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9 free backup tools to keep your files safe

We are relying on computers more and more these days and instead of buying music on CDs we now download tracks from the internet and store them on the hard disk drive.

We don't send off rolls of film to be developed and get back prints, we plug our digital cameras into the PC and transfer the images to the disk.

We don't develope cine film any more, we plug our camcorders into the computer and transfer the digital footage to its disk. We also have email correspondence, contacts, work and personal documents, home and company accounts, and many more files on our PCs. What if the disk developed a fault and you lost all your files? How would you cope?

There are people that don't even think about disk disasters and they just carry on filling their computers with valuable and irreplaceable files assuming that they'll always be there and that computers never go wrong.

Then there are people that know that disks occasionally fail, but it's so rare that it probably won't happen to them, so they just cross their fingers and hope for the best.

And finally, there are people that make backups, so that if disaster should strike, they can restore all their precious files from the backup and they haven't lost a thing. Which type of person are you?

Cobian BackupBackups aren't difficult to make and many backup programs have an automated mode so that once they have been configured, they'll back up the hard disk drive without you having to do anything

They run in the background and you probably won't even notice that one is running.

Backup programs needn't cost an arm and a leg either and there are some superb applications that are compeletely free of charge.

This list here isn't complete by any means and there are other backup programs that can be found with a bit of research, but these below are popular choices you're sure to find one that fits your requirements. Try them and see, they're all free.



Cobian Backup

This is a good backup tool that offers all the usual features like full, incremental and differential backups, compression and encryption. It can run as a standard program when you want it, or it can install as a service so that it runs in the background without you having to worry about it. It backs up to any disk on the system, such as another partition, a second disk, or an external disk drive. It can also back up to an online storage space that has access via FTP. It only backs up files and folders and can't restore the whole disk. Recommended.

PC Inspector Clone Maxx

If you have two identical hard disk drives in your PC you could use the second as a backup by cloning the first. RAID can do that of course, using the disk mirroring option, but assuming you don't want to choose that option or if your PC doesn't support it, try this tool. It copies disks at up to 3.3Gb a minute, which is very fast. It's a Dos program, but don't panic, it creates a bootable disc with everything you need on it. Choose the ISO CD image when you download it, burn it to a CD and then boot from it.

Truesafe personal Edition

This is a simple backup utility that enables you to backup files and folders, but not the whole hard disk, to another internal or external hard disk drive, shared disk on a computer on your network, or USB flash memory drive. A severe limitation of the free version is that you can only back up 1Gb.

SyncBack Freeware

This free program is a sort of a cross between a file sync utility and a backup program. It can't back up and restore the whole disk drive and what it does is enable you to create a mirror image of a folder or set of folders on the same disk, an external disk, a second internal disk, another partition or a disk on another PC on the network. It can backup to online storage space that has FTP access too. Backups can be compressed into zip files to save space.

Backup and Recovery 2011 (Advanced) Free

This is a free version of Paragon's backup software and the catch is that it cannot backup files and folders. Instead it creates an exact copy of the whole hard disk drive, so if you've used 100Gb on your disk you'll need at least 50Gb to store a backup (it's compressed). An external hard disk drive or a second internal disk drive is best, but failing that, it can back up to another partition on the same drive. It can create a bootable USB memory drive or a bootable CD so that if you can't start Windows you can boot up the recovery program and restore the disk image. It's an essential tool. Recommended.

Macrium Reflect

The free version of Macrium Reflect is an excellent backup tool. It can only perform whole disk backups and it can't back up individual files, but it's still an excellent tool that's well worth having. Backups are compressed, but you'll need an external disk or another partition that's big enough to store all your data on. So if you've used 100Gb on your disk you'll need at least 50Gb to store a backup. A really cool feature is that it burns a boot CD (actually a mini version of Linux), that can be used to start the computer and restore the backup.

AceBackup

This free utility offers file backups and it can't copy the whole hard disk. Once you get used to the interface, it is an excellent tool for backing up to CD-Rs, DVD-Rs, external hard disk drives, disks on other computers on your network. It will even back up to an online storage facility that provides FTP access. You can schedule backups and multiple versions of files can be stored. Not sure it's fully compatible with 64-bit Windows 7. Try it and see.

Vembu

This is a very unusual program that can be used on up to three computers to back up files and folders. It's unusual because it installs a cut down version of Apache web server and uses this to back up the files on one PC to free space on another PC. All the backup and restore functions are accessed through a web browser and this makes it a bit strange compared to the other backup programs which are standard applications. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's worth a look.

Second Backup

This is a simple file and folder backup tool that can be used to store copies on another disk for safe keeping. It doesn't so much back up as make an exact copy of all the files and no compression or encryption is used. In fact, a Folder Sync utility is installed too. It's not the best tool, but it has its uses.

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