ability to create the WIN PE. But you have to download the separate ISO for the Linux CD. Stick it in the root directory and it can create the Linux CD also. Or you can burn it with something like free ImgBurn.

Keep in mind AOMEI is an imaging tool. It now has data backup capability but accessing data in images is more involved that accessing simple file copies. That it includes boot discs is wonderful for such an occasion, if you needs are simple and you just want to image everything.

Myself, I'm now trying AOMEI for imaging because Windows has handicapped the imaging tool in v8 (stupid) and I use free Cobain (11.2) for data backup, without compression. Unless you need to compress, it's another possible point of failure and slow-down in backups.

Just remember - simple and reliable is what you need for backups.

Hi crombierob, You also have the option to create a Linux based boot CD / ISO though the Win PE CD / ISO is much more comprehensive (as in you have almost all the same options available to you, as you have discovered) what I tend to do is have the Win PE ISO stored in the same location as my current weekly backups and use EasyBCD to create a boot from ISO menu entry for it, so I have two boot options Win7 and also Aomei Win PE, whilst this method has its advantages and disadvantages depending on what it is you wish to do and should not be used as your only emergency recovery method, though for day to day use I find that method is more convenient for me personally.

AOMEI Backupper DOES support file and folder backup now.
Download free version 2.0.1 from their site.

http://www.backup-utility.com/help/file-backup.html

Hi jeffegil, Thanks for the additional information. I plan to update the reviews that need doing so ASAP including AOMEI Backupper, incidentally that is the one I am currently using for a personal backup solution.

FBackup is now on version 460. It DOES have shadow copy.

Paragon Backup and Recovery 2014 Free, features list;

"NEW: Back up changes since the full, or the latest incremental image. It's allowed to maintain several incremental chains based on one full image, provided each chain contains changed data of a particular backup object(s). pVHD based incremental imaging works much faster and rock-stable in comparison with the old PBF."

(http://www.paragon-software.com/home/br-free/features.html)

"The developer has fixed the system slowing or freezing when drilling down directory trees that one of our user's pointed out."

Please be reminded for the sanity of all us pedants that 'users' doesn't have any apostrophe.
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/apostrophe
We bow to your superior knowledge and skills. Showing us your impeccable grasp of teh language will cement our reverence, and make impossible any form of pecc.

It would be helpful for those unfamiliar with the modi operandi of the various utilities for the ways they work to be mentioned. For example, I installed a backup utility with seemingly much to recommend it, which disappeared a terabyte of data when the drive on which it was installed failed. This has been claimed to be a valid event and not cause for complaint, but those of us who need our backups to be relatively safe will need to know about things like 'is it a "block" backer-up or not?' and 'if the backup app is uninstalled, will the frigging backed up files still be there?'

If this stuff has in fact all been made clear, I will have to re-read and, on re-reading, understand a lot better. Perhaps to break up the reviews into paragraphs could make them a little easier to digest for the inexpert user.
I might need to distill the info into bullet lists of functionalities, attributes and drawbacks, and then research the items i.e it's not that clear to this particular self-taught philistine. Or maybe make up a table.

Thanks for these reviews. I will cautiously try a new app.

Hi, Thank you for your input and suggestions, you make a valid point regarding if the backup files will still remain or not after uninstalling the software as I do recall one I tested a couple of years ago actually deleted the backed up files though I do not recall exactly what its name was / is offhand. The general guideline for any form of sensitive backup data is to keep it off the main system as in use a removable HDD for example to store the backups. However in most cases the software will create it's own file type extension that is not compatible with similar software, there are way's and means around this in certain circumstances but that is not for me to advise here as you can get in a very big mess real quickly.

There's another layer to this point.
If you uninstall the software and the backup is in a proprietary format, you will have no access to it. This is why you want it to use standard ZIP (easily accessed even from DOS) or simple file copy. The second is the most dependable.

Same issue if you move the backup to where the software is not installed.

Imaging software like AOMEI is slightly different. The good ones include a boot disc which would give you access. The software does not need to be installed/running to access the backup. But it's also another reason why imaging for the OS (which you don't typically need to pull files out of) and data backup for your files are often handled distinctly.

In the event of a problem, you need the data while the Image is needed for a restore.

I don't think you can describe Comodo Backup as unrestricted freeware. When I installed it, I unticked a box so it didn't install their cloud backup service.
When I tried to set up a file backup it forces you to log in or register. The register option takes you to a webpage that then forces you to sign up for one of their cloud backup services. They all cost money. The first offers "90 days free" which indicates after 90 days they will charge you.
That isn't unrestricted freeware in my book.
I did not want 'cloud storage' so didn't register and removed the software.

If I understand your comment correctly, you seem to have misunderstood Step 2 and the selection of a backup destination. You are not forced to use Comodo Cloud, but it is the default destination. There are 4 other options you can select listed in a row. Look for where it says Comodo Cloud, My Computer, CD/DVD, Network, FTP Server, EMail. Try clicking the one that says My Computer.

Agreed. But the COMODO interface is not exactly straightforward, nor does it behave in a logical way. It also defaulted to backing up to my C users folder when I had set it otherwise. It doesn't have a settings save so appears to miss things.

For Backup Maker (Personal Edition), it says "32 and 64 bit versions available", but at the listed address http://www.ascomp.de/products/show/product/backupmaker , i can't find a 64 bit version, there is only free and professional.

If you look at the lower right side of the page you referenced, under supported operating systems it says 32 and 64 bit.

It may "support" 32 and 64 bit operating systems, that doesn't make the software 64 bits.

I installed it and it installed in the x86 section, so it's 32 bit, "not" 64.

Where can i download the 64 bit version?

Our information has been updated to 32bit but 64bit compatible.

I have some VERY basic questions!
- When proprietary OS and programs (read Microsoft) are backed up, and where they originally required an unlock code for proof of purchase, can they be reinstalled after a crash without needing that information?
- Are all current updated drivers (and MS updates) backed up?

1. Yes. 2. Yes. This is the reason I included AOMEI Backup in my review as it does just what you're asking and will create a system boot disk. Others reviewed may perform the system backup but they won't create a boot disk to restore from.

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