PC owners have a wide variety of options when it comes to backup software. We’ve documented most of them in the past, but they’ve never been compiled in a single list. It’s always easier to figure out what you’re interested if everything’s in one place, so without further adieu I give you the top ten free PC backup solutions.
I’m a coward, as usual, so I will not be ranking the different solutions. You can instead read the summaries and figure out what will work best for you.
Comodo’s got a pretty sweet collection of free software out there, from antivirus to firewalls to backup software. In the backup space they have two main offerings: Comodo Backup, a sync based solution to the problem, and Comodo Time Machine, which offers an all-encompassing solution similar to Time Machine on a Mac.
Which of these solutions you want depends largely on whether you want a single backup of your files – in which case you should go with Comodo Backup, or an all-encompassing backup of your system including software, in which case Time Machine would be the better fit for you.
Read more about Comodo Time Machine in Varun’s article Create Snapshot Backups of Data and Files with Comodo Time Machine or read about Comodo Backup in Aibek’s piece The Best Free Backup Software for Your PC.
While not strictly intended to be a piece of backup software, Dropbox does a pretty good job at making sure all your current projects are safe. Here’s how: keep all the projects you are currently working on in your Dropbox. These files will not only be synced to every computer you’ve installed Dropbox on, it will also be synced to the Dropbox servers. This means your current work is instantly backed up to all your machines as well as to the cloud the second you save it.
So while Dropbox may not be a complete backup solution, it can make a great supplement to an old-fashioned hard-drive backup. Check it out at Dropbox or read more about Dropbox right here at MakeUseOf.
If you want to back up everything – and I mean everything – on your hard drive, consider Clonezilla your go-to tool. This exceptional live CD can make a complete clone of your hard drive, operating system and all. This is perfect for preserving not only your documents but everything about your computer in terms of software.
True, it’s obviously not an automated thing – you’ll need to boot the CD every time you want to use it. But if you’ve spent hours setting up your computer exactly the way you like it, having a fail-safe to fall back on is always a good thing. Read more about Clonezilla in Benjamin’s article Clonezilla “” Free Advanced Hard Drive Cloneing Software.
If you’re looking for a dead-easy way to synchronize two folders, I highly suggest you check out FreeFileSync. This free program will scan two folders and make up the difference for you; a great way to update your external hard drive backup without re-copying everything. It will even inform you of the amount of data it needs to transfer before doing so.
This solution may not be automated but it’s pretty solid. Find out more in Jim’s article How to Keep your Backups Current with FreeFileSync.
If you’re looking to backup not only your documents but also the settings and plugins you use for a few specific programs (ie Firefox) you should checkout FBackup. This solution allows you to utilize plugins capable of locating the settings of a variety of different programs in addition to backing up your documents, and is worth considering for this reason.
Check it out in Varun’s article “Backup Program Data & Personal Settings with FBackup”
Most of the solutions listed here assume you have an external hard drive to backup your files to. This solution can save you from hard drive failure but it isn’t perfect. If your house burns down, for example, it’s likely your computer’s hard drive as well as your external hard drive will be destroyed. For this reason many people prefer their backups be offsite. Dropbox can do a little of this for free, but for the most part there’s no free cloud-based backup solution.
With Crashplan, however, you can make use of your friend’s computer for your backup. This gives you an off-site backup for free (assuming you can find a trustworthy friend). Best of all, this software works on Mac, Linux and Windows.
Check out Crashplan in Tim’s article How To Auto Backup Computer Files with CrashPlan.
This is another synchronization option, and it’s always good to have options. PureSync can, as the name suggests, sync any two folders. These folders can be local, external or networked – even cloud-based folders can be utilized. It’s fairly easy to use and free, so you might as well check it out.
Read more about PureSync in Stefan’s article “Pure Sync: Free Backup and File Synchronization Tool.”
Hinx is a another great backup service. Like most of the programs here you can automate your backup, unlike most of the options listed here, however, Hinx is a Java program. This means you can run it on just about any computer on planet earth, but it also means it won’t necessarily be the fastest piece of software you’ve ever used.
Still, it’s worth checking out if you want the same backup program on Windows as you use in OSX and Linux. Check it out in Aibek’s piece The Best free Backup Software for your PC.
Yep, it’s another tool for local synchronization, though this one also supports backing up to an FTP server. Another feature that sets Syncback apart is the ability to leave out certain filetypes (ie MP3) or folders (ie C:/Documents/pron). It can be automated to backup in the background or you can use it manually.
Interested? Find out more in Mark’s article Backup your Hard Drive with SyncBack.
This cloud-based backup service typically costs money, although there is a free trial version with 2 gigabytes of storage space (plus an additional gig for every friend you refer). You choose what files are backed up, and the program is good about telling you how much quota you have left.
Like Dropbox, the free version of Mozy probably isn’t good if it’s your only backup; it is however, a great instant supplement to a regularly scheduled full backup. Read more about Mozy in our directory. Jessica also reviewed Mozy for a previous giveaway.
Bonus: Windows Built In Backup (Vista and Windows 7)
Of course, if you have Vista or Windows 7, you’ve already got fairly decent backup software – both of these operating systems come with a built-in solution. If you’d rather not download a piece of software this is always something to keep in mind, although realize you can only use it to sync to an external or local network drive. We’ve not written it up here at MakeUseOf, but you can always read Microsoft’s propaganda about the feature over at Microsoft.com.
Note that while XP has a built-in backup utility as well, it’s best to avoid using it. The program is based on an old proprietary standard originally used to backup data to tapes (yes, tapes). Such backups are difficult, although not impossible, to recover on Vista and Windows 7 systems and practically impossible to recover on Linux and OSX machines.
There you have it: ten different backup solutions for you to choose from for your PC. Sure, many of these programs have overlapping features, but what works best for you will differ from person to person.
As such I’m certain many of you are making use of something not listed here. If that’s the case go ahead and share it in the comments below. Also feel free to share your thoughts on the software mentioned here, because I know you guys have a lot to say.
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