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

Thanks Joe. I have to admit I skipped the Introduction of the review so i didn't see EaseUS ToDo backup was not recommended for novice users. It's my bad.

I can understand that there are some out there that may need to back up individual files.
However most of the rest of us should use KISS
Backup the whole drive (partition) instead.
Buy an external dock for $25 (the one where you shove a 3.5" drive vertically into it).
Buy a Seagate 2TB 3.5" drive and shove it into it.
Download a copy of the free Seagate DiscWizard from the Seagate site.
You will have to install it, so as to create a bootable CD.
Once you have the CD, use that for your future backups (so that Windows is not running, when you do your backups).
Depending on the OS you are backing up, you may have to ensure that the default ticks are actually backing up the correct partition.
Get in the habit of creating images frequently (perhaps when cooking and eating dinner).
After each backup is created, run the Verify on it. Yell out if you have trouble finding the Verify option.
Do not muck about with incremental backups, and if you know anyone who does, tell them about KISS.
The additional good news is you can mount any of your saved images to peruse and copy out individual files. I have never had the need, but it might counter any arguments you get from your incremental backing up friends.

I know what you are talking about, I use Macrium Reflect to make images of my system. But drive imaging is too technical and complicated for many users, Too many users don't even care to take a backup of their files and they don't see a need to do it. They realize how important it is when all their files are lost.
To introduce drive imaging to users who are not computer savvy and don't care about spending time to make backups is overkill. The only way to make those users to take backups is a one-click solution, to KISS. Drive imaging is not to KISS for most computer users.

I thoroughly check Backup Maker and I am very disappointed with the product. For one thing, it refuses to execute the backup of my program files in the computer.

Programs are supposed to be user friendly. If it is not user friendly, it will easily confuse the novice user. If Backup Maker refuses to backup, then there is something wrong with the program or it is really not user-friendly.

Also, I can't seem to uninstall it. One un-installation file is missing.

I also suspect Backup Maker to contain malware. But I do not know whether the malware comes from Backup Maker, but from my experience, if a program refuses to un-install, it is usually due to malware.

I will see if FBackup is better. EaseUS Todo Backup does not backup on USBs that is why I cannot use it although it seems to be easier to operate.

I hope this comment will be instructive to you.

I - as the developer of BackUp Maker - can guarantee there is NO malware in all of our software products! If you experience issues with uninstallation, please contact me at support@ascomp.de

In addition, I will be glad to be of help with your program files issue. Both issues, the uninstall and program files issue, are unknown and not yet reported by any other users. Anyway, I am sure we will find a solution for both.

Thank you for the response. A good example of customer care/service.

I used Fbackup4 for several years and was very happy with it. Since Fbackup5 has come out I find it frequently fails for unexpected reasons (not enough space, can't create 2 files of same name) that don't seem to match the actual situation. It's also not as evident how it's progressing due to change in the Fbackup4 status/progress bar. Unhappily, this is leading me to try some others,

Greetings,

Does your issue persist with FBackup current-version 5.0.245 (the fifth update of v. 5 since your post, date-stamped 2013.11.21)? If it does, should you wish to rollback to FBackup 4, please visit http://fbackup.en.uptodown.com/old . Hope this is helpful.

Cheers,

AJN

Sorry to hear of your experience. I suggest trying their troubleshooting forum.
Regarding the Fbackup download installer vs. actual file size, here is what the developer had to say. "The reason we chose this option is to ensure that the latest version is always downloaded. So if someone downloads the web installer and decides to run it 2 days later, this will bring the newest release from the website instead of what was initially downloaded. It's a system widely used now (i.e. Chrome) and most users aren't bothered by it. With the offline installer, you don't have the advantage of always installing the latest version if you download it now and install it later." The developer has also assured me they will be officially providing an offline installer link in the next few days. This link will download the 60MB file. I will update their information in the review when it has been officially released. Any further comments regarding this matter should be directed to our user forum or the developers forum at the Fbackup website. I can not elaborate on their statement any further.

Regarding FBackup:
The figure of 1.15 MB cited in the write-up is for a downloader only. The installed folder for v5.0 on Win7-64 is 57.9 MB.

Thank you for commenting. What you say is true, however our review is for the download size, not the installed size which tends to be much larger.

The point was that the 1.15 MB is NOT the download size. Rather, it's the download size of the downloader program. The downloader program downloads FBackup. I don't know how much data transferred during that process, so I gave the installed size. Many people object to downloader programs, such as that of CNet, as opposed to installers.

The offline installer is available at [link to direct download of file removed. Not allowed as per site rules - moderator]
and is ~60MB in size.

Thank you Bam. Major Geeks used to post the actual download size, but now they don't. I don't doubt the file size issue, but we try to relay the official information provided by the developer. While I appreciate your comment, and I'm sure others will too, I won't be able to change the product information until I hear further from the product developer. Stay tuned for further information.

Try Iperius Backup a Powerful and complete backup software.

After comparison testing Iperius with the other programs in this category, I felt it didn't meet the "ease of use" function well enough to list here. However it may be re-considered for the more advanced backup software group. Thank you for the suggestion and comment.

FWIW, I've just tried Backup Maker, and I ended up giving up before I could even configure it to create my first backup.

I was trying to edit the backup set for a disc with ~0.5TB of data in ~1.5M files, which doesn't seem like all that much for a development machine. I was running under Win7/64. Backup Maker pegged the machine as I was trying to select the directories I wanted to exclude. It typically took over a minute simply to be able to open a single directory in the browser, and then crashed out after I selected a few directories.

I decided that if I couldn't trust it to browse the file system I was selecting, then I couldn't trust it to do my backups. Pity, but I'll have to try something else.

I stand corrected on my first response. As the new editor I just completed a more thorough review of the 3 programs and experienced what I believe your issue to be. I don't know why, but Backup Maker is slow when drilling down into directory trees. Seems like the more you drill the slower it gets. I reviewed the other 2 programs, paying more attention to this feature and discovered FBackup seems to be the best and fastest of the 3 for drilling down multiple directories.

We're almost ready to release a new version which hopefully fixes the mentioned slow down issue. It would be great if somebody who experienced this issue could contact us at support@ascomp.de to test the new version regarding the slown down. Unfortunately, we were unable to reproduce it on our machines yet, that's why we need your help to get it fixed.

I was unable to recreate the issue with version 6.506.

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

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.

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.

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.

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."

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)"

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

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.

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

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