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Back up your PC before it’s too late with our favorite free programs

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Back up using a standalone program

Standalone backup programs are terrific (if you know what you’re doing). They don’t tout the sheer simplicity and attractive design of Web-based or built-in software, instead opting for versatile control that allows users to tweak and change every aspect of the backup process to their liking, but they are offer one of the better methods for safeguarding your files if you have an external hard drive on hand. They also produce more extensive archives than typically available with online methods and are adept at issuing fully-fledged backups that include all files on your computer rather than just a few important documents or audio clips.

Cobian Backup (Windows)

Cobian BackupLightweight Cobian Backup has been heralded as one of the more fine-tuned backup programs available ever since the first version of the software burst on the scene more than a decade ago. Once downloaded and installed, the program runs discreetly in the background, offering full, incremental, or differential backups navigable from the feature-packed interface. Creating a backup seems like a mind-boggling task given the customization overload, but the default settings are elementary if you’re looking to just copy a few files sans scheduling tasks and the advanced file compression. Plus, different tasks can be carried out simultaneously without annoying notifications or slowing down your system too drastically.

The software can be a bit slow when backing up files that are an upwards of 1GB – as can most software – but it still performs quicker than expected. The interface, with flagship gray design and colorful menu icons, is  also no more eye-popping or glamorous than the built-in Windows utilities despite the most recent update of the software. If you get lost, there’s always convenient avenues for help available such as the support forums, index and on-board tutorials accessible through the software’s main Help menu. It remains one of the best backup software programs given its optional customization, but creator Luis Cobian is looking to sell the software and move on to other projects, thus putting the future of the backup program in limbo.

Cobian Backup screenshop

FBackup (Windows)

FBackup IconSoftland’s main backup software doesn’t offer anything its competitors don’t, but it offers what it does extremely well. The free tool is available for both personal and professional use (not common), and the vast plugin support allow users to back up hard-to-find data and individual software settings for programs like Skype and Google Chrome. A native wizard for backing up and restoring files will guide you through using the two-part interface with ease, showing how to select your backup depth, compression level, and drive mirroring among other things. The software also features scheduled backups, encryption, password protection, and automatically creates standard zip files so you can access the files with virtually any compression utility you have in your arsenal.

The GUI is well built and clean with a strong focus on what ought to be the program’s most notable and useful features (backup, restore, test, etc.), offering quick access to the utilities users are likely to find most resourceful. Additionally, backups can be saved to a local or external drive, as well as your network, but you aren’t going to find options for incremental backups housed anywhere within the software. Regardless, FBackup’s plugin support and Softland’s fantastic support network make the program a solid choice for backup for novices and advanced users alike.

FBackup Screenshot

EaseUS ToDo Backup Free (Windows)

Easeus ToDo Backup IconGood backup utilities are easier to find than you might think, but great ones are hard to come by. EaseUS ToDo Backup Free is one of the exceptions, brimming with features for performing full or incremental backups of your entire computer – including your data, settings, and current state – on an external drive or even a Linux-based bootable CD-ROM. Other built-in features, such as the data-wiping utility and partition cloning, only add to the program’s hallmark tool set. The coupled wizard and digital manual included with the software’s latest incarnation are also a nice touch for first-time, tech-shy users having trouble sifting through the program’s directory and automated functions.

ToDo Backup Free also sports the most straightforward interface of all the standalone programs on our roundup. The blue design is a nice contrast to the typical, gray windows that plague almost all backup software on our list, and the four-pane panel on the left shows you exactly what you’re looking for without deviating from the software’s aesthetics. The management settings and log files, conveniently located in the tab bar at the top, offer an easy way to rerun tasks and check the status of past backups in case of potential errors. The software may be a tad heavy on system resources, but it shines given its effortless design and painless backup processes.


SuperDuper (Mac OS X)

SuperDuper IconSuperDuper may have a goofy name, but its utilities are anything but. As a Mac OS X exclusive, the software offers some serious firepower designed for Apple’s pride-and-joy OS. It does a wonderful job backing up your entire machine – from the data and profiles to the permissions and privacy settings – but the free version lacks some of the more robust and convenient features such as the ability to schedule tasks and run incremental backups in addition to scripting. Still, both Intel and PowerPC Mac users will find no trouble selecting the target and destination drives before starting the cloning process. Note that it can take a good deal of time depending on the amount of data you have housed on your hard drive, but at least it covers all ground should you need to boot from your disk later on.

With it’s bland, gray exterior and barebones appeal, the SuperDuper interface isn’t anything to write home about. However, its basic approach makes navigation and setup far from cumbersome, providing clear instructions and informative tidbits regarding what will happen when you click a particular button or begin running a process. Developer Shirt Pocket hosts an active community forum as well, but the built-in help options will probably suffice for most users. SuperDuper is not the most industrious software program available for Mac OS X, but it’s a welcome compliment for creating a bootable backup alongside your Time Machine volume or a similar backup.

SuperDuper Screenshot


CrashPlan (Windows/Mac OS X)

CrashPlan logoIt’s unfortunate that everybody’s favorite backup utility for Mac, Carbon Copy Cloner, recently switched from a donation-based piece of software to a commercial one. Luckily, CrashPlan is still another great alternative for Mac and Windows users alike. The utility allows you to back up up to ten different local machines, whether to an external drive or another Mac or PC on your network, but the Web-based backups will cost you depending on the amount of online storage you require. The program will pre-select important folders and files to back up – such as photos, documents, and music – but you can always customize your backups down to the individual file level if you want more control. Although it’s probably not for everyone, CrashPlan will even allow users to share their backup with friends via the Internet, offering remote, password-encrypted backups only accessible with the owner’s permission.

Regardless of the platform, CrashPlan dons a user-friendly interface and installation wizard that will carry users every step of the way. Each button’s function is explained in full prior to clicking it, as are the other features such as the backup option for copying your files to a friend’s computer. The software runs surprisingly fast despite its heavier footprint. Incremental backups also allow users to restore files from a particular calendar date, but they can often be difficult to locate due to the program’s lack of a search function and sub-par navigation. Still, there aren’t many options available for Mac OS X and CrashPlan is clearly one of the better choices merited by the variety of backup options and limitless space.CrashPlan ScreenshotWhat did you think of our lengthy picks for the best free backup software? There’s a ton of software to choose from, what’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

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