Let’s face it. Backup software isn’t something to excited about. But it is important to have backups. If you don’t, you risk losing precious files that you’ll never be able to recover.
Could you live without the photos and videos of your first baby, your wedding and other life events? Could you manage if all your documents and spreadsheets vanished overnight?
It might sound dramatic, but why take the risk of your computer being stolen, destroyed in a fire or that – one day – its hard drive will simply stop working?
We insure our homes, cars and lives, and while you can’t insure your data, you can back it up.
Backup software can make the process entirely automatic, so you don’t have to remember anything, and it won’t become a chore. You simply need to pick a solution from the options below, set it up once, and then – hopefully – forget about it until the day comes when you need to use them.
There are choices when it comes to the method of backup: do you upload files to the cloud or save them to some kind of storage attached to your PC?
There are pros and cons of both approaches.
Is cloud storage backup?
First, let’s deal with a common point of confusion. You might already use a cloud storage service such as Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive or another.
It’s important to understand that this is not the same as a backup. Cloud storage services usually sync files across all your devices, which means if you delete a file from any device, it gets deleted from the cloud and all your other devices.
You might be able to change the settings in your cloud storage so that when you delete a file from your laptop, say, the identical file in your cloud storage is not deleted. Cloud storage can also act as a backup if your laptop is lost, stolen or damaged as copies of your files will remain in the cloud.
The point is, you shouldn’t rely on cloud storage as a backup unless you are absolutely sure you have configured the sync settings correctly.
There are dedicated cloud backup services such as iDrive and Backblaze, which you’ll find below. Cloud backup doesn’t generally offer ‘entire PC’ backups, so won’t be able to restore a working version of Windows, all your apps and settings plus your files in the event of a disaster. By contrast, backup software usually can.
What to look for in backup software
Backup software falls into one of two basic categories; imaging or file-based. If you want to make a complete backup of your hard drive so that you can restore the operating system and applications, then look for a backup app that supports so-called ‘system images’.
Alternatively, if all that concerns you is the files and documents you’ve put on the computer, then a backup facility that targets files and folders is what you need.
Most backup software supports both types, but do watch out as not all do.
To hold these backups you’ll need some kind of storage drive. That could be internal – as in a drive that’s inside your PC or laptop – or it could be external, meaning a device that plugs into your computer such as a USB drive. Alternatively, you could back up to a network drive – known as a NAS – that has enough storage space for the amount of data you need to back up.
Choosing the right software is a process of deciding what type of backup you want to make, how much you’re willing to spend, and whether you’re happy to pay a subscription or want to pay only once and use the software forever.
If you need to back up multiple devices, it’s also important to choose software or a cloud service that isn’t limited to just one PC (or charges you per device). For especially sensitive files, look for backup software that encrypts the files.
Some of the options here work on Macs, but you’ll find a more tailored backup guide on our sister site Macworld.
Best backup software for 2022
1. Ashampoo Backup Pro 16
- Not a subscription
- Works with cloud storage services
- Supports Windows 11
- No free version available
Ashampoo is a slightly strange brand name from a German company that has steadily improved its Backup Pro app for many years now.
The interface is clean and easy to understand, with wizards that walk you through the backup process. That’s very helpful because there are plenty of features on offer. Backup Pro 16 allows either specific files, an entire disk partition, or the whole system (Windows included) to be backed up, so you can completely restore a PC after a crash or other catastrophic event.
Background backups mean that you don’t have to stop using your PC while the process runs, plus there is now better support for destinations that can be used to store those created. These include your local drive, external storage, as well as a wide range of cloud-based solutions such as OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, any NAS, and it also works with OneDrive Business and Office365.
Other notable features are encryption, versioning, compression (7Zip/LZMA), automatic backup verification, and a scheduler to ensure that backups run when it’s most convenient.
Ashampoo Backup Pro 16 costs £44.99/$49.99 but is often available at a discount, with the company offering the software for £26.99/$29.99 at the time of writing.
For half even those prices, Ashampoo also offers what it calls Backup Pro 2021. It’s a cut-down version that only backs up hard drive partitions or whole Windows systems. That means you can’t choose specific files or folders, but it also means it’s very easy to use, and gives you the security that you’ve backed up everything.
You won’t get the elegant new interface or some of the improved support for cloud services, but it’s still a powerful tool
2. EaseUS Todo Backup Free
- It's free!
- Can backup partitions
- Can mount a backup like a Windows hard drive
- Some features require paid version
- No System Clone in free version
EaseUS Todo Backup Free is – as the name implies – a free backup app that offers step-by-step instructions to help you quickly and easily backup and recover your files.
It’s possible to back up individual partitions (even the one Windows is on), or back up individual files and folders if you’d prefer. There are also options for backing up only the changes made since the last backup, which saves time and storage space (incremental and differential). You can schedule backups to run so they’re made when you’re not using your PC.
The Free version doesn’t include absolutely everything (and some features which appear to be available are not when you click on them). That’s because EaseUS wants you to pay for the Home version. It costs £36.56/$39.95 for a single year or you can a perpetual license with a lifetime of updates for £80.70/$79.95.
This adds the ability to transfer a system to a different PC hardware and has special tools for Outlook email backup & recovery, and comes with 250GB of cloud storage (though you can pay extra to upgrade to 1TB).
For those with simple backup needs, the Free version offers enough tools to make local backups. You can back up to your computer’s hard drive (not recommended), an external drive, a NAS drive or even link your Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive account.
Get Todo Backup from EaseUS’s website.
3. Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office
- Local & cloud backup options
- Clear interface
- Antivirus software included
- Now a subscription service
- Average phishing protection
Powerful, feature-rich and easy to use, Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office (which used to be called True Image) is just about the most comprehensive backup software you’ll find. In fact, it’s the only package we’re aware of that combines backup with disk imaging (hard drive cloning) and antivirus.
The company reckons that backup software is incomplete if it doesn’t protect your files from cyberattacks. That’s why it felt it had to change the name True Image to something that more accurately describes what it does today.
Though backup remains the core focus, the new antivirus element provides real-time scanning alongside on-demand antirvirus scans, plus web filtering to guard against malicious websites. In the Advanced package there’s even video-conferencing security that stops spying on Zoom, Cisco WebEx and Microsoft Teams.
Even if you go for the cheapest Essentials tier, you get an array of backup tools. You can pick and choose files and folders, or play it really safe and back up the whole computer, including Windows itself. Recovery options similarly let you hand pick files to restore if you don’t want to recover the whole lot.
Customisable backup plans let you choose how often you want to back up fully, and let you backup the most important files more regularly. Plus, the backup will run in the background to make sure that you’re not disturbed while you’re working.
There’s end-to-end encryption to keep those files safe and secure, and you can search for backed up files both on your local hard drive as well as the cloud to recover files.
Other standard features include notifications of backup status, only backing-up on selected Wi-Fi connections, ransomware protection, active disk cloning, along with Backup Statistics, Activity logs and the all-in-one recovery tool called Survival Kit.
Unfortunately, you can no longer buy the software outright: Cyber Protect is a subscription service.
That means you’ll have to pay every year to keep using it, and not everyone wants yet another subscription to add to all the others they already pay for.
Plus, the Essentials Package at £55.99 / $79.99, doesn’t include any cloud storage, so you’ll need to provide your own storage in the form of a hard drive, external USB drive, shared folder or NAS device.
If you like the convenience of cloud backup options, want to protect Office365 data online, then you’ll need the Advanced or Premium packages, which cost £90.99/$129.99 or £132.99/$189.99 respectively for a year. Those prices are for three computers, and you’ll save quite a bit if you have only one, but there was also a limited-time offer of 50% off (which ends 11 April 2022) which made Cyber Protect more appealing.
Advanced and Premium include 500GB and 2TB of Cloud storage respectively. Additional storage and additional computers are available to add to your package at an extra cost. See the comparison of the three tiers here.
- Free tier with 5GB
- No need to buy your own storage drives
- Unlimited device backups
- Uploading files can take a long time
Unlike some of the other backup software here, iDrive is cloud based. That means your files are backed up to a server on the internet. In many ways this is a lot safer and more convenient than keeping backups at home on your own hard drives.
iDrive offers 5GB of free storage indefinitely, allowing you to try out the service to see if it’s right for you.
5GB isn’t enough to back up much data, but that’s because the whole idea is that you’ll want to upgrade to iDrive Personal, which costs £60/$79.50 per year for 5TB or £76/$99.50 for 10TB, which should be enough for even the biggest data hoarders.
iDrive can be used on multiple PCs, Macs, iPhones, iPads and Android devices without additional licensing because you’re paying for the cloud storage, not to use it on a specific device. For small businesses, there’s also a Teams option that allows five users five devices each and costs £71.99/$99.50 for 5TB of storage.
Of course, if you’re a family, then a single account could be used across all your devices to secure everybody’s files for a very reasonable sum.
Another bonus is that iDrive also works very much like Apple Time Machine, in that you can go back and restore a file at any point in its history. Ideally before it was corrupted or encrypted by malware. You can even recover files you’ve deleted, as long as it is within 30 days of the point where you put them in the trash.
You’re also able to set up a Sync folder which will automatically share files you place in it to your devices. These can also be accessed via the iDrive web client.
If you’re away from your computer, you can use the iDrive web client to manage your backups, scheduling or restoring them on any device that has access to the web. This is great if you realise that you needed to backup something up or if someone at home needs older files.
If you need a complete clone of your drive, including the OS, then you can use the Disk Clone tool in the iDrive desktop client, which comes with a wide range of other features.
Should you prefer a simpler life though, without all the configuration choices that the powerful desktop client has to offer or the various online adventures, then the new iDrive Basic is a stripped down interface that helps you set up backup schedules, restore previous versions, and share files with friends all with only a few clicks.
Just as with all Cloud backups, IDrive is suitable for those with high-speed unlimited bandwidth broadband, and those with capped connections should probably avoid it. IDrive does offer an Express service where backups can be made on storage drives that IDrive ships out to you and returned. Data recovery can be arranged in a similar way, but it’s mainly aimed at US customers: those in other countries have to pay for shipping.
5. Paragon Backup & Recovery
- Lots of features
- Step-by-step wizards
- Have to buy HDM Advanced to get it
- Not the cheapest option
Paragon’s Backup & Recovery, just like its drive cloning tool, is now part of Paragon Hard Disk Manager Advanced. Where you used to be able to buy it separately at a reduced price, Paragon now forces you to buy HDM Advanced whether you want its extra features or not.
But, if you will take advantage of things like moving and resizing disk partitions and securely wiping data from drives then it could work out better value than other packages. Plus, it’s not a subscription: you pay once and it’s yours to use on up to three PCs.
The interface is clear and easy to understand, with step-by-step assistance for the various backup tasks you require on the schedule you set. You can perform regular or one-shot backups if that’s all you need, and if there isn’t enough space in your backup destination, you can even split the backups into smaller portions to solve that problem.
The combination of defined scenario and ad-hoc backups is a very flexible one that fits well with those who use their computers in an especially dynamic way, who therefore need their software to be equally adaptable.
It is also one of the few tools to support the backup of virtual disks, like those created by major hypervisor vendors VMDK, VHDX, VHD, pVHD (like VMware, Hyper-V, VirtualBox). And these backups can be mounted by virtual machines if you wish to investigate their contents quickly.
It can even secure Microsoft Bitlocker encrypted volumes, should you use that technology.
Paragon Backup & Recovery is available for £67.25/US$79.95 and you can buy it from Paragon’s website.
Having criticised Paragon for bundling Backup & Recovery into Hard Disk Manager Advanced, it’s important that we point out that there’s a completely free version called Paragon Backup & Recovery Community Edition, which is well worth downloading and trying, especially if you need only basic backup and restore features.
6. O&O AutoBackup 6
- Easy to use
- Doesn't support entire system backups
O&O offers a quick and simple application that will automatically sync and back up copies of your files and folders to a hard drive or USB stick.
The difference with this solution is that it is triggered by the insertion of the backup media (i.e. a disc or USB drive), although you can also define a backup schedule if you wish to secure files in a very specific time frame. There is also a real-time mode that tracks changes to files in the highlighted folders and then copies them to the backup location.
O&O AutoBackup’s backup on insertion is a neat trick, but the program is otherwise a little limited. However, it’s very easy to use for those who aren’t technically minded, as they won’t easily be confused by the small number of options available. At £19.99/$27.99 it’s also reasonably priced for those who don’t want loads of bells and whistles.
For someone who captures data each day and wants to secure it at the end of their working day, the AutoBackup method works well. But it won’t restore a PC that suffers catastrophic drive failure, as it can’t secure a running operating system or boot partitions. For that purpose, O&O has DiskImage 16, a system imaging tool that comes available for £35.99/$49.95.
O&O also has DiskRecovery 14 Professional (£65/$99), a tool for recovering lost files and damaged partitions, along with specialist software for handling SSD migrations, cash mitigation and secure erasure of systems.
- Utterly simple to use
- Backs up unlimited number of files
- Only backs up files, not Windows
- Price is per computer
Backblaze bills itself as the “world’s easiest cloud backup”, so it will appeal to anyone who wants the boring task of backing up their files to be made as painless as possible.
And it’s true: as soon as you sign up, the service will automatically back up a copy of any files you create or store on your computer: documents, photos, music, movies, and more. There are no file too big to backup, and your subscription gives you unlimited cloud storage. It doesn’t get simpler than that.
There’s just one drawback: Backblaze doesn’t backup the operating system, applications or any temporary data that is created by active apps.
But it does copy away any documents, images, videos or other file types that are on your system, plus it works with Windows, macOS, as well as Android, iOS and iPad OS.
File versions are automatically stored for 30 days, so you can recover older iterations of files in that time, but for an additional $2 (£1.40) per month you can extend this so that it goes back up to 12 months. Very handy if you realise you’ve changed a document and lost something essential.
Should something unfortunate happen to your computer then you can download your files in zip format for free or – for $189 (£144) – BackBlaze will put them on an 8TB drive and send them to you. You can get a full refund on that if you send it back afterwards.
Backblaze is great, but it can’t rebuild your computer from scratch if your hard drive fails completely. And, if you have lots of files it will take some time and broadband bandwidth to back it all up (and, indeed, restore it, though most people have much faster download speeds than upload).
Those with slow or data-capped broadband will be better off using an app and making backups locally.
For those without broadband limits, a flat fee of $70 (around £53) per year per computer for practically unlimited Cloud storage seems like a really good deal. Alternatively, Backblaze can also be purchased for a monthly fee for $6 (around £4.50) or on a 24-month cycle for $110 (around £83).
In addition to their personal storage solutions, Backblaze also has Business options that cost as little as $6 per month for each terabyte held. The Business model can also secure VMs and database structures, and not just conventional documents. The B2 Cloud storage service will also be of interest, as it provides enterprise-grade service and will even help you migrate your data from Amazon S3.
8. Bvckup 2
- Intimidating for beginners
Bvckup 2 is a fast and light Windows backup utility that’s aimed at power users or those in professional IT roles.
Its interface can be a bit intimidating if you’re not technically minded. That’s not a problem though, as there are many alternatives on this list that cater for home users.
Described by its main developer, Alexander Pankratov, as ‘like a chefs knife – simple in appearance, requires skill to be used correctly, but in the right hands it’s the best tool for the job.’ Which we think is a rather fitting analogy.
The app can handle on-demand, incremental or scheduled backups of your files, but you’ll need another solution if you want disk imaging or complete system backups.
This focus allows Bvckup to specialise in speed: the app is written to run as close to the hardware as possible and use as few resources as possible. There’s also the ability to copy huge files, retain long file names, and even include deleted, locked, or in-use files in the backup.
Specific external drives can be set to trigger particular backups when they’re plugged in, all of which is automated once configured. You can also check what happened in the backup process thanks to hierarchical logs that show each step.
Some of these features are available in the Basic tier, which costs £21.50/$29.99, but for the more advanced options you’ll want either Pro for Workstations £35.99/$49.99 or Pro for Windows Servers £108/$149.99, the latter of which obviously is for enterprise.
If you move to the Pro tier then you gain access to things like Delta copying, which speeds up the backups when compared to full file copies, and offers greater reliability thanks to intelligent error handling and detailed logging.
Another impressive Pro feature is how it utilises Windows shadow copy mode, allowing it to copy a file that’s open for modification without causing a crash or exception.
While it doesn’t specifically support Cloud services, if those services (such as OneDrive and Google Drive) are connected to the PC file structure then you can secure those folders locally or backup your working folders to the Cloud using Bvckup2.
You can run the program as a normal app or background system service, with or without admin level-access, plus there’s the ability to control everything via the command line if that’s your thing.
A chef’s knife indeed.