Guide to choosing PC backup software

Protect your files, documents and data from computer failure by backing them up with help from Peter Zaluzny.

Let the CHOICE Community know if you’ve had any good or bad experience with back-up software in the comments below.

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I use the free version on AOEMI and have found it quite adequate for backing up documents, photos and user settings.

Many people only backup their documents folder in Windows only but forget all the other information that can be lost should something happen to their PC. It is also important to back up the relevant users director which will contain program settings, history and other ‘stuff’ to make any restore easier.

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Macrium Reflect. It could be a little techie for some and the user interface is not the slickest, but it is very flexible and has been reliable for me. It is fully capable of managing backup for a single PC or a small data centre. It will do full disc images, files or sets of files and manages the space in the backup repository. One strength is that single files can be extracted and restored from an image, and it does full, differential, and incremental backups in sets, and an “infinite incremental” backup.

Family members have used cloud services including MyPCBackup and Carbonite for their data files. Both were excellent for them, trivially easy, but have ongoing subscription costs and generate [sometimes substantial] upload traffic. I have not used cloud services because a) I am a techie, and b) I do not like “magic” I want full control and oversight, end-to-end. That being written cloud repositories are off-site, so protect data from a local catastrophic event or robbery.


Good points. The easiest backup to enable a perfect restore is a full image backup. Microsoft is trying to get us away from that, but it remains the easiest restoration and to me, the gold standard. For anyone not familiar, an image backup is essentially a copy of the entire disc. If your disc crashes you can make what will essentially be a clone and restore 100% of your computer exactly the way it was when the image backup was made.

I’ve used GoodSync for a number of years and have been quite happy with it. I haven’t bothered with backing up the entire internal hard disk, just email, various data directories I have - weather and off-grid solar system data logging, and also the email and other important directories on my wife’s computer, via our house wifi.
I wouldn’t attempt to backup on the cloud, our internet connection is too unreliable with lots of dropouts and often very slow speeds, plus it would seriously eat into our meagre Optus wireless broadband monthly data allowance.

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I teach computing to oldies at U3A, many of whom struggle with the complexities of computers and have limited budgets. Don’t waste your money on backup software. Create a Google account, install google drive, put all of your document, music, photo and video folders into the google drive folder and they are backed up automatically. The capacity is 15 Gig for free which is enough for most people. It is not a good idea to reinstall programs from a backup because it often fails.

PS If really needed, the cost of extra google drive storage is not significant. From memory about $50 per annum

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I work in IT so have tried a few.
For my family I have them all using Acronis Ture Image
More info here
I like that you can have a full image of every storage device so it doesn’t matter where something is saved, it can be recovered. If your not sure how to recover information and you call someone like me and say you have Acronis with a full cloud backup I can get anything you had back even if the device has been stolen\destroyed.
Can do both a local and cloud backup, its super easy to install and use.
Also emails alerts and backup results etc.
Its not the cheapest but you pay for what you get.
Some of the other cheaper products I tested took forever to backup and restore using cloud service.
One product was going to take 5 days to download the backup unless you pay more for extra speed.
Storage Craft have a similar product called Shadow Protect which is excellent and I use for some commercial clients but Acronis Ture Image is simpler for home users, small business etc.

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Just by a MAC with inbuilt ‘Time Machine’ in the OS and it is basically automatic no need to worry about settings just let the OS look after everything.

I use a “Passport” removable hard drive for a complete disc scan back up each week.
However, because I use my computer for a lot of important Client Files, I use “Nortons 360” security and fire wall, and they store 10 gigs of important data “in the cloud” for a small fee, as well as their excellent security service. There could be a fire which destroyed my computer and the Passport backup!
Michael Barnett

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Some other points about Acronis are (1) you can restore individual files or folders, without having to do a full restore of the entire HD , (2) it is important to “validate” every image BU you do. I had TWO corrupt BU files last Easter and lost 12 months worth of files. (3) After the warranty period ends, support is by Knowledge Base & email, or pay-per-issue. But any support relating to recovery is free and by chat &/or phone/remote control. While this is frustrating for everyday BU support. overall it is excellent. (4) based on my experience it is wise to BU frequently ( I do every 2nd day) and to copy the current file to a 2nd external disk, say weekly.

With regard to cloud solutions such as Google Drive, some will no doubt find their upload speed to be an impediment, especially when backing up large files, e.g. video.

Upload speeds are frequently ignored in any discussion or debate about the NBN. Our home ADSL2+ is adequate for download ( so long as we haven’t had a lengthy spell of wet weather ), but it is a frustrating affair when you need to upload video, or even large images. NBN is more than three years away for us.

As a consequence, I backup everything to a local hard disc, and keep a second physical backup disc at a remote location.

I’ve found out that it doesn’t always work as planned with the Time Machine. Fortunately I had my backups done with Macrum Reflect free onto a portable hard drive. My Daughter (who is a Mac fanatic) has had the same problem and now uses an external hard drive with the same free software. I use both the Mac as well as Windows and I would not trust my data to the cloud or backed up on the same hard drive as the one that may fail.

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Used time machine without problems since it was added to the operating system around 5 years ago but always backup to a external drive as it is foolhardy to back up to the same drive cause a failure of the hard drive will lose all data.

It’s also worth noting that Time Machine is happy to support multiple backup drives automatically. I keep three: (1) to an additional HDD in my desktop Mac Pro, (2) to a NAS device, and (3) to a portable HDD that I store away from home.

The backups alternate between (1) and (2), except for when I plug in (3) and then Time Machine recognises that that is the backup most out-of-date and updates it accordingly.

Time Machine is also happy to store backups from multiple Macs on a single drive: so the NAS has backups of both my Mac as well as my wife’s.

I would advise, in the strongest possible terms, against making backups to a partition on the same physical device that is being backed-up. It will be very much slower (as well as offer no protection in the event of a drive failure, as tndkemp notes).

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I see there is a ‘cloud backup review’ article now!

A couple notes/thoughts:

  • The review doesn’t state whether you can use your own encryption key for a provider. This is important for privacy, because otherwise the provider can decrypt your data.
  • Zoolz software is awful. It managed to blue screen a Windows 10 computer and has never started backing up for me. I’d have to fix it by adding small folders at a time… instead of 30,000 files at once, which other software/providers handle fine. It does have ‘lifetime’ special for 500GB(+500GB non-automatic) storage though for ~US$39.
  • I’ll probably use CrashPlan or Backblaze (I like their hard drive brand reliability review articles) for serious backup.
  • I presently use Google Drive, Dropbox and

Quite frankly using the cloud to store anything of mine leaves me cold.
The idea that my personal data sits on a unknown server in a unknown location all waiting for a enthusiast hacker is the antithesis of what I desire in back up technology. Not that my life is that interesting to any hackers but with enough data a phoney identity is easily created. At least with my backups I just disconnect the drive and they are safe from prying probes.

I guess the social media generation foolishly feel they have nothing to fear hence why the cloud is popular.

I find it a amazing that people are so willing to post so much personal information about themselves offsite such as places like the cloud of social media.


That’s why being able to use your own non-recoverable encryption key is important for cloud storage providers. Failing that, at least multi-factor authentication. I hope you’re encrypting your local USB copy too - what happens if it’s stolen. Also, what about the event of a fire? (Are you storing a second copy offsite?)

You’d be surprised how many people (especially more recent generations) simply have no issue with their lives being in the public domain.

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I have learn a couple of things in my life due to experience or just being around for a few plus some more decades; and one thing is for certain if a technology is made by a human it can be ultimately pulled apart or reverse engineered by another motivated human. No amount of encryption or protection will prevent a enthusiast hacker in time getting into some data that they want to explore.

With regard to the cavalier attitude of the many who wish to live their lives online happily reporting every miniature and boring detail of their existence to the world, as my mother used to say ‘that too will end in tears’ for many.

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Well, if someone manages to hack the Tianhe-2 (MilkyWay-2) supercomputer and tie up it’s resources for the next 10 years to crack a 256-bit encryption key, they’re welcome to my data. (We’re not talking about websites with shoddy security measures here). One of the cloud providers (CrashPlan, iirc) is even using 448-bit blowfish encryption.

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There is always a backdoor for an imaginative enterprising soul, they just need the incentive to go find it.

Just ask the Iranian government who though their centrifuges were going to be safe from cyber attack because they weren’t even physically connected online, but a creative mind or minds developed Stuxnet and got it inadvertently installed by a unwitting employee.