From viruses and software bugs, to hardware failure or human error, there are many potential dangers waiting to trash your files.

And if the worst happens - you lose personal photos, your music library, important business documents - then that could be a real disaster. Which is why it's a very good idea to back up your PC on a regular basis.

This is never going to be fun, of course, but with the right software it'll be easier than you think. And you may not have to spend anything, either, because there are some great free backup and disk cloning tools around.

Whether you want to copy the contents of your Documents folder somewhere, clone one drive to another, or create a backup image of your entire system, we've found plenty of programs that can help.

So what's the best free backup and disk cloning software? Read on for our recommendations.

1. AOMEI Backupper

Download AOMEI Backupper

If you like your backup programs to be simple than AOMEI Backupper's straightforward interface will appeal immediately. Choose the drive or partition to back up, the destination drive, and a click later Backupper will be creating an image for you.

AOMEI

The program has plenty of power, though, if you need it. There are options to encrypt or compress your backups. You can create incremental or differential backups for extra speed. You're able to restore individual files and folders, or the entire image, and there are even disk and partition cloning tools.

What you can't do, unfortunately, is schedule backups - they must be run manually. But otherwise AOMEI Backupper is an excellent tool, packed with features yet also easy to use.

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2. EaseUS Todo Backup Free

Download EaseUS Todo Backup Free

Just like most free (for personal use) editions of commercial products, EaseUS Todo Backup Free has a few limitations - but the package still has more than enough features for most people.

The program can run both image and file-based backups, for instance, manually or on a schedule. You're able to run full or incremental backups.

EaseUS Todo Backup Free

An option to limit write speed reduces the impact backups have on your system performance. It's possible to individual files or folders, or an entire image via the program's recovery disc. And there are tools to clone and wipe drives, too.

On the negative side, you don't get encryption, there's no differential backup, and you only get a Linux-based disc (not Windows PE). But EaseUS Todo Backup Free still looks like a great program to us.

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3. Redo Backup and Recovery

Download Redo Backup and Recovery

Redo Backup and Recovery is an imaging backup tool with a difference. Instead of installing a program, you download a large (249MB) ISO file, and burn it to CD or USB key drive. Then just boot from it to launch a simple tool which can back up your drives, and restore them later (even if Windows won't start).

There's also an undelete tool, and even a web browser if you need to look for help on your PC problems.

Redo Backup and Recovery

The program isn't exactly convenient, then. You can't schedule backups, they all have to be run manually, and there are very few options.

But it's also easy to use and free for everyone, so if you only want to run backups occasionally - or want a system you can use on any PC, without installing software - then it might be worth a look.

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4. Cobian Backup

Download Cobian Backup

Cobian Backup is an excellent file backup tool with lots of features. You get full, differential and incremental backups, for instance; zip or 7zip compression; AES 256-bit encryption; include and exclude filters; a strong scheduler, backup to or from FTP servers, and the list goes on. Every aspect of the program is extremely configurable, too (there are more than 100 settings you can tweak).