I have not done any backing up, does anyone know what would be the best way to do so? I would like free.

UPDATE: incremental backups are best. Offsite is good too.

16 Answers 16


Use Crashplan for backing up. Why? Its free, and has been out for 2 years w/ many robustifying updates. Also

  • Encrypts/compresses the backup;
  • sends backup off-site;
  • You can set up a second computer (parents, sister's, distant relative) to do backup;
  • Did I mention it is free?
  • Restoration of files is simple.
  • That's nice! There's so many options! This one works for me.
    – James T
    Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 12:00
  • i had not heard of this before, looks really nice. Thanks for the tip :)
    – Mike M
    Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 13:11
  • ...but a restore of all your files may take days if they're stored on the Crashplan servers?
    – Arjan
    Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 20:23
  • Bubby4j, thanks for selecting my answer. I should add, that there are two more benefits: 1) Crashplan is usually configured to backup to offsite computer; 2) You can adjust how greedy Crashplan is with computer resources -- so you barely notice it when Crashplan is responding to new files; and 3) It incrementally backs up by a continuously running process
    – Rolnik
    Commented Aug 21, 2009 at 13:47

You can get free storage with a windows live (hotmail) account with what they call skydrive. You could also setup a gmail account and backup data to it. Read more about that here

Both of those are free, but keep in mind you are trusting your data to people who arent you!

An excellent pay option is Mozy. Unlimited storage for $5 a month. You can get up to 2gb for free, which may be enough depending on your stoarge needs. Again you are trusting your data to the company and their data centers/security. The great thing about mozy is the software is very easy to setup for automatic backups (that way you cant forget!)

Ultimately the best idea to keep the data in your hands is to buy a external hard drive, and copy files to it. Like these The backup can be done manually or with aumated software like Cobain, and many many others.


Please note. Many people get the terms incremental and differential confused when discussing backups. In my experience, differential is preferable to incremental.

They both rely on a "full backup" that can happen once or on a recurring schedule. Then they differ.

Incremental backups only copy the data that has changed since the last incremental backup. This means that if you need to restore from backup you'll need the full backup and all incremental backups up to the date you are attempting to recover.

Differential backups copy all data that has changed since the last full backup. This means that if you need to restore from backup you'll only need the full backup and the differential from the date you're trying to recover.


Have you checked out Live Mesh?

You can Sync your folders with it and grab them form any computer and even some devices. It is stored on a could.

  • 1
    Live Mesh is very cool, but limited to 5 GB. If that's enough for you, use it.
    – Steve Rowe
    Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 2:51

Well that certainly depends on what you want to do, what your setup is like, and how long do you want it to take.

Some more details would be great :)

I use Microsoft SyncToy to sync my projects folder to my external hard drive.

I also use DropBox to upload the same folder to the cloud.

To take a complete image of a disk, I use Drive Image XML.

Edit: Totally forgot to add: I use Sync Back at home too.


For me the best one is Mozy. Recently I had a notebook stolen and recovered all the files easily. It has 2GB Free and is just $5 per month for unlimited storage. It makes incremental backups too and is very fast.


+1 for SyncBack.

I've been using it for many months now and I am very happy with it.

It has many customizable options giving you total control over what files and folders are backed up.

Once it is setup it just runs all by itself.

  • +1 To be clear, SyncBack is really more of a file synchronization tool, but could be used for backup purposes.
    – Craig
    Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 21:25

Since you are using Windows (question tagged Windows Windows-Vista)

I use SyncBack, features at: http://www.2brightsparks.com/syncback/compare.html

(answer previously supplied to question 25544)


You ask what the "best way" is. Many solutions have already been offered. From a more abstract approach, you need to consider which files are truly vital to you. Backing up system files and DLLs you did not write will just slow things down; so make sure you have the smallest footprint of what you really want.

Do you want one backup? Two? Five? The suggestions to use the cloud as storage take care of the problem that at least one of the backups should be offsite. If you make perfect copies but then the building burns down, you're out of luck.

Do you want to do full backups or incremental ones? Full backups back up the whole file each time regardless of whether or not it has changed. Incremental backups only backup the files that have changed since the last whole backup. Differential backups only backup the differences in the files. All have pros and cons.

Edit: Also, if one is going to be using the cloud as storage, you may want to consider encrypting the backup file. Obvious yes, but it might be overlooked.

All of these factors should be considered when selecting one of the many fine tools offered in the answers.


JungleDisk. It's a similar to Mozy in that it's an online backup service but it uses your Amazon S3 account.

If you don't have an Amazon S3 account already their setup process walks you through setting one up, it's pretty straight forward.


I would personally recommend that you take a look through some of the older questions on this site. There are already a good number of questions there about backing up geared towards home users on a variety of operating systems.


I would believe that a Distributed Version Control System that handles binaries would be the best option. If you keep all your documents in My Documents and ensure that your data is all in the DVCS & up to date, you can clone your repository out to a different hard drive or a network server and that will back your data up.

  • 1
    Version control systems usually have overhead in the file system one most often doesn't want for a complete user profile. Also you have to remember checking in new files and committing changed ones. Backups should rarely, if ever, rely on the user having to consciously do something. If they do, then sooner or later you won't have a backup at all anymore.
    – Joey
    Commented Aug 20, 2009 at 20:18

The way I do it at work is with the built-in Windows Backup Utility (Start > Run > ntbackup.exe). If you have XP Home Edition, it's a separate install.

I have it set up to run backups of my data to a separate harddrive mounted in the case.

If you want to get into backup strategies... I like running a normal backup every Monday and then differential backups every other day of the week. So in a recovery situation, at most, I'd have to recover from only 2 backups. But that part is all up to your situation.


Personally, I use an external hard drive, and a perl script that I wrote that backs up files from multiple locations on my pc, to the external drive.


I know you're on Windows, but just in case there's ever a need to backup other machines...

I use rsnapshot for backing up my Mom's remote Mac, as well as my Unix mail server.


The best backup is a backup that you can quickly restore when needed. For me, that rules out many (if not all) of the online backup services. See Best choice for a personal “online backup” in Europe for references to some test results on that.

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