Five Best Offline Backup Tools

Online backup has many benefits — safety from local catastrophe, storage on professionally maintained servers, etc — but economy, control and 100 per cent guaranteed privacy aren't among them. Check out these five popular tools for making safe and sound local backups.

Photo by Miss Karen.

Whether you're already in the backup habit or you've been meaning to get around to doing it, we can't recommend reading our guide to proper backups, You're Backing Up Your Data the Wrong Way, quite strongly enough. It recommends backing up complete system images to a local drive, but also keeping your most important files in an online space, like Dropbox. When it comes time to choose a local backup app, here are the five we heard about most from our readers during the week:

SyncBack (Windows, Basic: Free/Pro: $US50)

Syncback is a robust tool for synchronising your files to a different drive, other mediums (disc, removable drive, etc) and over your local network. The basic edition is free and does a more than adequate job for simple file transfer and syncing. The mid-level version, SyncBackSE ($US30), adds in the ability to backup both open and locked files, and the professional version SyncBackPro ($US50) adds even more features, like encrypted backup and tons of customisation options. You can compare the three versions of SyncBack with the aid of this extensive comparison table.

Windows Home Server (Windows, $130)

Windows Home Server (WHS) is essentially Windows Server 2003, but designed to be as consumer-friendly as possible, with heavy emphasis on ease of setup, ease of use and a fire-and-forget system of backing up files. You can buy a compact home server with WHS already installed, or build your own server and buy WHS for around $130. WHS backs up all the Windows computers on your network automatically every day, and you can restore everything from a single file to an entire machine. While you can't run the Home Server Console and backup tools on non-Windows machines, you can still use tools native to Mac OS X and Linux to backup to WHS, sans the convenience you get on a Windows machine. Windows Home Server is an OS, not an application, and requires a dedicated machine for installation.

Acronis True Image Home (Windows, $US50)

The personal and home office version of Acronis's True Image software has a full array of tools for backing up your data. You can image whole disks, back up entire disks, or perform incremental and differential backups, and set an automated schedule for doing some or all of the above. After you configure Acronis True Image Home to your liking, it runs in the background, backing up and versioning your files. You can restore files, folders or entire disks from the app in the event of accidental file deletion or disk failure, making it helpful for both hard drive deaths and oops-wrong-button moments.

Time Machine (Mac, Free)

In keeping with their history of releasing tools that satisfied users will tell you "just work", Apple's Time Machine is a very polished and streamlined tool for incremental and versioned backup. Time Machine backs up all the files on your Mac, then checks on an hourly basis for changes. Hourly backups are saved for a day, daily backups for a month, and weekly backups for as long as space allows before newer backups take precedence. You can supplement the power of Time Machine with the purchase of a Time Capsule, a wireless external hard drive that will backup your machines wirelessly. Time Machine is free and comes with Mac OS X.

Rsync (Windows/Mac/Linux, Free)

Rsync is a powerful synchronisation tool originally invented for use on Unix-based systems. Since its release in 1996, it has been ported in various ways to Windows, Mac and Linux environments. The biggest strength rsync has is its ultra-efficient transfer of data. If you change a single kilobyte out of a 30GB file, rsync will swap just that single kilobyte. In the command line form, it's as Spartan as you would imagine a ported Unix-based command tool would be. Fortunately, graphical "wrappers" abound for the rsync to slap a more user-friendly interface on it.

Have a backup tip, trick or want to suggest an application that wasn't highlighted here? Let's hear about it in the comments.


    What about Synkron? It's multiplatform, open-source and free.

    I use Goodsync, it was pretty cheap and I have found it almost faultlessly reliable for the past 3 years.
    It is quite customizable and has option to save into a backup file anything changed or deleted.
    It definitely deserves a review.

      GoodSync is the way to go for backups! works a charm and never has failed.

    Crashplan is good, but it is a CPU hog on some computers.

    Whats that pink think on the keyboard of the MacBook Pro??

    Microsoft's free SyncToy 2.1 works well for backups and syncing on networks and removable drives.

      Yup it's great, should have been mentioned in the article.

    I'd have to recomment FreeFileSync (Opensource & Awesome) and Karens Replicator.

    The trouble is WHS breaks down over time, and then there's no help to sort it out (Microsoft support? Now there's an oxymoron). Mine's not been backing up for months (it did initially) with no explanation ("backup failed") and no amount of searching would find a solution. My main hard drive went down yesterday so I'm screwed.

    That clear HDD enclosure is awesome!! anyone know what brand/model it is?

      Looks like it may be a Clearlight 400+

      They are OWC Mercury On-The-Go Pro.
      Looks like they are purchasable at this website

      They have usb, and firewire available
      and if you buy it w/o a drive preinstalled, its like $25 for the USB version

      (probably going to get one right now.)

    I always read about people being concerned about their Windows OS crashing or what have you. Has anyone ever taken a look at RollBackRS? This installs below the BIOS and it is the first screen you see at Bootup. So if your system crashes (name it: blue screen, black screen, etc) you simply log into RollBackRX at bootup and go to an earlier screenshot. RBRX stores screenshots of your entire system down to the last byte, including your BIOS and replaces the broken system with the older working one. It even let's you go into the broken system and pull files or folders out of that into your restored system. You can schedule snapshots or take one anytime you wish and even delete them when there are too many. Easy to use and eliminates the need for sandboxies, kaspersky, and any other virus or backup app out there. You can even take snapshots of portable and external drives in NTFS or FAT32. Awesome. I speak from years of looking for the perfect Equalizer to prevent Bill Gate's and Microsoft's Windows OS's from making me crazy. With this my Windows is better than Apple OS and Linux. No more repair shops and lost data. I have been using it for three months and have installed bad software and even screwed up the registry intentionally and anything else I could try. No problem. Slip back to the last screenshot I labeled as working and presto!

    Now that this is covered, syncing can be all about syncing and no need to worry about system crashes. I vote for Goodsync Pro.

    It was great to stumble upon this post. Cool to read such a well-considered article!

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