August 23, 2009

Time Machine for Windows?

Time Machine is a utility Apple introduced for the Mac OS starting with 10.5. It backs up the entire system, programs, settings and documents, allowing you to restore your system if necessary. It also stores previous versions of a file for you, letting you return to a previous version if necessary, either because the file becomes corrupt or you changed your mind regarding the most recent revision. The good news is there are similar programs available for Windows. Some of them even have features not available in Time Machine.

Save Modified Files: FileHamster does things a little differently than traditional backup programs, which are set up to run at specific intervals. After installation, you tell it what folder (or folders) to monitor and it will keep track of all the files it contains.

When a file is modified or saved, it creates a backup version. This means that if you save your files regularly and something happens to them, or you want to revert to a previous version, you can lose significantly less time than even on a one-hour backup schedule. For more details on using FileHamster see my article on Suite101.

Remote backups: Another option to add to your backup routine is Bonkey. It provides you with the ability to customize when and what files it backs up and the backup location. However, in addition to an external disk, you can also backup to Amazon S3, FTP, SFTP and Windows shares.

Why would you want to backup to a remote location like S3 or an FTP server? Think about it, an external hard drive might save you from headaches if your drive fails, or you lose your laptop, but what if the worst happens? A fire, flood, or break in could be the end of all your data, files and records. It might not make sense to backup your entire system (including programs) to an Internet location, but you can backup your documents and important files.

Genie Timeline: Another Time Machine alternative, Genie Timeline was just released. It aims to provide the same functionality for Windows, while adding additional features. For more details on the included features see my comprehensive review.

Cloning: Let’s say your hard drive does crash, or you have a technical side and want to upgrade the drive yourself. Reinstalling Windows isn't your only option. There are programs available that can be used to clone your drive or make an exact copy. Drive Backup has two options that make it very convenient to use.

It allows you to continue to use your computer while the program clones your hard drive. This is an unusual feature since many cloning programs require you to restart and boot your computer using a special CD or DVD. It can also create a bootable CD, DVD or Flash drive, this way if you do need to restore from the clone, it’s easy to start up your computer. A more in-depth review of Drive Backup is now available.

Regardless of what you decide to use, it’s important to backup your mission critical files on a regular basis. There are plenty of backup alternatives available, both free and commercial. What backup solution works for you? Feel free to share it in the comments section.


  1. Thanks, I've been jealous of my friends easy backups for a while, filehamster was easy to use.

  2. Note: post edited on 9/1/09, FileHamster no longer offers a free version. Though it's excellent software so I would still recommend looking into it.

  3. Note: Genie Timeline is now out of beta status, post modified.

  4. I downloaded Genie Timeline trial last week and it's really easy to use, once i setup the program I didn't have to do anything else... won't be long before i purchase it