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When Disaster Happens, You'll Wish You'd Made a Windows Backup

Windows backup software allows you to create a copy of your hard drive contents to keep in a safe place, letting you quickly restore lost files in the event of a drive failure or wayward software update. The best backup apps let you set a schedule and choose which folders to duplicate. And some let you make a bootable clone of your drive, so you can get right back to work after a drive failure.


Windows Backup Software FAQS

  • Why do I need a backup plan?
    Hard-disk and SSD drives fail. App installations go wrong. Documents get lost or accidentally deleted. If you don't have a current copy of important documents or special photos, when disaster happens, your files are gone for good. If you do have a current backup, then you can easily restore the contents of your drive and return to work.
  • What's a good backup strategy?
    The best backup strategy is the one you'll stick to. So pick a strategy that is simple and -- most important -- automated. Using a backup utility with a local external drive is convenient. If your main drive dies, you have quick access to your replacement files. And a good external drive is less than $100. If you want to prepare for the worst (a house fire, say, or flood), take the next step and store your backups remotely, using a dedicated online backup service. A subscription to a cloud-based backup service goes for around $50 a year.
  • Are some of my files already getting backed up?
    You might already have a backup of some files. If you are using Google Docs editors or Microsoft Office Online, for example, then your files are stored in the cloud, safe from local mishaps. Or if you use Google Photos or Amazon's Prime Photos on your phone, then you have copies of your images stored in the cloud.

Best Windows backup utilities

Windows 10's Built-In Backup Utility

Windows 10's Built-In Backup Utility

Windows 10 comes with a built-in utility that lets you automatically backup the contents of your user folder to an external storage device. Head to Start > Settings > Update & security > Backup and then tap "Add a drive" to choose where to keep your backups. By default, Windows will run a backup every hour, but tap "More options" to change the frequency.

Backup and Sync from Google

Backup and Sync from Google

If you want to make free cloud-based backups of specific files and documents, Google has Backup and Sync, a Windows app that continuously copies local folders to Google Drive. You can set which folders to back up to Drive -- including photos and videos -- as well as sync specific folders from Drive back to your PC. Your backup files count toward your Drive cap.

Acronis True Image

Acronis True Image

For more control over what gets backed up and where, check out Acronis. You can create a clone of the entire contents of a hard drive-- including OS, applications, settings, and files -- and then restore everything or just specific files. For $49.99, you can back up to local devices. With an annual subscription starting at $39.99, back up to Acronis's cloud-based servers.

CrashPlan

CrashPlan

For $59.99 a year, CrashPlan can make continuous and unlimited backups to the cloud. CrashPlan will back up all your files and documents, or you can select specific files. You can also schedule backups and hit pause if, for example, you are on a public Wi-Fi. A free version lets you make backups to a local storage device.

Backblaze

Backblaze

Backblaze offers a similar service for $50 a year. The cloud-based service lets you continuously back up files, documents, and photos to Backblaze's cloud service.

Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for Download.com. He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.