10 essential tools for backing up and protecting your PC

Not all backup tools are equal – choose the right tool for your needs

The importance of backing up can't be overstated, but choosing the right tool for the job can be tricky at the best of times. In this roundup, we've not simply looked at 10 tools that do similar things, but dug deep to find a selection of programs that back up different parts of your system, whether it's protecting your email and browser settings or taking an exact byte-for-byte copy of everything on your hard drive. Whatever you need to back up, we've got the perfect tool for you.

COMODO Backup

The most comprehensive file-based backup tool out there

File-based backups are ten a penny, but what lifts COMODO Backup above the opposition is the sheer amount of control you have over your backups. For starters, it'll back up just about anywhere (untick 'Install cCloud' during installation if you don't want to use its paid-for cloud storage).

COMODO Backup

When it comes to free file-based backups, COMODO Backup has no equal.

Then there's the choice of what to back up: files and folders (use Smart Profiles to quickly target specific file types), disks or partitions, selected email, internet and instant messaging data and even Registry files and entries are all supported. Schedule your backups, choose between full, differential and incremental backup types COMODO Backup has it all for those who want full control over protecting their data.

Macrium Reflect Free

Take an exact copy of your hard drive for maximum protection

Drive-imaging tools take an exact byte-for-byte copy of a hard drive or partition for backup purposes. They're essential in protecting your main system drive from failure, and when it comes to complete drive backups, Macrium Reflect Free is by far the daddy of free imaging tools.

Macrium Reflect Free

Macrium Reflect Free turns hard-drive failure from disaster into minor irritation.

Not only can you image partitions or drives – including an option to automatically select the key partitions required to back up Windows – Macrium also lets you browse your backups to retrieve individual files. It also allows you to verify your images to make sure they won't let you down should you need them, and provides an essential rescue disc creation tool to cover you in a crisis.

Toucan Portable

Back up, sync or encrypt data from any Windows PC

If you need to sync, backup or even encrypt your data from anywhere, you need Toucan Portable. Add it to your portable USB toolkit and it'll cover you on any Windows PC. Set up jobs for each of your tasks, then use rules to determine what to include or exclude from your backup.

Toucan Portable

If you need to back up on the road, Toucan Portable is your best friend.

Compress your backups to save space (critical if you're backing up to your USB flash drive) and make sure you tick 'Test After Creation' to ensure your backup isn't corrupt. Finally, visit Settings and click Help for access to the program's documentation.

BuddyBackup

Create your own personal secure cloud with friends and family

Cloud services offer a secure, remote place for your data, but they can be expensive. If you and some friends have lots of spare drive space to hand, why not swap it so you can store each other's backups far away from your original files?

BuddyBackup

Swap spare drive space with friends to create secure off-site backups.

BuddyBackup allows you to set aside unused drive space for others to back up to, which in turn allows you to store that amount of data remotely with your "buddies". It's simple to set up and use, encrypts your data for security and allows you to back up locally too, for those times when your buddies aren't switched on and connected.

FreeFileSync

Keep two folders up to date and synced with FreeFileSync

FreeFileSync's main use is – as its title suggests – keeping a pair of folders in sync. It's especially suited for syncing files between an internal drive and an external one, such as a USB flash drive, but by switching the sync setting to Mirror or Update, you can also use it to quickly back up a select folder too.