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Your backup plan: Best backup apps for Windows and Mac

About Backup Utilities

Backup utilities allow you to keep copies of your hard drive contents in a safe place, letting you quickly restore lost files in the event of a hard-drive failure or errant software update.

MacOS Backup

Backup Utilities FAQ

  • Why do I need a backup plan?

    Hard drives fail. App installations go wrong. Documents get lost or accidentally deleted. If you don't have a current copy of important files, then when disaster happens, your files are gone for good. The best backup strategy is the one you will use, so unless you find a complex backup plan appealing, you should pick a strategy that is simple and automated. Then if something goes wrong, you can easily restore the contents of your hard drive and return to work.

  • What might already be backed up?

    You might already have a backup of some files. If you are using the cloud-based apps that are part of Google Drive or Microsoft Office Online, for example, then your files are stored remotely, safe from local dangers. Or if you use Google Photos on your Android phone, then you have copies of your images stored in the cloud.

Best backup utilities

You probably don't want to rely on a remote backup. One easy alternative is to use a backup utility to keep a current copy of your files on a local external hard drive. Storage is affordable, with good hard-disk drives costing around $100.

Both Windows and MacOS come with easy-to-use backup tools. For more control, you can find third-party utilities for fine-tuning scheduling, setting which files and folders are backed up, updating just the files that have been added or changed, and creating bootable backups.

Windows Backup and Restore

Part of Windows 10, Windows Backup and Restore lets you make backups of the contents of your hard drive and then restore the contents of the drive.

Time Machine

Time Machine comes with MacOS and creates snapshots, or copies, of the contents of your hard drive over time, allowing you to step back through time to find and retrieve documents, folders, and apps.

Acronis True Image

Acronis True Image lets you make a copy of your hard drive and restore the entire contents or just files or folders. You have control over what gets backed up and how often, and if you have multiple backup drives, what gets backed up to which destination. A cloud option lets you keep local and remote backups.

Carbon Copy Cloner

Carbon Copy Cloner gives you flexible backup and scheduling options and, like Acronis, lets you create a bootable clone of your hard drive, so you can recover quickly from a disk crash.

Best backup services


CrashPlan lets you schedule backups with unlimited cloud storage for $59.99 a year.


Backblaze offers a similar service for $50 a year.

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Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.