Best simple Windows backup software?
December 2, 2009 9:37 PM   Subscribe

Looking for good easy-to-use Windows backup software.

I'm looking for a backup solution for my dad that will be as easy to use as possible. He's not very computer savvy so the simpler the better. Basically I'm looking into something similar to Time Machine for OS X that will automatically update his backup drive every time he plugs it in with an option to restore from his backup should anything crash. He's currently on Windows XP, but is looking at getting a laptop (which presumably will have Windows 7 installed), so something that will function well across both would be best. Thanks!
posted by fishmasta to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
One simple and cheap option is SyncToy, which will work on both Vista and XP. Just set up the folder pairs (or the entire drive) and echo from laptop to backup. There are ways to schedule it to run automatically, and I don't see why you couldn't set it as the default application to run when you plug in the external. It is not meant as a utility to create a fully bootable disk images though, this is for data backup.
posted by sophist at 10:18 PM on December 2, 2009

Try Cobian Backup. Simple and creates file-level full and incremental backups, but it's not suitable for restoring system states.
posted by benzenedream at 11:11 PM on December 2, 2009

I use Acronis TrueImage to handle all my backup needs. I'd get the home version. There are several wizards that litterally do all the hard work for you. You just have to select your drive and destination, press start, and grab a cup of coffee. TrueImage is widely regarded as one of the best backup solutions for windows, and it allows to you transfer files between two hard drives in the same computer, computer to external, computer to LAN, amongst many other options. It's saved me quite a a few times, and it comes wiht a fully functional free trial.
posted by FireStyle at 11:33 PM on December 2, 2009

This may be more than you are looking for, but...

I spent roughly $350 on hardware to build a small form factor desktop machine (atom processor, tiny case, terrabyte hard drive. Then I installed Windows Home Server on that machine. Once I had it up and running, I just stuck the machine in a dark corner under my desk, wired into the network.

Both my computer and my wife's computer have the Windows Home Server connector installed, and they both run nightly backups automatically. WHS manages keeping appropriate backups (as I recall it keeps the trailing seven days, then a month's worth of weekly backups, then monthly backups). If a backed up computer fails, you can create a bootable restore disk and restore the machine back to where it was.

It takes a tiny bit of effort to set up to begin with, but that WHS box has been running for months now with no other maintenance from me. It also functions as a central file share, and can stream media to any device that uses the media connector (like the Xbox 360).
posted by Lokheed at 12:29 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I use GoodSync. It's shareware, and does what you would like it to do with more controls than SyncToy. Not sure if that's a plus for your dad.
I haven't looked at it since forever, since it just does its thing daily when I leave for lunch. IIRC, I liked the incremental backup facilities better.
posted by gijsvs at 2:13 AM on December 3, 2009

Oops!Backup has a 30 day trial version. I've not used it myself, but it seems to have the features I'd want in a backup product, and I will certainly be trying it soon.
posted by flabdablet at 2:23 AM on December 3, 2009

Granted, I have never used Time Machine, however, as for my Windows-based experience, I actually like and use SyncBack (the free version).

Additionally, I also use Toucan. It is neither fancy nor flashy, but I find it extremely easy to use.

posted by noztran at 5:42 AM on December 3, 2009

I use two programs (not free but not expensive either) I am very happy with.

1. Acronis TrueImage to ghost my machine. Right after installing windows (and acronis) I ghost the machine to an external drive. Then I begin installing my various softwares (firewall, photoshop, winamp, etc). At a few points during the process I make ghost images and then a final one when finished. This way, at any time in the future if my system becomes unstable I can simply reinstall a ghost image and return to a prior state. I have done this about 5 times in the past few years and it works well and is fast. It knows how to do full, differential and incremental so you are not necessarily creating huge files every time you create a ghost image.

I don't feel Trueimage is a good solution for other backups though (e.g. your digital photo archive, your mp3s, etc). For that kind of thing I use:

2. Vice Versa. It is very powerful and has all kinds of options like compression, encryption, comparison (e.g. timestamp, or contents, or both), exclusion/inclusion lists (e.g. exclude files over x MB or with extension .xxx), bandwidth to use, scheduling, several modes (mirroring, update only, synchronizing (sort of a bidirectional backup) etc) and so on. I have been using it for a few years and am very happy with it.
posted by jockc at 9:47 AM on December 3, 2009

Crashplan free version
posted by WizKid at 1:54 PM on December 4, 2009

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