Last week I wrote about the imperative to frequently and constantly back up our hard drives. I referenced the three most important words in computing: Backup, Backup and Backup! I warned about Murphy’s first law of computing: “A properly backed up hard drive will never fail, but the first time that you do not have a current backup, it will always fail at the most inopportune time.”
Apparently some of you paid attention because I received several e-mails and phone calls from readers asking for specific recommendations, predominantly for free backup software. I tried a few of the free backup utilities, and developed a preference for EaseUS Todo Backup Free 3.0, available for download at www.todo-backup.com. This free backup utility will run on almost all Windows systems, including Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Windows 7 (all 32 & 64 bit systems), with FAT or NTFS file systems, and with RAID or dynamic disks.
EaseUS Todo Backup Free 3.0 is a complete product, offering just about every backup function in a single free utility. This utility can create a hard disk image that can be used to totally restore the contents of a dead hard drive to a new hard drive, allowing the user to be up and running in a matter of minutes. Being in a disaster prone area subject to the whims of hurricanes, tornadoes and brush fires, disaster recovery should be of concern to all users, and this backup software makes fast recovery possible. Viruses, worms, trojans, physical wear and tear, power surges and accidental damage can harm or destroy a hard drive, and this software can be used to recover that data, provided that a backup had been created in a timely fashion. Unlike some other products, EaseUS Todo Backup Free can automatically create and maintain (update) the image file in real time without user intervention. Because of this beneficial feature, the user who has this feature activated will always have a current image backup that can restore the entire hard drive in the event of a catastrophic failure. For those who prefer to schedule backups, they can be run at a predetermined time or scheduled daily, weekly or monthly.
While I frequently create an image file capable of restoring an entire hard drive, including operating system and program files, I mostly create a file backup where my data files are copied. With this feature, data files of all types, including documents, spreadsheets, images, videos, e-mail, music and other data types can be instantly recovered or restored if necessary. If desired, entire folders, along with all of their contents, can automatically be backed up. I cannot count how many times in recent years that I have had to recover files from the backup, which is a great convenience. The EaseUS Todo Backup Free can automatically create and maintain both differential (files that have changed since last backup) and incremental (newer versions or changed files) backups, such that the user does not have to manually create and update backups unless desired.
EaseUS Todo Backup Free makes it very easy to recover from the disastrous loss of data caused by a hard drive failure, provided that a backup had been created. The software can easily create a bootable CD, DVD or USB drive with either a Linux or WinPE operating system (included) that can boot the computer and then run EaseUS Todo Backup utility. Once booted, this utility can read the recovery media and then recreate a hard drive, all with a single click. Typically, following a hard drive failure, the hard drive is replaced. Since the newly installed hard drive is effectively blank, it needs to have an operating system, programs and data reinstalled in order to restore complete functionality. The previously created image file is an exact copy of what was on the original hard drive when the backup was created, so restoring the image to the new hard drive results in a fully functional hard drive complete with operating system, programs and data files. In terms of usability, it is just as if the original hard drive was still functional, but now the computer is running with a new hard drive. If instead of just a hard drive being replaced, other major components are replaced or an entirely new computer is obtained, this software can install the previously created image file on the repaired or new computer, enabling rapid use of all previously installed programs and data. This same process can be followed if the user upgrades a computer with a larger hard drive and then restores the operating system and all program and data files from the image backup. Likewise, the user who purchases a new computer can use this software to install existing programs to a new PC, a process called “migration.”While my personal preferences are to create backups to multiple external USB hard drives, and data CD and DVD discs, EaseUS Todo Backup also supports backing up to remote off-premises backup services, network attached storage, FTP to remote servers and almost all other forms of backup media, devices and services. Some users prefer to use a virtual machine (memory resident), and this backup utility supports that option by being able to convert the backup image file to .VMDK (VMware virtual disk format) or .VHD (for Virtual PC ) and then mount into a virtual machine directly. While most users would likely just restore the image to a new hard drive, some users may prefer the virtual machine method.
In terms of security, this software offers several options. Access to the backup, regardless of media used, may be restricted by the use of a password, giving some protection from unauthorized access. For even greater security, 256-bit AES encryption of the backup is available, making it almost impossible for unauthorized users to be able to read the backup files. Sometimes users may want to securely erase all or parts (folders and files) of a hard drive, making it nearly impossible to recover erased files. EaseUS Todo Backup offers a secure “Wipe” function that securely eliminates content from the hard drive.
In experimenting with EaseUS Todo Backup Free 3.0, I found it to be a most comprehensive and complete backup utility that can back up and recover from and to any combination of hardware and systems. In response to my readers who asked for a recommendation for a free backup utility, this may be the one to try.
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