Published Jun 13, 2022 1:00 PM
Solid backup software should be a fundamental part of your digital life. If you aren’t backing up your data on a regular basis then you are putting your documents and memories at risk. There are free cloud solutions offered by Google and Apple that we generally agree to upon the purchase of a new smartphone. But these solutions are limited and don’t offer the same dedicated security and reliability that you can find with software designed for the purpose of backing up your data. It’s the best backup software that can offer you more than just a secondary place to store your litany of photos.
The other factor that necessitates the need for backup software is the physical lifespan of our storage devices. Both internal and external hard drives have limited life spans. These devices will cease to function at some point and if we’re not vigilant with backing up our data with a full redundancy plan, we put our data at risk. The best backup software will add an essential layer of security to your computer workflow without adding a ton of extra hassle or cost.
How we chose the best backup software
Reputation is important when it comes to backup software because it’s a big deal to trust a company with your files. For this list, we started by comparing a wide array of backup software, then emphasized those with solid pricing, reliable service, decent encryption, and broad compatibility. We relied on a combination of personal experience, editorial reviews, user impressions, and feature comparisons to choose the best possible options for a variety of users. As companies often change their offerings, pricing, and terms of service, it’s always a good idea to make sure you know exactly what you’re paying for before signing up—especially true if you’re getting into a longer-term deal.
Things to consider before buying the best backup software
When you are purchasing (or downloading a free version) backup software, you’ll want to remember to only buy what you need. Many products on the market are filled with technical features that can obfuscate the standard operation of the software. Additionally, there are just as many, if not more, enterprise backup software solutions that you likely don’t need. Simple can absolutely be better, especially if it means the difference between using it and avoiding it.
Backup software options, good and bad, can range in price from free to upwards of a few hundred dollars. While it’s difficult to truly put a price on your data, it’s important to put it in perspective. Paying a one-time cost of $50 to secure your data is a bargain compared to what you pay annually for streaming services alone. While that’s not a direct parallel, it helps put it in perspective. Free options have their place as well, but there is always a catch with anything that’s free. In this case, that can mean less reliable, slower, or less secure services.
Level of encryption security
There are two levels of encryption security employed by most backup software products. Either one is acceptable for general use. While 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is the basic level of protection, 256-bit AES offers more secure encryption because the encryption key is longer. The good news is that, unlike crypto wallets, you generally don’t have to remember or store these encryption keys as the backup software handles them for you.
Incremental backup vs. full backup
Once you settle on a piece of backup software, you’ll have to decide how you want your backups to proceed. Most backup software products offer both incremental and full backups, but you might have to toggle some settings. Incremental backup means that the software only backs up the data that has changed since your last backup. This is handy if you want quick, more frequent backups. Full backups do as the name implies, backing up all your data every time. This is the default method of software backups but usually is run in tandem with incrementals.
Operating system compatibility
In a world of multiple operating systems (albeit some more popular than others), it’s important to make sure that the backup software you choose works with the OS you run. There are pieces of software designed specifically for particular operating systems. Windows, Linux, and macOS all have backup software programs that work best with the OS, and some that won’t work at all.
The best backup software: Reviews & Recommendations
With the features and specs outlined above, it’s time to get into the specific picks. While we have broken these choices down into categories, there’s always some overlap involved, so be sure to peruse the entire list before committing to one option.
Best for Windows: Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office
Why it made the cut: Acronis Cyber Protect is a feature-filled piece of software that offers more backup tools than its competitors.
- System compatibility: For macOS, Windows, Android, iOS
- Encryption: AES-256 encryption
- Price: $49.99 – $124.99
- Backup locally or to the cloud
- Ransomware protection
- File syncing
- Tons of features
- Advanced features can be tenuous for basic users
- Slower upload speed
- No free storage
Acronis Cyber Protect offers full backups for your PC, as well as the option to clone drives or even partitions. You can even select individual folders and files to backup. You can back up locally or to a cloud service. There is also an annual subscription for additional security features, with 500GB of storage on the base plan. The point is that Acronis is packed with handy backup features like disk cleanup and system management utilities.
The price range covers several versions of the software. The base price ($49.99) covers one computer’s backups and restores, with ransomware protection. The advanced version ($89.99) adds 500GB of cloud storage, additional malware protection, and the ability to backup Microsoft 365 files. The premium version ($124.99) has all that plus another 500GB of cloud storage, upgradable to 5TB. It also offers blockchain certification options and digital file signatures. Up to five computers can use the subscription.
One issue with backup software can be the interface. With Acronis Cyber Protect, the interface is very similar to a file manager. That makes it very consumer-friendly and easier to understand and use. Some of the deeper menu options can be a little confusing, but nothing the user manual can’t sort out.
Best for Mac: Get Backup Pro 3
Why it made the cut: Get Backup Pro is a backup utility app specifically designed for macOS users.
- System compatibility: For macOS
- Encryption: AES-128, AES-256, Blowfish, Triple DES encryption
- Price: $19.99
- Scheduled backups
- Incremental backups
- User-friendly UI
- Just for MacOS
- No additional security protections
Get Backup Pro is a simple piece of backup software that offers very simple options. If you want to backup your data before yet another macOS operating system update, this is one of your best options. It can create a bootable clone of your drive, so when the OS upgrade bricks your system, you’ll be good to go upon restoring. It also provides incremental backups, cutting down on backup time and memory resources.
This is a very easy-to-use backup option. You can schedule your backups with relative ease and choose your backup location. Again, basic stuff here. The selling point of Get Backup Pro is that it’s optimized for macOS and is a good thing to have installed if you are an early OS adapter.
Best free: Aomei Backupper 6 Standard
Why it made the cut: Backupper 6 Standard offers a free standard version of its software that covers your basic backup needs.
- System compatibility: Windows
- Encryption: None
- Price: Free – $59.95
- Easy to manipulate
- Backups stored in one file
- No encryption in free version
- Lacking a pause option
- No advanced security options
Aomei Backupper 6 Standard comes in three versions: Free, Professional ($49.95), and Workstation ($59.95). Each one offers an escalating list of backup options, with the Workstation version being designed for business use. The free version offers basic backup options such as file, system, disk, and partition backups. It jams all of this in one AFI file you can move wherever you need it. The paid versions add schemas, differential backups, and encryption.
The downside to the free version is what you’d expect from freeware, a constant litany of advertising and offers to upgrade. If you can stand that pestering and only need the most basic of backup options, then Aomei Backupper 6 Standard might be the backup you’re looking for.
Best for power users: IDrive
Why it made the cut: IDrive is a powerful backup tool aimed at businesses and power users, which makes it an essential option for cloud backups.
- System compatibility: For Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux/Unix
- Encryption: 256-bit AES encryption
- Price: $3.98 annual subscription
- Multiple OS support
- End-to-end encryption
- Tons of options
- Subscription tiers can get pricey
- Lacks real-time collaboration tools
For $3.98 a year you can have 10TB of encrypted cloud storage. That’s not a bad deal. That’s only for the first year, then the cost jumps a bit. And if you’ve got a small business, the cost could be in the thousands based on how many machines you need to be backed up. That being said, IDrive offers a clear, easy-to-use UI, and hierarchical backups.
IDrive provides end-to-end encryption, but it requires you to hold a private key. This means if you lose that key, you lose access to your data. If you fear that loss, IDrive also offers standard encryption, storing the access key for you. IDrive has a wide range of backup options for whatever you need, whether it be photos on your phone or enterprise servers. While the UI can be a bit technical at times, it’s easy enough to navigate while dragging and dropping your files.
Best for media storage: Google/iCloud
Why it made the cut: It’s a surprisingly full-featured offering for a free option.
- System compatibility: For all operating systems
- Encryption: Basic 2FA security
- Price: Totally free
- You already have it
- Easy to use
- Coordinates across devices
- Storage fills up fast
- No true automatic backup options
- No security features
If your backup needs are limited to your photos, videos, and random media files, you might not need to purchase backup software at all. Sometimes simpler is better, especially if you don’t need anything complex. Some users don’t care about creating a drive image, or a full restore. These users simply use their computers for web-based work or play and just need a place to store their pictures and miscellaneous files.
Whether you are using a Mac or Windows PC, Google and Apple’s iCloud are available to you (generally depending on your mobile device OS preference). Both offer generous free storage upgradeable for a small fee. They are both simple options for automatic backups of the photos on your smartphone or documents created in the cloud. Plus, they are accessible from anywhere anytime.
Best unlimited cloud storage: Backblaze
Why it made the cut: Backblaze packs in all the great features you’d expect from a competent backup software, with an unlimited storage capacity.
- System compatibility: For Windows and macOS
- Encryption: 128-bit AES encryption
- Price: Variable annual rate
- One pricing plan
- Offline restore options
- File sharing
- Unlimited storage
- Single license only
- No folder syncing
Backblaze has been around for a while and is one of the most widely used backup software programs. One of those reasons is that Backblaze keeps it fairly simple with one subscription plan per single computer. Most users, though, would cite the unlimited storage offered as its main selling point. It’s not the fastest backup solution on the market, and its web interface is a bit clunky, but did we mention unlimited storage?
Seven dollars a month (at the high end, a longer subscription lowers the per month rate) for unlimited storage is a heck of a good deal. When you download Backblaze it’ll prompt you to back up everything and provide a storage estimate. If you want to only back up certain things, you’ll have to deal with that later through an exclusion menu. This process can be a bit of a pain, but again, unlimited storage for a few dollars a month. You really can’t get it better than that.
Q: Does Windows 10 include backup software?
Technically, yes. Windows includes its classic “Backup and Restore” utility that creates full backups and drive images. You can also restore files with its file history feature. These are fairly straightforward backup options and are contingent on a physical location or backup drive for storage. These are not separate software platforms though, they are baked into Windows.
Q: What is backup software used for?
Backup software is used to secure your data through redundancy. While this can functionally be done by simply copying and pasting all your files on an ongoing basis to an external drive, most backup software programs will do this automatically. Additionally, many backup software options are cloud-based and can create incremental backups, saving space and time. If you have data, no matter the type, you should consider a competent backup option.
Q: What is the best personal backup software for Windows 10?
For its pricing and options, Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office is the best third-party option for Windows 10 PCs. This is a comprehensive piece of software that is simultaneously easy to use. It has a clean user interface and won’t break the bank with its standard storage plans. If the built-in Windows features aren’t offering you the backup options you need, then Acronis should be at the top of your list.
Q: What should I look for in backup software?
When shopping for backup software, like anything else, you’ll want to look for one that meets your needs. Are you running enterprise servers? More than one PC? Do you only need your photos backed up? What operating system are you running? All these factors tie into your backup software decision.
The final word on the best backup software
Your data is important to you so why would you put it at risk by putting your faith in your operating system never breaking down? Between power outages frying your motherboard, operating system updates bricking your system or even kids spamming the delete button, having a reliable backup system is important. Finding a piece of backup software that offers incremental or full backups at a reasonable price can be the difference between losing your data forever and just losing it for a few hours.