It can be devastating to lose important data when disaster strikes, yet backing up remains one of those PC maintenance chores that people often put off to another day, or even overlook altogether.
One of the keys to safeguarding your files for future access is having an easy-to-use, dependable backup program. Today's best backup utilities start at around $50 (based on download prices) and include wizards that walk you through choosing what gets backed up and when.
For this month's chart we looked at six applications that let you schedule regular backups as well as compress and encrypt the data. Three of the programs also have disaster-recovery functions that can help restore your system to a previous healthy state should you encounter a debilitating problem. Our Best Buy, NovaBackup 7.3, and the fourth-ranked Retrospect 7.5 Professional each allow you to create bootable CDs to restore your computer, while the second-place BackUp MyPC Deluxe 2006 provides a similar feature that unfortunately requires floppy disks.
Another increasingly common feature is the ability to back up open files, which means that even files in use by an application or the operating system are safely copied in the state they were in when the backup started. Each program in our chart offers open-file backup features--but note that the third-place Genie Backup Manager Professional 7.0 and the fifth-ranked WinBackup Standard 2.0 both require $40 add-ons for this.
Also convenient is native backup support, which lets you use Windows Explorer, instead of the app itself, to browse through your backups. Of the programs we looked at, only the Genie one offers the feature. Retrospect 7.5 has something akin to native backup support, but it works only with whole drives, not hand-picked folders or files.
Finally, all of the programs that made our chart back up to hard disk or CD/DVD, and all but WinBackup also support tape, a feature typically more of interest to small businesses. Only the Genie app currently works with Blu-ray Disc media; however, NovaStor and Roxio have both confirmed plans to introduce Blu-ray support in future revisions of their respective programs.
- Top Backup Software chart