It doesn’t matter if you’re using Windows or macOS, there’s always a chance of you losing important data due to a sudden hardware failure, user error, malware infection, or a number of other causes. To prevent important data from disappearing forever, you need a reliable backup and recovery tool, which is where this article comes in.
After testing countless backup and recovery tools, we’ve been able to narrow down the available options to the top 10 free backup and recovery tools for Windows and Mac computers. All you need to do to backup and recover your data is to pick the tool you like the most and start using it.
Our favorite backup and recovery software is Disk Drill because it combines backup and recovery into a single easy-to-use package with an affordable price tag. Clonezilla is another great option because it can be booted from a USB flash drive or CD/DVD to back up any system drive, as well as other storage devices. Learn more about them and other free backup & recovery software in this article.
What Features to Look for in Backup and Recovery Tool?
As we’ve already mentioned, different backup & recovery software tools are meant to cover different use cases, so it’s not uncommon for two tools to offer two unique sets of features. However, there are some features that just about every backup & recovery software tool should have:
- Reliability: The last thing you want is to find out that the backup & recovery software you’ve been using for weeks and months can’t actually recover your lost data. Reliable backup solutions automatically verify all created backups to ensure that they’re complete and recoverable. Likewise, the best data recovery software is able to reliably recover all files that are still physically present on the storage device.
- Configurability: We all have different data storage habits. For example, some users like to back up their entire storage devices, while others prefer to back up only specific files and folders. That’s why it’s important to choose a configurable backup & recovery software tool that can flexibly accommodate a variety of data loss scenarios.
- Efficiency: You want to select a backup & recovery tool that can back up and recover your files in an efficient manner, which means without requiring unnecessary interaction and without taking too long.
Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 free backup & recovery tools for Windows and Mac that meet all these criteria.
Top 10 Best Backup and Recovery Software
And what about data recovery? Contrary to what many Mac and Windows users believe, it’s often possible to recover permanently deleted data that hasn’t been backed up properly. How? By using data backup and/or recovery software, such as the ten tools listed below.
1. Disk Drill (Windows & Mac)
Disk Drill is one of the best tools to create backups and recover deleted files on a Mac or Windows computer. Disk Drill’s Data Backup feature can create byte-to-byte disk and partition backups, allowing you to effectively protect your most sensitive files against data loss. In addition to byte-to-byte backups, Disk Drill can also monitor the content of important folders and save the metadata or complete copies of any files stored inside of them to provide an extra layer of protection against data loss.
Recognizing that users don’t always manage to create backups before a data loss incident happens, Disk Drill also features best-in-class data recovery capabilities that allow its users to recover permanently deleted files that are not included in any backup.
Disk Drill supports several different data recovery methods, and the tool can intelligently run them in the optimal order to produce the best data recovery results possible. Unlike many other similar applications, Disk Drill doesn’t keep its users waiting before allowing them to review recoverable files. Most files that Disk Drill can recover can be previewed before recovery, so you can easily select exactly what you want to get back and leave everything else behind.
- Excellent data recovery performance
- Byte-to-byte backups
- One-click approach to data recovery
- Bundled with extra free disk tools
- Intuitive user interface
- Recovers over 400 file formats
- The free version can recover only a limited amount of data
2. Clonezilla (OS agnostic)
Clonezilla is a popular open-source backup tool that’s meant to be booted from a USB flash drive or CD/DVD, which means that it can be used to back up any storage device regardless of which operating system you have installed on your main drive.
While it doesn’t have a graphical user interface, it offers a fairly straightforward data backup process that consists of a few clearly described steps that anyone should be able to easily follow. As long as your backup device is larger than the source one, you can use Clonezilla to back up just about every Windows, Linux, and macOS file system there is.
Clonezilla can create an image of an entire storage device or individual partition. If you want to, you can encrypt this image for better security using a POSIX-compliant enterprise cryptographic stacked filesystem called ecryptfs. When creating a backup image, Clonezilla automatically leaves out all empty space to keep the image as small as possible. Unfortunately, Clonezilla can’t yet create incremental backups, but this functionality will likely be added in the future.
- Free and open source
- Doesn’t back up empty space
- Supports many file systems
- Works on all operating systems
- Lacks a graphical user interface
- Doesn’t support incremental backups
- Can’t back up a running operating system
3. Macrium Reflect (Windows)
Macrium Reflect is a feature-packed data backup software for Windows that’s aimed at intermediate and advanced users who are not easily scared away by an abundance of configuration options. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of Macrium Reflect is its ability to create disk images while Windows is running. This means that you can tell the software to clone your entire system drive and continue using your computer—no need to restart it and wait until the backup process finishes.
The free version of Macrium Reflect supports many features that even some commercial solutions lack, including incremental backups, backup scheduling with flexible templates, and the ability to boot your backups instantly in a virtual machine. The last feature mentioned is especially useful for restoring non-booting systems that have suffered a critical data loss due to hardware failure or user error.
- The free version includes all essential features
- Support for incremental backups
- Ability to restore non-booting systems
- Direct disk cloning
- No customer support for free users
- Inexperienced users may find some of its options confusing
4. Redo Rescue (formerly Redo Backup) (OS agnostic)
Redo Rescue (formerly Redo Backup) is an extremely versatile data backup software tool that, just like Clonezilla, is meant to run from a USB flash drive or CD/DVD. Because Redo Rescue doesn’t have to be installed directly on the computer, it can back up and recover all operating systems, making it perfect for preventing all kinds of potentially disastrous scenarios.
Included with Redo Rescue is a whole assortment of useful disk management tools, including gparted (a partition editing applications), testdisk (free and open-source data recovery utility), and hdparm (a command line program to set and view ATA hard disk drive hardware parameters and test performance). In addition to disk management tools, Redo Rescue also includes the Chromium web browser, which can be indispensable for troubleshooting purposes.
Using Redo Rescue (Redo Backup) is easy thanks to its attractive point-and-click interface that simplifies the entire data backup process into a few steps. Compared with other data backup software, some important features are missing, but that’s only because Redo Rescue was essentially dead for the last eight years and resurrected only recently.
- Free and open source
- Simple user interface
- Can back up all operating systems
- Comes with many extra disk management tools
- Slower development
- Can’t back up a running operating system
- Doesn’t support incremental backups
5. DiskGenius (Windows)
DiskGenius is a versatile software application that can back up and restore data, perform data recovery, manage disk partitions, and more. Despite its outdated and somewhat unappealing user interface, DiskGenius delivers reliable performance, and its developers work hard to keep the application bug-free.
With its backup and restore features, you can easily back up system partitions and other system-related partitions, and it doesn’t matter if your system is installed on BIOS-based or UEFI-based hardware. Even very large hard drives with a storage capacity of up to 16 TB are supported.
While better data recovery software does exist, DiskGenius can definitely get the job done and recover permanently deleted data after a user error, partition loss, formatting, or malware attack. The software comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you don’t have to worry about not getting your money’s worth.
- Offers many useful features
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Free version available
- Regularly updated
- Outdated user interface
- Average data recovery capabilities
6. Acronis True Image (Windows & Mac)
Protection against ransomware is one of the most common reasons why Windows and Mac users back up their data. Experts estimate that a ransomware attack will take place every 11 seconds by 2022, so anyone who hasn’t yet implemented a robust ransomware protection strategy should do so soon, which is where Acronis True Image comes in.
This innovative data backup software combines traditional backup features with advanced antimalware capabilities, delivering highly effective all-in-one protection against the latest and most devastating cyber threats. The built-in real-time protection and signature-based defenses work around the clock to keep all kinds of malware from infiltrating your computer, while set-and-forget backups enable you to quickly get back up on your feet should the worst happen.
All this makes Acronis True Image one of the most robust data protection solutions available. Unfortunately, the free version is free for only 30 days. Once the trial period expires, you must purchase a license to keep using the software.
- Polished user interface
- Cloud backup option
- Protection against ransomware
- The free version is greatly limited
7. Rollback Rx (Windows)
Rollback Rx is like a time machine for your Windows PC. This data backup software creates snapshots of your computer to provide a more comprehensive alternative to Windows System Restore. When something goes wrong with your computer, you can easily restore it to a working state from an earlier snapshot and continue from where you left off.
The free version of Rollback Rx can create up to seven snapshots, which should be more than enough for most users. It also supports VMWare, both as a host or within the virtual machine as a client. Additional functionality, including multiple drive supports, task scheduler, remote management, and RAID support can be unlocked by upgrading to Rollback Rx Professional or Rollback Rx Server.
- Instant system restoration
- VMWare support
- Easy to use
- The free version is limited in terms of features
8. R-STUDIO (Windows, Mac, Linux)
R-STUDIO is popular among data recovery professionals because it features multiple advanced capabilities that make it suitable for addressing even the most complex data loss scenarios. For example, the software can recover a device over the network the device is attached to, perform damaged RAID recovery, and display recoverable files in the built-in HEX editor.
Included with R-STUDIO is a disk imaging component that you can use to clone an entire hard drive or any of its partitions. You can choose the compress the resulting image to make it smaller or split it into several smaller images to make it more portable.
Just know that these and other features are not available in all versions of R-STUDIO because there are multiple licenses to choose from. As such, you really need to do your research before you make a purchase.
- Multiple liceses to choose from
- Professional features
- Bootable ISO
- Geared toward advanced users
- Limited preview capabilities
9. Stellar Data Recovery (Windows & Mac)
Stellar Data Recovery is a popular data recovery software application that can create a byte-to-byte backup of any disk. You can even specify the range of data to be backed up, which is useful because you can avoid including empty storage space in the backup to make it smaller and easier to store and transfer.
When used to recover permanently deleted data, Stellar Data Recovery may not be the fastest software of its kind, but it does have a few tricks up its sleeve to produce great results. You can manually add custom file signatures to recover files the application doesn’t natively support, and Stellar Data Recovery can also repair corrupted photo and video files.
Unfortunately, the free version is rather limited in terms of what it can do, and you even have to manually keep it up to date because it doesn’t check for updates automatically.
- Responsive customer support
- Photo and video repair capabilities
- Byte-to-byte disk copies
- Custom file signatures
- Limited free version
- Slow scanning speed
- Sometimes crashes
10. Data Rescue (Windows & Mac)
Data Rescue is often overlooked by users who are looking for a good data backup and recovery software solution because the application seems outdated and not that capable. But make no mistake because Data Rescue lets you clone your disk to another disk or an IMG file, and it boasts two recovery modes to help you retrieve permanently deleted files.
The data backup and recovery features can be conveniently accessed directly from the main window, and the wizard-style user interface makes it easy to put them to good use.
Usability issues start to appear only when you complete data recovery and want to add files to your recovery queue, which can be difficult to do because the software doesn’t allow you to change how found files are displayed.
- Disk cloning capabilities
- Two data recovery modes
- RAID support
- Fast speed
- Usability issues
- Outdated user interface
What Is Backup and Recovery Software?
Here’s a quick fact: nearly 2 out of every 100 hard drives fail within a year of use, according to data from cloud storage provider Backblaze. Clearly, files stored on modern hard drives are not nearly as safe as many users believe, which is why it’s important to have a plan for when things go bad.
The purpose of backup software is to create copies of data stored on modern storage devices (spinning hard drives, SSDs, memory cards, USB flash drives, etc.) to protect users against data loss. Data recovery software also protects users against data loss, and it does so by recovering lost data from the storage device on which it was stored.
Of course, users have been manually backing up their data ever since they started using computers, but manual backups are insufficient and prone to errors. Modern backup software automates the backup process, ensuring that no important files and folders are missed. Some tools are able to analyze existing backups and copy only what has been changed since the last backup, which can dramatically speed up things and save precious storage space.
While it’s always best to recover lost data from a backup, the reality is that a backup is not always available, which is where data recovery software comes in. Such software is able to perform an in-depth analysis of a storage device to find deleted files that haven’t been overwritten yet.
All Windows and Mac users can benefit from installing and using both a reliable backup software tool and a capable data recovery software solution to keep data loss at bay when working on important business documents, editing family pictures, creating a PowerPoint presentation for a class, or just browsing the web and relaxing.
Why Did We Choose This Particular Set of Solutions?
There are seemingly countless backup & recovery solutions for Windows and Mac computers, so why did we choose this particular set? Here’s why:
- All solutions featured in this article have received many positive reviews from professional reviewers and real users alike.
- They have all the features we expect backup & recovery software to have (read the next chapter).
- We have personally tested them and were pleased with their performance and usability.
For these reasons, we don’t hesitate to recommend the solutions featured in this article to anyone who needs to back up and/or recover their data.
All Windows and Mac users must expect a data loss incident to occur at any moment and be ready for it by equipping themselves with at least one of the top 10 best free backup and recovery solutions described in this article. Regardless of which solution you choose, make sure to familiarize yourself with its features so that you’re ready to get back on your feet and continue from where you left off without any unnecessary delay.