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If we show you how to back up your PC for free, will you finally do it?

Marco Chiappetta | Feb. 10, 2014
What's it gonna take? These free backup tools are a good start.

Next, you'll be asked to confirm your backup settings. Double-check that you're backing up your primary drive, which contains your operating system, applications, personal files, and the like. If the correct drive is listed, click the Start Backup button, and the Windows imaging tool will create the system image.

Depending on the amount of data involved and the speed of the drives, this system-image creation process could take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. On my system, about 95GB of data on the OS volume was compressed into a 47GB image, and the process took about 10 minutes. My system uses all solid-state storage, though; the process would be much slower on a PC using traditional hard drives.

Make a new image regularly—say, every month or two, or before you do something drastic to your PC.

The actual restoration process is also quite easy. All you need to do is boot to the recovery disk created earlier, and on the first screen presented to you, select your preferred keyboard layout. Then select Troubleshoot > Advanced Option > System Image Recovery. The tool will then automatically scan your system for images and prompt you to restore the most recent image. If you stored your image on an external drive, be sure it's connected when the recovery tool scans for images.

Synchronizing with SyncBackFree
System images are great for restoring an entire system back to its original state, but there's no need to create new images constantly when only a few files may change on a system daily. To back up personal files, you could use Windows 8's File History, but SyncBackFree is much more intuitive and configurable, and it'll run on Windows XP on up.

With SyncBackFree, you can create profiles for backing up, synchronizing, or copying individual files or folders from one location into another. You can also schedule those profiles to run at specific times, to maintain multiple copies of your data.

Once you've installed SyncBackFree, start the program and run through the 'New Profile' creation wizard. When it starts, you'll need to name the profile. Afterward, click Next.

Select Synchronize on the next screen, and you'll be asked to choose the type of drive you'll be backing up, and the type of drive that will store the backup. This is a somewhat confusing screen, because the source location is labeled 'Left' and the destination location is labeled 'Right.' Select Internal/External drive, network path, etc. for both sides.

Next, select the specific folders to synchronize. In the main SyncBackFree window, click the folder icon next to the 'Left' button, then browse to the folder you'd like to back up. Next, click on the folder icon by the 'Right' button and select the backup destination drive. Ideally, you'd want this to be an external drive or networked storage location.


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