I get this question a lot, so you’re most certainly not alone in wondering.
Here’s my take on the situation: I don’t know what free backup software came with your drive.
And chances are, neither do you.
And that should tell you something.
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Free backup software with external drives
Many external drives come pre-loaded with software.
Let’s face it, when you purchase a drive, the vendor has a lot of room to put whatever they want to on that drive. It’s an opportunity for them.
But an opportunity for what?
In my experience, the backup software that comes with external drives falls into one or more of several categories.
- It’s backup software from a company you’ve never heard of. You have no idea how good or reliable it is. But it’s free!
- It’s a pared-down version of software from a company you have heard of. The good news here is that you can research that software’s reputation, and make a semi-informed decision as to whether or not it really meets your needs.
- It’s a trial version. Much like the trial version of software programs that come preinstalled on many PCs1, what you have isn’t really free backup software at all; it’s a trial version that will work for some amount of time, after which you’ll need to purchase something if you want it to continue working.
- It’s exactly what you want. And it’s free!
OK, that last one is facetious; I’ve never seen it happen, though I suppose it could.
In all the other cases, though, you either don’t know exactly how good the backup software is, or you know that it’s not really everything you need.
As you might imagine, my advice is not to bother.
You want free backup software?
If what has you interested is the fact that it’s free, there are probably better, and definitely better-known, solutions I’d suggest you look into instead.
Beginning with Windows 7, all versions of Windows include a basic backup program. While I’m not thrilled by it – its user interface confuses and annoys me – it does at least meet the “bare minimum” requirement to set up a backup of your system, as well as your files.
There are other backup utilities I’m less familiar with, but appear to have a generally positive reputation, that are also free.
Proactively locating free software you can learn about is much better than just accepting whatever you were given.
Backups are important
My take, however, is actually even more stringent.
Backups are important. Really important.
To me, they’re worth spending some time and perhaps even some money to make sure that both the software and the setup are working, and working well.
Thus, as you might expect, what I recommend is investing in quality backup software like Macrium Reflect2 or EaseUS Todo. Take the time to set it up properly (I do have a book on Macrium Reflect and another on EaseUS Todo), and know that you’re taken care of. The software can quickly pay for itself when disaster strikes.
What I do
When I get a new external drive, I do this:
- I look to see what software, if any, came with it. This is more out of curiosity, to be honest, because I rarely if ever do anything with it.
- I zip up the software that came with the drive, and archive it. This is just me being paranoid, but if, for some reason, there was something important that came with the drive, I’d want to be able to recover it.
- I erase the drive completely. Typically I’ll do a quick format to accomplish this.
- If it’s to be a backup drive for a PC, I put it into service, using my backup software of choice, Macrium Reflect.
And yes, as a side effect of all that, I do believe the archive of the backup software that came with the drive gets backed up … by Reflect.
Ultimately, I recommend you do something similar. While you certainly can use the free backup software that comes with the drive, backups are just too important to use a program you’re not completely certain of.
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