Best Free Drive Backup programs for Windows

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 8, 2014
Updated • May 25, 2017

Computer hard drives and other storage devices will fail eventually. While you may be able to use them for years without any issues, failures can happen from one moment to the next.

If you are not prepared for that, by making sure your data is backed up safely, you may lose access to the data partially or fully.

While backups are one of the best ways to recover from failing hard drives, they are useful for other purposes as well. They are useful if you need to restore files that were accidentally deleted or to gain access to all the data if a computer gets stolen.

Different types of backup tools are available, from Windows' native System Restore or File History feature over single-file or folder backup programs to applications that back up disks or partitions.

This top list looks at the latter kind to provide you with a selection of programs that you can use for that purpose. As always, I start by listing the requirements for inclusion.


  1. A free version needs to be provided.
  2. The backup program needs to support full partition and disk backups.
  3. A version for Windows needs to be provided.


Programs may support different backup types, in particular full, incremental and differential. This paragraph explains the differences between those types:

Full: This creates a full backup of the partition. Some programs may copy data one to one while others may copy it sector by sector or as a compressed image.

Incremental: This backup type saves files that have been modified or created since the last incremental backup.

Differential: This type saves the modified or created files since the last full backup.

Both incremental and differential backups are used to save storage space as less data needs to be stored when they are run when compared to full backups.

The List of Programs

If you are interested in a feature by feature comparison, scroll down to the table which offers the following information:

  1. The backup methods offered by the program.
  2. Whether encryption, validation and compression are supported.
  3. If backups can be validated.
  4. If bootable media can be created.
  5. Which backup media is supported.
  6. Supported operating systems
  7. The size of a test backup (of a 120 Gigabyte sized primary Windows partition)

Acronis True Image WD Edition

acronis true image wd

This is a limited version of Acronis True Image, a commercial backup program for $49.99, that is free of charge. The system needs to have at least one Western Digital Drive for the software to function properly. This can be an internal or external drive. You can run jobs on other drives as well though.

While limited in scope, it does not support features such as encrypting the data and only supports full backups, it may be sufficient for users who backup their data only frequently to secure storage space.

It takes only a couple of seconds to select the source and target drive for the backup operation. The program has no issues backing up the primary Windows partition or drive but can only create a single backup that is overwritten each time it is run.

Options are provided to change the compression level of the backup, to enable validation, or to split the data automatically.

The program supports the creation of a bootable disc to run recovery if the computer is not booting properly anymore or blocking recovery in other ways.

Tip: Seagate DiscWizard is an identical version of the program for Maxtor and Seagate drives.

Active Disk Image Lite


Active Disk Image Lite is a limited version that supports the creation and restoration of partitions and hard disks. While limited in comparison to the commercial versions, it supports several features of interest.

It can create full partition and disk backups, and supports incremental and differential backups as well which means that consecutive backups won't require as much disk space as before.

Backups are automatically compressed to save space, with options to improve the compression level to reduce the size further. Other options include splitting the backup in chunks, creating a bootable disc to run the software on boot without booting into the operating system, and support for all client and server versions of Windows.

AOMEI Backupper Standard for Win7


The program supports standard file backups as well as partition and disk backups. After you have selected one of the available backup options, you can open the preferences to configure the backup in detail, for instance by changing compression levels or adding encryption to the backup file, before you start the job.

Backupper supports one-time backups and scheduled backups. Other options that it makes available are to clone a drive, and to create bootable media so that you can load the system using it.


Clonezilla is not offered as a Windows executable but as a file that you need to burn on a CD/DVD or copy to a USB Flash Drive.

You need to boot your PC from CD or USB afterwards which is less comfortable than running the backup directly from within Windows.

In addition to that, it is rather difficult to set up as you need to mount a partition and make selections that many Windows users may not be comfortable with.

Comodo Backup Free

comodo backup

You can opt out of the offer to sign up for Comodo's cloud storage offer, if you don't, it becomes available as an online storage location.

The program requires that you reboot the computer before you can run the first backup job. Here you can select to make a system backup, or run a regular backup which gives you more options in regards to what is being backed up and how.

One interesting feature here is that Comodo provides you with a list of suggested locations to backup. You can select to backup browser data, Registry files or emails for example without having to locate the data folders first on the disk.

Before you start any backup, you may want to change the default save location in the settings. Please also note that you may need to run the program as an administrator for some of its functionality.

Disk Master Free

disk master free

Disk Master Free offers a simple backup program that you can use to create and restore disk images. The program supports full, incremental and differential backups, and offers to create a boot disc on first run which you can use to boot the system from.

The program supports compression, can be used to hot clone a drive, or move a system partition to a new drive. The backup process itself was rather slow though when compared to other programs of the test.

DriveImage XML

driveimage xml

DriveImage XML is available as a free for non-commercial use version which you can use to create backups of logical drives and partitions.

Images created this way can be restored to the same drive or another one either directly from within Windows by running the restoration option from inside the tool, or by copying the program to a CD to run it without booting into Windows first.

The program offers several optional features such as browsing backups which can be useful if you need to restore only select files. It lacks options to protect images that it creates with a password though.

EaseUS Todo Backup Free

todo backup

Todo Backup is a popular application which you can use for cloning and creating backups. As far as backups are concerned, you can create file or partition backups and are limited to some of the advanced backup options displayed by the application.

While you can modify some preferences such as the level of compression, there is no option to make use of other features such as password protection or creating differential backups.

Macrium Reflect Free


The application supports disk imaging and cloning but lacks advanced features such as incremental backups. Backups can be scheduled on the other hand and it is possible to create a Linux Rescue CD or Windows PE Rescue Media that you can boot from.

The backup of the system partition did not complete regardless of selected backup option. While the program does support backing up the system partition, it failed to do so on the test system.

Paragon Backup & Recovery Free


Even though Paragon Backup & Recovery Free is a lite limited version, it has more to offer in terms of options than any of the other free disk imaging programs that we have tested for this top list.

You can use it to create disk images, full, differential and incremental are all supported. Besides saving them in the company's own format, backups can also be saved as virtual disks,

The backup software supports password protection and compression, can verify the integrity of archives, and even ships with partitioning options which can come in handy when you connect a new drive to the computer for the first time.

The program was not able to create a backup of the Windows partition though without a reboot and running the operation prior to the launch of the operating system.

Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows


Veeam Agent for Microsoft windows, formerly known as Veeam Endpoint Backup, is a well designed backup software that ships with all major features for Home users.

The program is free, supports manual and scheduled backup jobs, encryption and compression, full and incremental backups, file level backups, and a lot more.

The program is easy to use, and will do its job automatically on schedule if you configure it to do so. The program supports restoration of the entire system, volumes, or individual file restores.

You can create a recovery medium, and run the backup software using it to restore PCs that don't boot anymore.

Additional untested programs

  1. FOG - Is a Linux-based disk imaging solution that is controlled via a php-based web interface. It needs to be installed on a Linux machine to control backups of other client machines on the network.
  2. ImageX - A command line tool (get GUI for it here) from the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit.
  3. ODIN - The program can backup entire hard drive volumes and hard drives under Windows. It supports a wide variety of features including compression and verification of files, a command line interface or options to run it from a USB Flash Drive.
  4. PING - A Linux Live system that you can boot from to backup and restore hard drive partitions.
  5. Redo Backup & Recovery - Another Live CD that you burn to CD to backup and restore disks or shared network folders.
Program Methods Encryption Compression Validation Automation Bootable Media OS Support
Acronis True Image WD Edition full no yes yes yes yes connected hard drives
Windows 7-10
57.0 GB
Active Disk Image Lite full, incremental, differential no yes yes no no hard drives, network, optical Windows 7-10

Windows Server 2003-2012

106 GB
AOMEI Backupper for Win 7 full, incremental, differential yes yes yes yes yes hard drives, network, optical Windows 7-10 78.4 GB
Clonezilla full yes yes yes no yes hard drives, network, optical OS agnostic
Comodo Backup Free full, incremental, differential yes yes yes yes yes hard drives, optical, network Windows XP-8 100 GB
Disk Master full, incremental, differential no yes no no yes hard drives, network Windows XP-10
DriveImage XML full no yes no yes yes hard drives, network Windows XP-10 85.6 GB
EaseUS Todo Backup full no yes yes no yes hard drives WindowsXP-10 82.4 GB
Macrium Reflect Free full no yes yes yes yes hard drives, network WindowsXP-10
Paragon Backup & Recovery Free full, differential yes yes yes yes yes hard drives, network, optical Windows 2000-10 95.3 GB
Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows full, differential yes yes yes yes yes hard drives, shared folder Windows 7-10

Windows Server 2008 R2-2016


Recommendations are based on needs. If you want the program with the smallest backup size, then Acronis True Image may be the logical choice even though it only supports full backups.

As far as features are concerned, the crown is shared by Paragon's Backup & Recovery, AOMEI's Backupper and Comodo's Backup Free as they support features such as encryption or different backup types that not all free imaging solutions support.

Especially support for differential or incremental backups makes a difference here as you won't require as much storage as with a program supporting only full backups.

I use Veeam's solution on my own PCs as I have found them to be very reliable and feature rich.


You may be interested in the following resources:

  1. Freeware Genius' comparative analysis of several disk imaging solutions. Offers benchmarks among other things.
  2. Raymond's analysis of free and commercial disk backup solutions. Includes performance tests as well.
Top Free Drive Backup programs for Windows
Article Name
Top Free Drive Backup programs for Windows
The guide looks at the best free backup solutions for Windows that allow you to backup a partition or full drive so that you can restore it at a later point in time.
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  1. Klaas Vaak said on December 26, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    @Martin Brinkmann: with all due respect, this is now such a basic function, esp. for people reading your articles, that this article is like explaining to the readers how to calculate 1+1.

    1. Herman Cost said on December 26, 2020 at 2:56 pm

      Yes, I have to agree with this. I can’t imagine that there are many spreadsheet users who are computer literate enough to even casually read ghacks, but don’t know how to use a SUM function.

    2. Malte said on December 26, 2020 at 4:05 pm

      @Klass Vaak & Herman Cost
      Ever thought that people might google it so this artice might show up in the search results. it’s not useless. I think it’s a good strategy explaining stuff even if it’s just basic things. Every day there is a new user on the internet searching for this kind of tutorial.

      1. Klaas Vaak said on December 26, 2020 at 6:55 pm

        @Malte: you make a good point, in principle. Nevertheless, nowadays telling people how to do a sum calculation, the simplest of the simple, in a spreadsheet is like teaching grandma to suck eggs.

        If say an elderly person would be sitting in front of a spreadsheet wondering how to sum a number of cells, that person is unlikely to look it up on internet, but would ask one of her/his children.

        And in any case, Ghacks is not a spreadsheet tricks and tips site, so it would not show up high in the ranking in a Google search.

      2. marty said on April 11, 2022 at 1:42 pm

        I`m an elderly person. 71.
        My experience in computers spans 50 years, focused on Unix internals, advanced degrees.
        I look to the internet for answers, since my children hate me and wouldnt tell me “jack”, even if they knew the answer.
        I dont know how to “suck eggs in principle”, or anything else for that matter. I’m retired and not interested in learning. Some other guy learned “the theory of sucking things.”

        Never needed spreadsheets, always too darn busy. Thanks for this info. Now I know how to sum two cells.

        Everyone starts somewhere.

      3. yanta said on September 10, 2023 at 9:34 am

        I am an elderly person and I can use sum, sumif, sumifs and so on. My kids come to me for knowledge on how to use excel and other programs ;)

        But then, I was in IT my entire career before I retired :)

        There are basic sites, and there are advanced sites. GHacks used to be more for people with technical knowledge. You can’t be everything to everyone though that seems to be the trend these days. Since it’s all about clicks and click bait the wider the topics the more you can remain “relevant”…

        However, that mentality tends to alienate the more technical people. I find myself spending less time here every month. It won’t be long before I stop coming here altogether.

        I have no mobile or wireless technology.

        Anything google or apple is insidious to me. And that accounts now for most of the content here.

        As to this article. Avast, and all of their products are untrustworthy. There has been much controversy and negativity regarding their products. I would think a reputable site would be more careful in what they publish… err, sorry, advertise.

    3. Peterc said on December 27, 2020 at 1:22 am

      @Klaas Vaak: In Martin’s defense, it’s the day after Christmas, and some eggnog recipes pack a *real wallop*. Maybe we’re lucky he could type at all. ;-) More seriously, I don’t use Calc super-often, I typically type in the =SUM() function manually, and I’d actually *forgotten* where the Σ button is located in Calc. (The last time I was a heavy spreadsheet user, it was in an older version of Excel and I’m pretty sure the Σ button was somewhere on one of the “regular” toolbars.) So, the article actually did have a small payoff for me. Plus, there might be other intermediate or advanced users of other types of programs (graphics, audio, video, word-processing) who have never used a spreadsheet in their lives. It’s kind of hard to imagine, I know, but it’s possible.

    4. pHROZEN gHOST said on September 5, 2023 at 2:47 pm

      You were not born with the knowledge you have now. You once had to learn too.
      So get down off your high horse, grow up and show a little respect for others who need details.

  2. SpywareFan said on December 26, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Overall LO has become a good SW, what prevents me to use it is:
    “it will not store the information about the data source once the data is imported”
    Until that functionality is implemented I’m forced to use M$ Office (2003).

    1. Klaas Vaak said on December 26, 2020 at 3:05 pm

      @SpywareFan: an interesting alternative for M$ Office is Softmaker’s FreeOffice.

      1. intelligencia said on December 26, 2020 at 10:02 pm

        @Klaas Vaak

        I have the Softmaker’s Free Office Suite in my computer – – and I LOVE IT!


      2. SpywareFan said on December 27, 2020 at 11:18 am

        In the FreeOffice manuals there is no reference to XML data mapping functions.

    2. Kent Brockman said on December 27, 2020 at 8:01 pm

      Another vote for Softmaker’s Free Office, a very nice alternative to MS Office.

  3. Anonymous said on December 26, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    Yes, I use functions in Calc: Average, Min and Max. I use the mouse to select the cells.
    I don’t usually have to use Sum.
    Thanks for the info, and could we have more tips for LibreOffice?
    I find that the documentation does not keep up with the changes in LibreOffice.
    Also, it is hard to find info in the help documentation.

  4. Bart from Holland said on December 26, 2020 at 9:29 pm

    Thanks Martin for all your great work you put in to make our live easier. Have a nice and healthy 2021.

  5. ShintoPlasm said on December 26, 2020 at 11:09 pm

    To all those complaining about this being a simple ‘101’ function: it’s Martin’s blog, he can write a deep-dive review of Windows Calculator if he so wishes. Do you pay his salary or something?

    1. Klaas Vaak said on December 27, 2020 at 5:27 am

      @ShintoPlasm: yes, it is Martin’s blog, but it is a public blog with a comments section, which means he invites people to comment. And having been an avid reader for several years now, I am pretty sure Martin does not expect commenters to agree with him all the time.

      You do not help him with agreeing with everything willy-nilly and “honouring” him with praise. Martin, like everyone else in the world, is not perfect, therefore he can only learn from constructive criticism.

      Unfortunately you look at constructive criticism as a complaint. I do not agree with you on that and will keep making constructive criticism because I believe in keeping this website one of the best ones – refraining from constructive criticism won’t do that.

      1. Kent Brockman said on December 27, 2020 at 7:59 pm

        Absolutely. People could rather than leaving constructive criticism just stop visiting the site. How is that in the best interest of the site’s authors?

  6. Anonymous said on December 30, 2020 at 9:35 pm

    A new way to sum with the latest version is to place the cursor under the numbers to be summed, then press Alt-=, then ENTER.

  7. Pat said on April 19, 2021 at 6:23 am

    The SUM function doesn’t work. It just keeps putting the same total no matter what figures I enter.

  8. Mary said on March 23, 2022 at 11:42 pm

    I would like to know how to make the sum function work. I know how it should work and it works in excel. But when I put the sum function in, it will not make changes when I edit and change the data, the total remains the same

  9. will willows said on July 26, 2022 at 5:41 pm

    Ditto, Marty. Everyone starts somewhere. Thanks.

    1. Anonymous said on September 29, 2022 at 6:04 pm

      Instead of being snarky, maybe you could be helpful. I’d like to add two numbers in a cell;
      In Excel, it would be

      I try that in this piece of crap software, and get a message “Invalid value.”

  10. semce said on August 23, 2023 at 1:52 pm

    I used Excel a lot when I was working. Retired now seven years. Excel was great, especially for macros. I now use LibreOffice, which works similarly but the macros are difficult in comparrison to Excel. I couldn’t find anything on macros for Free Office, which was disappointing, so I uninstalled it. I find Zoho to be the most similar to Excel but there you’re stuck with your spreadsheets in the cloud which I didn’t like.

  11. Graham said on August 24, 2023 at 1:44 am

    Um… When was this article posted? The date says today (August 23, 2023), but I’m seeing comments from 3 years ago.

    1. Anthony said on August 24, 2023 at 5:04 am

      I was going to amuse myself and check out the comments for this Avast AV sponsored post since there were so many comments. I thought it funny since they have an article bashing the product in 2019.

      What do I see when I go to the comments? Ghacks pulled an “Amazon” and replaced an article on Excel SUM functions with a sponsored post to make it look like a good article.

      Anyone and everyone who even has a clue about tech knows that Avast is utter garbage and focuses on spying on you and spamming you with ads these days. Just check out the bad article from 2019 on this very site! If you run Windows 10/11, you already have better antivirus than Avast built-in to Windows.

  12. awf said on August 26, 2023 at 7:33 am

    surely more importantly is why an ad for dodgy anti-virus has the whole thread on office suites instead.. something in the db is messed up.

  13. Kirk said on September 1, 2023 at 5:33 am

    On a slight tangent, does foobar2000 have a built in lyrics plug in? I mostly used Linux and Deadbeef, the closest alternative to Foobar there has a very old(and kinda broke) plug in.

  14. News filter said on September 1, 2023 at 4:04 pm

    If you want news then add this line in uBlock Origin:,.home-posts,.home-category-post:not(:has-text(/Martin Brinkmann|Mike Turcotte|Ashwin/))

    1. owl said on September 2, 2023 at 1:27 am

      @News filter,
      >,.home-posts,.home-category-post:not(:has-text(/Martin Brinkmann|Mike Turcotte|Ashwin/))

      Thanks for the useful information.
      Added line to My filters in uBlock Origin.

      I was able to clean up “all articles” by other authors on the Ghacks site.

      It’s refreshing to be able to see only useful articles (instead of being buried among inferior articles) by clearing out the obtrusive articles.

  15. Anonymous said on September 4, 2023 at 1:04 pm

    Important note: changing policies through the program doesn’t save them automatically. You need to hit Ctrl+S (or go to File > Sve Policies)

  16. Zaqzyp said on September 5, 2023 at 12:56 pm

    What silly click bait article. Even the actual article is ridiculous.

    “The launch of HarmonyOS for PC could pose a serious threat to Windows.”

    Who cares what people in China use.
    Don’t do drugs before working maybe.

    What’s next? Look up the biggest Android fork in China and write pointless long article about it how it’ll take over Google’s Android.

    1. Zaqzyp said on September 5, 2023 at 1:00 pm

      HarmonyOS and Excel comments are mixed up.

  17. Anonymous said on September 5, 2023 at 1:13 pm

    HarmonyOS is not an open-source OS, only partially components.

    What is happening with these comments from other articles?

  18. awd said on September 5, 2023 at 1:14 pm

    this is funny. it looks like the same base article, comments and all has been repurposed and edited or something for 3 (or more) different articles.

    started off as something for some office suite… and then it was some antivirus thing.. and now it’s some iffy os.

    wtf is that writer doing? no one reads or comments on the ad articles and he has to reuse old ones to make it look like it’s getting traction? (though it shows up as 0 comments on the homepage, so that can’t be it?)

  19. dial said on September 5, 2023 at 2:34 pm

    “HarmonyOS does not have Google. Huawei’s HarmonyOS is a proprietary operating system..”
    “HarmonyOS is open-source, which means that it can be customized by developers and manufacturers.”

    Both are quotes from the article. So which one is it, open source or proprietary?

  20. Winnie said on September 5, 2023 at 4:01 pm

    Without windows-based videogames able to run, it’ll stay niche.

    Huawei better put serious money into a harmonyOS port of Wine, DXVK or Proton if it wants its machine being more than web browsing thin clients.

  21. John G. said on September 5, 2023 at 4:14 pm

    I won’t trust a foreign OS.

    1. John G. said on September 5, 2023 at 4:16 pm

      Deeply foreign, I meant. In so many ways.

    2. Anonymous said on September 18, 2023 at 2:00 pm

      “I won’t trust a foreign OS.”

      You trust Microsoft Windows, Google Android and Apple operating systems just because they are from businesses in your country ? Talk about blind nationalism.

      Do not forget also that there is a world outside of USA and that for most of human beings, your favorite operating systems are also of a foreign origin, and as hostile towards them as they are towards yourself.

  22. wibble said on September 5, 2023 at 5:07 pm

    HAHAHAHA – did you really say “it could pose a serious threat to Microsoft’s Windows operating system”?

  23. Anonymous said on September 5, 2023 at 5:21 pm

    It won’t run programs or real games, so it will be useless.
    I mean, there are some people who apparently love using tablets and phones for everything, but mostly are people who will barely do anything with their brain in life.

    I mean, even if Photoshop, and others are available for iPad, do people think iPad is a threat for windows? not really, maybe for useless consumers who will just, like with a phone, be happy and move on, but not for professional industries which are the ones who matter the most, because are the ones who generate more revenue, since they buy the most expensive hardware and software.
    Nothing consumer computing related really makes much money, unless it is data from users that get sold for AI or Ads.

  24. vanp said on September 6, 2023 at 6:10 am

    Who knows where this comment is going to wind up. It’s in response to the article about Huawei’s HarmonyOS (HOS) operating system.

    Two places in the article it says HOS is open-source. One place the article says HOS is proprietary. Uh, I’m pretty sure it can’t be both. Which is it? If there’s some fine distinction, somebody needs to explain it.

    1. Jody Thornton said on September 7, 2023 at 1:52 am

      After all of these issues with Ghacks articles and misplaced postings, I’m reminded of this

    2. owl said on September 7, 2023 at 8:22 am


      Note: I replied to you on September 6, 2023 at Around 2:20 pm, but it was still remain blocked after more than half a day, so I replaced the quoted URI scheme: https:// with “>>” and reposted.

      The current is owned by “Softonic International S.A.” (sold by Martin in October 2019), and due to the fate of M&A, has changed in quality.
      Many Authors of bloggers and advertisers certified by Softonic have joined the site, and the site is full of articles aimed at advertising and clickbait.
      As it stands, except for articles by Martin Brinkmann and Ashwin, they are low quality, unhelpful, and even vicious. It is better not to read those articles.

      By the way, if you use an RSS reader, you can track exactly where your comments are (I’m an iPad user, so I use “Feedly Classic”, but for Windows I prefer the desktop app “RSS Guard”).
      RSS Guard: Feed reader which supports RSS/ATOM/JSON and many web-based feed services.

      Regarding “Huawei’s HarmonyOS” you asked about, the developer has stated that it is planning to open source, however the actual situation has been shelved (no such movement).
      HarmonyOS – Wikipedia
      Therefore, it is “proprietary software”.
      Moreover, both the company and its production base are in China. China, Russia, Israel, etc. are “Authoritarian state” and products and companies based in those countries are under state control, and privacy policies can become “famous and innocent.” Those products should be avoided.

      1. owl said on September 7, 2023 at 9:20 am

        Correction of sentence
        Before correction: “famous and innocent.”
        After correction: “nominal name only titular.”

      2. vanp said on September 8, 2023 at 5:29 am

        owl, thanks again for the great info.

  25. Dennis Faucher said on September 8, 2023 at 4:12 am

    HarmonyOS doesn’t run Windows apps. It is no threat to Windows.

    1. Glyde said on September 8, 2023 at 8:06 pm

      I agree.. i bet it cant even run wallpaper engine, it probably has the worst compatibility with software.

  26. hira said on September 9, 2023 at 9:24 am

    iam vary satisfied this work

  27. yanta said on September 10, 2023 at 9:36 am

    ah, wonderful, this message/article cross-posting hasn’t been fixed.
    Ignore my comments.

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