Free backup software can often provide a very useful option for getting a device backed-up without any initial software licencing costs or ongoing subscription fees needing to be paid. For this reason, amongst various others including learning how such software works and how it can help protect both devices and important data for no upfront costs, free backup software can be a great place to start when it comes to getting your first computer backup in place.
In this guide I will be looking at some of the best free backup software titles currently available, as per the reviews here on BestBackupReviews.com, in order to help make the process of choosing free to use backup solution as simple and as straightforward as is possible. This includes covering important topics such as the features usually found in such software, any functionality which is usually missing, the types of storage supported (including cloud storage options), the upgrade path for free backup software plus the differences between free and open-source backup software as well.
Choosing a free to use backup solution can be a great way of getting any important data protected both quickly and without the need to pay for licences nor subscribe to a cloud-based backup service, time to get into the pros and cons of such backup software and how it can be of great use to many PC and Mac OS users – Vamos!
Tips for Finding Free Backup Software
Before starting to list my top 10 favourite free backup software solutions (which is further down this page if you want to jump straight there), here are a few quick tips and things to look out for when choosing free backup software for your own devices.
Unlimited vs Fixed Cloud Storage Allocations
One of the first things to be aware of when choosing any free to use backup software is the difference between a free edition of a premium backup solution (often with some limitations on the functionality included) and a fully function backup solution which is open-source (meaning anyone can download and use the software for free).
Generally speaking, when it comes to free to use software of any nature, many software developers will offer a free version of a premium software product in order to help with further testing, development and promotion of the software line as a whole. This approach means customers can get often gain access to a limited, but still often highly functional edition of a software product with no initial upfront costs due (although it is important to check what functionality might be missing from such free editions as I will discuss later on).
Top 5 free backup choices:
Below is a quick look at the top 5 choices mentioned in this guide, scroll down further for the full and detailed list of free backup software choices.
An open-source backup solution, on the other hand, will provide free to use software on the basis that said software is often community built and community supported (although in some cases it might be that commercial companies sponsor and support some open-source software development as well). Whilst open-source software can (at first glance) appear to be very good value, it is important to factor in that support options might often be limited as could be any further development of the tool as well (in many cases support will be delivered by the software’s community via a support forum).
What Features are Included
As was briefly mentioned above, free backup software is often provided as a limited edition of a premium backup solution with some core functionality removed so as to justify it being available for free. Whilst the remaining software will in many cases still be a competent product, it is important to take careful note as to what features are still included (and which ones might have been removed).
Generally speaking, free editions of premium backup solutions might be lacking in cloud storage availability and support, disk imaging backup options, encryption strength (or might have no encryption support at all) and such software might also have less automatic scheduling options available amongst many other features which cloud be either watered down or removed entirely. Being this the case, always check what features any piece of free backup software has included and be sure that said software will meet your own backup needs before making a decision.
File vs Disk Image Backups
Whilst this might not have been the case just a few years ago, many free to use backup software solutions are now available which feature full disk image-based backup technologies as a core part of their offering.
Put simply, whilst file level backups will focus on backing-up individual files and folders found on a device. A disk image backup will back up the entire device by taking an “image” (or 1:1 copy) of the entire hard disk and in doing so ensure that all data on said disk including files, folders, software applications and the operating system itself are all included in the back-up. By including everything in an image backup, by default, we start to see many benefits come to fruition including no data being missed, the ability to recover an entire system to new or even different hardware as well as the ability to save the operating system plus any user settings making for less configuration work after a full system recovery.
NB – For more information on disk and system image backups and the differences between these and file-level backups, please see my guide to system image vs file level backups.
Whilst this disk imaging functionality is often considered a premium feature in many cases, there are now several providers of free backup software offering disk imaging backup capabilities as a core part of their free offerings – this includes my current favourite free backup software EaseUS ToDo Backup Free amongst several others.
NB – Multiple software developers now include the ability to create bootable recovery media within their free backup software offerings as well. This helps to enhance the usefulness of disk image backups by allowing un-bootable systems to be more easily recovered form a disk image backup and can also be useful when migrating to a new or otherwise dissimilar hardware amongst other useful services.
Network, Cloud or Local Storage for Backups
Where to store any backed-up files is a very important consideration when making any kind of backup, especially so when using free backup software given that you might find these storage options could be limited when compared to a premium backup software solution.
Most premium backup software titles will allow for the storing of any backed-up data either locally on an external hard drive, on a NAS device (or shared folder) as well as on cloud storage (which cloud be available via the developer’s own cloud storage service or that of a 3rd party provider). When making use of a free backup software product you might find that these storage options are limited. For example, in various cases it might be that free backup software might only allow for locally available storage or NAS devices to be used when backing up (with cloud storage support only available in the premium version of the software).
With this in mind, it is important to think not only about the making of a backup set itself and what will be going into it, but also where and how this data will be stored and how accessible it will be should it is ever required in the future. For example, backups stored on storage devices physically near to the device being backed up could be vulnerable to many of the same dangers including fire and theft as the device being backed-up – something which would not be the case if the backup were stored, for example, upon a cloud storage service.
The Upgrade Path for Free Backup Software
Whilst it might be the case that free backup software meets your backup requirements at the time of deciding to make use of it, this might not always be the case, especially so given that your backup needs might change over time. With this in mind, it is always worth thinking about the upgrade path when deciding to make use of free backup software and what might happen should you start to require more from your chosen backup solution.
Given that many free to use backup solutions are simply free editions of premium backup software products, before committing to use the free version it is always worth also checking out the premium edition of the tool as well. When doing this, be sure to check that the premium functions are plentiful and cover any potential changes in your own backup circumstances which you might anticipate. Also look at the pricing options for these premium editions and how easily the software developers have made it to upgrade from the free version to the premium version (as this cloud help to save a lot of time if you do cross this path).
NB – Also be aware that an increasing number of backup software developers are now offering cloud storage as a core part of their premium backup software offerings. If you are seeking some of the highest levels of data protection and simplicity then such a solution with everything included might be a good way to go, even if a fee is payable for the service!
Security and Privacy Concerns
Finally, but still very importantly, the security and privacy of any backups made should always be taken very seriously, even when making use of free to use backup software.
Securing any backups made with strong zero-knowledge encryption (using AES 256-bit encryption or stronger) is often seen as one of the most reliable and effective means for protecting the important data stored within. In fact, even if your backup storage medium is ever compromised at any point (e.g., an external hard which is stolen or lost) then the use of strong encryption will still ensure any data stored upon said device remains safe and private given that such encryption is virtually impossible to crack.
NB – When used properly, with a long, unique and secure password in place, AES 256-bit encryption is very strong and all but impossible to break. For this reason alone, it is always recommended to encrypt all backups regardless of where the data is eventually stored!
Free Backup Software FAQs
Making use of free backup software is, without any doubt, the easiest and most reliable method for backing up any important data for free!
Such free backup software has come a long way in recent years and, whilst once often considered little more that a free trial of a premium backup software title, free backup software as of today can be found with many useful functions including full disk image backups, cloud storage support and even AES 256-bit data encryption included by default.
As of my latest testing in September 2023, EaseUS ToDo Backup Free is my current favourite free backup solution!
Whilst the premium editions of ToDo Backup do offer a very comprehensive and reliable backup solution which is almost unrivalled in the home and small business backup market, the Free edition of ToDo Backup also retains much of the advanced functionality meaning it is often a “go to” choice for anyone seeking a free but still highly functional backup solution.
Some key features found in EaseUS ToDo Backup Free which are worthy of note include support for making cloud backups (to 3rd party cloud providers), full system and disk image backups plus the ability to apply strong zero-knowledge encryption to any backups made using the solution (features often reserved for premium editions by many other backup software developers).
The downsides to using free backup software will, naturally, differ depending upon the person making use of such software and the specifics of what is required from such software.
Generally speaking, one of the biggest downsides to using free backup software is that certain features found within the software will usually be missing (or limited in their scope) when compared to the premium edition of the same product. This can have the negative effect of making backups both harder to configure as well as more time consuming and stressful in the process.
By not offering as many features, free backup software might often see users having to compromise on what is backed-up, how it is stored and, crucially, how well their device is protected as a result. If your backup requirements are fairly basic overall and a free to use backup solution works for you then such software can be a great option, otherwise it might be worth considering the premium edition of a free backup software product and evaluating how this can be of additional use.
Whilst it is commonly acknowledged that free backup software will be limited in its functionality compared to the premium backup software titles it sits besides, the scope and exact nature of these differences can vary a lot.
One common area in which free backup software is often limited is in the storage locations which are available for making backups to. Whilst premium solutions will often allow multiple backup storage options be used (including both 3rd party cloud storage and often cloud storage provided by the developers themselves), free backup solutions might be limited to using just locally accessible storage (e.g., external hard drives).
Other limitations often seen in free backup software might include the lack of any encryption functionality, the lack of advanced scheduling options (including a lack of support for real-time backups), the inability to apply compression and the inability to make use of advanced backup methodologies including differential and incremental backups amongst various other features.
NB – It is always important to check carefully the details of what is and isn’t included in any free backup software solution to ensure it is right for your own backup requirements before becoming too reliant on such a solution!
As of my latest bout of testing free-to-use backup solutions in September 2023, Duplicati has stood out as my favourite open-source backup solution!
Whilst being free to use is undeniably a big highlight of Duplicati, the software itself also includes many great features such as support for using AWS S3 (and S3 compatible) cloud storage services, support for strong zero-knowledge encryption, good file version retention options, an effective scheduling engine, command line tools plus a web-based interface which, whilst a little unconventional at first, is actually fairly easy to use.
NB – For more information on Duplicati and the full set of backup functionality it offers, be sure to real my full review to <<Duplicati>> right here on BestBackupReview.com
Top 10 Free Backup Software for 2023
In the final section of this guide, I will be listing 10 of my favourite free backup software titles as per the reviews found right here on BestBackupReviews.com.
Remember, any ratings and rankings given below reflect my own personal opinions and that the free backup software titles with the highest ratings might not necessarily be the best for your own personal needs. With this in mind, please refer to my detailed reviews of each entry on the list for more information on the service itself and how it might help with your own individual backup requirements.
Top 10 Free Backup Software Summary
The use of free Backup software, such as those titles mentioned in this guide, can often prove some of the best methods for getting a backup set in place without having to first pay any licence fees or for any subscription services upfront.
Despite being free to use, such backup software titles can often provide a lot of backup functionality and, in my own opinion at least, much more than was typically available from such free to use titles just a few short years ago. However, despite bringing a good degree of functionality to the table overall, it is still important to note the limitations of free to use backup software (be it a free edition of a premium product or an open-source solution) and fully understand how any chosen title can meet your own backup requirements before being put into place protecting your valuable data for real.
Ultimately, whilst free and open-source backup software can be a great choice for some, it is important to be realistic about the value of the data being protected and if more advanced functionality or additional support is required, to evaluate the need to look for a premium backup solution in certain cases.