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PC Data Back Up Programs


If you are not regularly backing up your data you are in for a real surprise one day. If you are not backing up both your data and your programs, you are in for more than a surprise!

Data back up systems range from very functional freeware, open source programs to purchased programs. The latter will generally have more scheduling options.

Unfortuntely a recent trend by vendors is to offer FASTER backups rather than BETTER. They are achieving speed at the expense of cutting corners in what gets backed up; skipping things like the page/swap file and the hibernation file.

Back Up Media

Most home office computer users back up onto an external back up hard drive, tape drive or DVD's. Each have their own benefits, but using a system that suits you and is easy to use, is more important than being the king of back up systems. You are more likely to do regular data back ups if it is easy.


Key Data Back Up Program Features

The key features to look for in any data back up program are:

  • Incremental backup - so you dont have to copy every file, every time. Once you have backed up your hard drive the first time, next backup only updates new and modified files, so it is much faster. Downside is that using incremental back up means that should you ever need to restore, it does take longer.
  • Back up scheduling - helps keep the data management on track.
  • Easy restore function - many overlook this function. It's fine to have everything back up, but it certainly pays to check the restore function from time to time.
  • Disc mirror copy - this is a more advanced feature found in some freeware programs and most purchased programs. It does a complete mirror copy of your hard drive - data, programs, .dll files, registry back up etc
  • Encryption - applicable if back ups are done over the Internet.

Check the functionality carefully. A freeware data back up program can end up being expensive if all it is doing is copying files from one folder to another on the same hard-drive.

Check features against the User Manual. For example Acronis True image User Guides claim the product can make a full total sector-by-sector backup when dealing with a file system it does not understand or a corrupted file system. However, no configuration option to make a sector-by-sector true image could be found in the product back up windows.

Also check that the Back Up Program does not depend upon the file system being alive and well to tell it which sections of the hard disk partition are used and which are free/unallocated. If your system is working perfectly, you probably would not need a data back up restore in the first place.


Freeware Data Back Up Programs

The following programs are freeware, with most opensource.

  • Rsync - works with pretty much any platform and does i Rsync also uses SSH for encrypted connections. Did I mention it is free and opensource!,
  • Unison - a network based data backup system that allows two replicas of a collection of files and directories to be stored on different hosts [or different disks on the same host], modified separately, and then brought up to date by propagating the changes in each replica to the other. A good one if you want to back up normal PC files to your webserver.
  • Save2FTP  - another good FTP back up program for automatically backing up data to remote FTP servers. Configure and schedule automatic backups with an intuitive user interface. Easy to use with even the most advanced features accessible to both beginners and professionals.
  • SyncBack - a fully featured program offering standard file comparison based on the date and size, as well as optional MD5 checksum, which will detect even the slightest modifications to files. SyncBack also supports scheduled projects, FTP and zip compression of backups, as well as network login, simulation runs and more. 5 Stars on SnapFiles
  • RKopie - customized backup jobs to zip compatible archive files, span across disks, delete redundant files in the backup archive and more. Interface takes a bit of learning but is soom becomes a very powerful tool. Beats many commercial products out there.
  • AISBackup - Love the Drag-and-drop restore so you know precisely where files are being restored. The disk-to-disk copy option may be used to synchronize folders or clone Windows and create dual-boot systems. You can also backup the registry, NTFS security settings. A 5-Star Rating On Tucows.
  • MS Synctoy - SyncToy 1.4 for Windows Vista is available as a free download from the Microsoft Download Center. Not getting good reviews on this, all the normal Microsoft coding error problems one expects with MS new releases. Wait until at least mid 2007.
  • Simply Safe Backup - easy to use and has a professional user interface. The features available in this freeware version are more than most home users need to perform routine backup of data. NOTE: There are problems with the 2005 version so look for 2004 Version.

With great freeware options like this I can't see any reason one would bother purchasing data back programs for private use. But if you have commercial systems and want a fall back support system, there are some excellent low cost options.


Purchased Data Back Up Programs

  • Auto Back Up Manager Pro
  • Double Safety
  • Norton Ghost - bit of bad press on this one with some virus vulnerabilities reported by users.
  • CMS Bounceback Express - does incremental backups.
  • Acronis True Image - full hard drive back up, system disaster recovery, drive images. But image back up does not restore if drive is not bootable using CD. Hence if you have file system corruption, your back up is of no value for that PC.
  • Paragon
  • Drive Image - has an option to make a full sector-by-sector backup. So too does Image for Windows from Terabyte. These products can backup a 4 GB partition and create a 4 GB backup (assuming no compression). An option called "smart sector copying" only copies used portions [sectors] of the hard disk partition. . RECOMMENDED PRODUCT.


Web Based Data Back Up

There are some great sites out there that allow you to store files. I use these as my away from the office back up sites.


Data Back Up Tips

  1. Never back up an OS when it is running - Find a program that backs up when Windows is shut down - configure the backup in Windows, then have the program shut down Windows, make the backup to an external media and then reboot the OS. Acronis can not do this. Neither can Image For Windows from Terabyte.
  2. Keep your OS system healthy - if there are NTFS/FAT32 problems, you can't make an image backup.
  3. Always test restore functionality BEFORE you need it - if you do something wrong or your system is corrupt, you want to fix this before your system crashes so that you can get back in. Without a test run, you won't know if a recovery will break things worse than they already are.


More Data Recovery Resources

Data Recovery Guides

Data Recovery Software

Data Back Up Devices

Data Back Up Software

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