Unlike blackwind I'm not searching for a backup tool with various functions. I simply want to backup my files to an external hard disk. I'm using Windows 7 64-bit, if that really matters.

My requirements are:

  • file and folder backup (although it's even better if the same tool supports system backups)
  • incremental backups
  • programmable, automatic backups (at a specific time / every night)
  • supports external hard drives (as target)
  • preferably free

What I don't need:

  • cloud backups (I bought this external 4TB HDD for a reason)
  • extremely good performance (20GB RAM & i7-2600K, even if it's slow I'm okay with a backup over night, no need to work simultaneously)
  • version control (the latest version is fine)

I don't want opinion-based answers. Only if you really are an expert and tried all different backup software I'd like to hear your opinion on which is "the best" tool that matches my requirements.

I searched and found a lot of software, but they all seem to do the same and much more than I actually need. I have little experience with Acronis but don't really like it (If you still think it's the best, don't hesitate to correct my opinion on it). There came a backup software with my Western Digital hard drive (don't know the name of it) but it's only licensed for a limited period of time.

If this is an exact duplicate, I'm really sorry. I've only found OS-specific questions and such with special requirements.

  • 3
    Personally I do recommend the CobianBackup 11. I am using it constantly at work.
    – jojeck
    Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 12:00
  • rsync Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 6:36
  • Second Cobian! On mobile but if you click my name I have several detailed-ish answers on backup tools.
    – DankyNanky
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 2:33
  • 3 years old but a little more context: softwarerecs.stackexchange.com/q/24908/9311
    – DankyNanky
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 2:35

5 Answers 5


I have tried many (many, many) over the years and the best choice for you (for almost anyone) is FreeFileSync

  • file and folder backup (although it's even better if the same tool supports system backups)
    yup and yup (Copy locked files (Volume Shadow Copy Service))
  • incremental backups
    not so sure, but I consider them to be A Bad Thing (anything other than a total, unencrypted, uncompressed, normal file system backup introduces possible problems when restoring)
  • programmable, automatic backups (at a specific time / every night)
    yup (Automate sync as a batch job)
  • supports external hard drives (as target)
    yup (that's where I keep mine)
  • preferably free as in beer & speech (which one must mix with caution ;-) )

Key Features

Detect moved and renamed files and folders
Copy locked files (Volume Shadow Copy Service)
Detect conflicts and propagate deletions
Binary file comparison
Configure handling of Symbolic Links
Automate sync as a batch job
Process multiple folder pairs
Comprehensive and detailed error reporting
Copy NTFS extended attributes (compressed, encrypted, sparse)
Copy NTFS security permissions
Support long file paths with more than 260 characters
Fail-safe file copy
Cross-platform: Windows, Linux, Mac OS X
Expand environment variables like %USERPROFILE%
Access variable drive letters by volume name (USB sticks)
Native 64-bit support
Keep versions of deleted/updated files
Prevent disc space bottlenecks via optimal sync sequence
Full Unicode support
Highly optimized runtime performance
Include/exclude files via filter
FreeFileSync portable and local installation available
Handle daylight saving time changes on FAT/FAT32
Use macros %time%, %date%, et al. for recurring backups
Case-sensitive synchronization
Built-in locking: serialize multiple jobs running against the same network share 

Supported Operating Systems

Microsoft Windows Microsoft Windows FreeFileSync runs natively on all 32 and 64-bit Windows versions:

Windows 10
Windows 8.1
Windows 8
Windows 7
Windows Vista
Windows XP
Windows 2000
  • 1
    This looks perfect! A simple little tool - and it's even Open Source! By incremental backup I just meant to say, that I want to simply backup a drive and the tool will automatically copy the new files and delete the ones deleted in source. I'm sorry for using the wrong term. I will definitely try this. Though, I will give other experts some time before I mark this as an answer.
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 8:20
  • 1
    I thought so. So I was even more surprised, that no one has asked for a simple back up software before. You are exactly the audience I tried to reach - Experience it is! I could've read through all reviews of software but I would still have to actually test them. "Copy locked files (Volume Shadow Copy Service)" is only important for system backups I guess, since I keep my data all on a separate hard drive and only have windows and a couple of programs on my system drive, a SSD.
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 19, 2015 at 8:30
  • 1
    I honestly haven't tested it yet. Another two months have passed during which I risked losing all my data. My requirements have just recently changed. I'm probably going to attach my external HDD to my new router which can function as a FTP-Server. This way I'll be able to also back up the photos I take with my mobile directly without moving them to the computer first. As soon as I have set up my router with HDD as a FTP I will test the backup tools and accept an answer. Thanks for your patience.
    – Alex
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 11:34
  • 1
    Np, Alex. please note that I am not chasing points here, just wondering if the answer helped & hoping for feedback to help further searchers. I do believe that this answers i also valid for your new configuration, but - "two months have passed during which I risked losing all my data" - scary!! Do something now, even if it is only a manual directory tree copy
    – Mawg
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 13:12
  • 1
    That's great! I believe you, it's a good strategy you chose here - SE needs more people like you! As they say: "You could wait two months, so you can wait one week more" - Hopefully my HDD thinks the same ;)
    – Alex
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 13:25

Have a look at SyncBackFree. Here is some more info about it (quote from the linked page):

• Backup.

• Synchronize: Copy files in both directions.

• Restore backup files easily.

• Email logs.

• Run programs before and after profiles.

• Schedule backups.

• Unicode enabled for non-English filenames.

• Process unlimited filename lengths.

• Simple and Advanced mode.

• Runs on Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, and XP.

• Extensive Help Documentation & Support.

• Completely Free.


I just found Duplicati and am very impressed! ..it is FOSS, can access many cloud providers storage, and encrypts to the cloud by default.

I also have used Cobian quite a bit before this to make unencrypted, uncompressed backups of Veracrypt volumes to my WD drive, but that only happens when they are closed (which I still use for small volumes with more sensitive data, KeyPass, etc). (Quick note, I use a thumbdrive on a USB cable to store these volumes which is physically attached to the computer stand, so if the PC is stolen, the data remains unless it's being targeted). Switching to Duplicati means I can backup work in progress that's less sensitive to the cloud, and have it still be encrypted before leaving the computer.

Some other great features are the dead simple local html UI (see not my screenshot below), beautiful! Especially for such a complex process as backing up correctly. They also have this great Smart Retention feature that basically combines differential and incremental in a simple rule: keep 1 daily every week, 1 weekly every month and 1 yearly every year (which is customizable 7D:1D,4W:1W,12M:1M). It has an active following and forums.

My last touch was to use the --portable-mode flag in a Windows shortcut which allowed me run multiple instances inside the Veracrypt volume, which avoids leaving the unencrypted backup passwords in the AppData folder. This starts up with an autostart.inf file I created allowed only for that drive, upon which Duplicati asks for password stored portably in 'data' folder on the volume to launch and then is default set to run missed backup. Then another every 3 hours with very little setup, easily export/import of the settings, exclude system file with one click and the Duplicati folder with one more. I can't think of any better system for a balance of security and reliability.

You can view all backupped files under restore (youtube). And the other tool I've used which is great is Beyond Compare which is massively useful for comparing directories including remote locations.

You can also disable the block storage by selecting 'none' as the --zip-compression-method=None Advanced option. And backup single files by adding filters exclude * and include 'filepath'.

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I recommand you to use SyncToy.

SyncToy is a freeware tool in Microsoft's PowerToys series that provides an easy-to-use graphical user interface for synchronizing files and folders. It is written using Microsoft's .NET framework and uses the Microsoft Sync Framework.


Download: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=15155


Double Image backup has gone from a retail package to a free for Windows backup & copy program. This backup covers the needs mentioned.

From the Double Image web site:

Files may be copied between any computer, server, or storage device that Windows recognizes. Double Image runs on the following 32-bit and 64-bit Windows operating systems:

    Windows Server 2016
    Windows Server 2012
    Windows Server 2008
    Windows Server 2003
    Windows XP
    Windows Vista
    Windows 7
    Windows 8.1
    Windows 10
  • Native File Copying
  • Can rely on file time-stamps or archive attribute for incremental copying
  • Run multiple backup/restore sessions (uses multiple threads)
  • Can do simulation backups/restores (before actual production)
  • Simple Task Scheduler to invoke the Windows Task Scheduler
  • User Interface or Commands or combination of both
  • Run from UI, scheduler, command, scripts or other programs
  • Supports copying from/to Linux systems
  • Supports copying from/to Network Storage Devices
  • Supports many file systems, including Linux variations
  • Backup and restore Windows registry for local and remote machines
  • Can backup/restore network machines on workgroups and domains
  • Retains unique backup/restore profiles to re-use

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