We'll be taking a look at all the features offered by EaseUS Free Backup. We are using the latest version as of October 2018 on an up to date Windows 10 install. This review assumes the reader is familiar with backup concepts and terms such as image backups, file backups, incremental and differential backups. Lets start:
The initial download requires you to provide an email address to get the link. The download size comes in at 93Mb. Installing is a normal Windows type install. They do push you towards the paid tier at various times from the website and within the actual install. Comparisons between free and paid is shown at various stages including just before opening the program for the first time:
Interesting that they would point out the free version is "slow" but the paid version not. Email notifications are also left out but that seems to be industry standard.
The Main Program Interface
The main interface looks as follows:
Various options on the right and shortcuts in the middle.
SYSTEM BACKUP - EaseUs gives you a shortcut to backup your main boot partition (Where Windows resides) as a one click shortcut from the main screen. This is what the screen looks like:
The C drive is selected as the source confirming it is Windows 10. A nice feature if all you require is a boot partition backup. For the review purpose we'll focus on the disc backup wizard to allow for source disk selection instead of forcing the system disk.
Second icon on the left takes you to the disk/partition backup interface:
The interface is simple and intuitive, select your backup disk source and proceed to the next step. Before moving on we'll look at the backup options to see what the default configuration looks like.
We will look at each option individually:
- Space: Allows you to set the compression level. Usually best to leave at normal as higher levels normally gives diminishing returns. No compression is not worth the speed gains vs lost storage capacity.
- Encryption: Important to encrypt your backups in case the destination drive or location is compromised. Off by default.
- Performance: Task priority and network bandwidth usage restrictions. Network bandwidth limits are useful to protect the network during a backup. A backup can be multiple gigabytes in size so it's possible to saturate the network capacity if left to itself.
- Advanced: Sector by Sector Backup: This refers to backing up the entire disk including empty space (as opposed to just the in-use sectors)
- Email Notification, Custom Commands, Offsite Copy, File Exclusion: Not part of the free product.
OK, jumping back to setting up our first backup. Before moving to the second step it is possible to schedule the backup:
is straightforward with one time, daily, weekly and monthly options.
Choosing daily gives you the option run interval backups which gives
multiple daily backups. Important functionality to keep your data safe
if one backup a day wont do.
- The second factor in the schedule to notice is the option to pick between an incremental or differential backup.
- You also get the option to appoint the first daily, weekly or monthly backup as a full backup. This would give the backup chain some built in safety and reduce the length. This gives you only basic functionality to build a structured backup plan.
After choosing a backup destination, backup name and suitable description we click "proceed" - the backup starts running with no further options to select from:
The backup completed in 14min59s with a size of 26.9GB from a source disk that contained 43GB of data. So we achieved almost 50% compression - highlighting the fact that the normal compression setting is sufficient.
Incremental and Differential Backups
Next we'll run some more backups to to see how EaseUS handles incremental and differential backups.
Right clicking on your backup task gives you the ability to run a backup type of your choice (Full,inc,diff).
For the review purpose we'll focus on manual backups, this knowledge can then be used to apply to your own backup schedule.
Running an incremental produces a 2.4GB file within around 2 minutes:
As you can see the backup type is included in the filename which makes it easy to determine what your backup chain consists of. Let run another incremental directly after to see what size we get. We are expecting to get a small backup:
As expected a 33MB backup file is produced. This is good efficiency.
Next we run a manual differential backup. We expect the backup size to be the same as the first two incrementals combined:
The result is as expected. Once again the differential is noted in the file name of the backup ('diff').
EaseUs doesn't advertise it as such but it does have the functionality to merge incrementals into each other as well as into the base image. This allows for very flexible backup plans and low maintenance backup chains that self manage.
Right clicking on the backup plan gives you the option to 'Manage Images':
From here you get a bird's eye view of your backup chain. Selecting more than one image gives you the option to "merge" backups into each other:
From here you can merge incrementals into each other (incrementals merging into each other before differentials). Finally you can merge the last remaining differential into the base image forming a new synthetic full image. It's worth pointing out the incrementals merged in mere minutes but merging the differential into the full took twice as long as the making a new full. Take this into consideration when building your backup plan, ie, at different sizes the synthetic backup might merge faster than creating a new full.
This merging and synthetic backup functionality is available in the backup plan options as well:
From here you can build your backup plan to keep only a certain amount of incrementals that either gets deleted on the tail end of the chain or merged ("Reserve image via image merging method").
EaseUS also includes a file backup system where files are backed up into a storage container. Incremental and differential backups are also available. We'll do a brief investigation how it operates and how it handles large files that change often which is the main headache of file based backups.
Because file backups also use the same container as the image based backups you have the same functionality in terms of scheduling, incremental, differential backups and synthetic backups as well as image merging. This makes it very flexible.
For our file backup test we will backup a folder with one 500mb file inside consisting of random data, We will then immediately do another incremental backup to see if it successfully identifies the file as unchanged and not create another backup file:
EaseUS does indeed create another backup file but in this case an almost empty 100KB file. We are happy with this behaviour as it show the backup was run but no data backed up. It doesn't waste too much space.
We will then change a few bytes inside the file to see if it backs up the whole file again or just the changes:
The resulting backup file is only 172KB - based on this result we can confirm that EaseUS does delta incrementals which is very efficient (it only saves the internal changes of a changed file instead of the whole file, this is useful to backup databases or files such as Outlook PST files.)
Clicking on the "Last Backup" link gives you access to the backup logs. These are sorted according to Successful, Warnings or Failed Backups:
Useful for an overview of either image or file backup history.
Another crucial feature of any backup program is its recovery environment. Ideally you need all the main program's functionality within your recovery environment. Extra tools such as boot fixes is also useful.
EaseUS call this their "Emergency Disk" and is accessed from their Tools menu:
You are given options for two different types or recovery disks
- WinPE - Windows based Environment that can closely match the look and feel of the original application.
- Linux - Usually a lightweight recovery environment built upon the Linux environment.
Under most circumstances the WinPE environment is more useful since it supports more hardware configurations so we will focus on the WinPE version.
You are given the option to add a driver to the process - this is useful when your computer may have a unique storage driver for example that needs a specific driver to be enable access within the WinPE environment. It's worth pointing out that this function is not available in the free version.
Three options for the WinPE destination is also supported:
- ISO image for use in VM's
- USB disks for everyday usage
For the review purpose we will create an ISO for use in a virtual machine so we can get some screenshots.
- You are not given the choice of WinPE version, we assume WinPE10 or based on the source OS
- It is not immediately clear if the emergency disc supports UEFI booting
Booting the WinPE ISO reveals a WinPE10 environment that mimics the Windows version:
From the WinPE environment you can perform the following actions:
- Image Backups
- File Backups
A full featured set of features are available to perform while outside of windows (cold imaging and backups.) Obviously you can browse to a previously made backup to restore the image. Note that you can resize partitions as necessary when restoring an image.
You also get access to a various tools:
Most options are fairly self explanatory. We will point a few noteworthy options:
- Windows Shell Command - Useful for running command line options (ie, diskpart)
- Fix MBR - resolve boot issues - no mention of UEFI support though
- Driver Manager - Add drivers to the WinPE environment in case there is hardware that is not detected (ie, storage driver to access your hard drive)
We are a little disappointed with the boot fixing functions available - competitor products often have a more full feature set when it comes to repairing boot issues (which quite often happens when restoring images).
We will restore a full image using the USB recovery option. To make it reflect some real world conditions we'll restore the image that has had both incrementals and differentials merged into it creating a synthetic full. The image restored successfully which is the ultimate purpose of a backup application - a successful restore.
We'll look at how EaseUS manages restoring files from either file backups or image backups. Many competing products allow mounting of a backup image inside Windows explorer - from there you can access it just like any drive and copy your files that were backed up.
EaseUS has an image mounting feature as well as direct access to your backup containers from explorer. Simply double clicking the file will open the container as if it was a normal folder:
A great feature EaseUS added is what we'll call a 'restore helper pane' on the right (highlighted in yellow). When selecting a file within the container it will automatically give you the versions available for restore. Clicking on the recover button gives you the option to restore to the same or different place. This is a great and easy to use feature - this gives the user quick access to all different versions of a file contained in a backup chain (instead of having to mount each individual backup file in search of your desired version).
EaseUS includes an iSCSI initiator which is an odd inclusion for a free product but useful nevertheless - incase you are storing backups in the cloud.
|Incremental image based backups|
|Differential image based backups|
|Incremental file backups (delta incrementals)|
|Differential file backups|
|Synthetic backups and backup merging|
|WinPE10 recovery environment|
|Powerful restore options and file recovery from within Windows|
|No recovery environment options (WinPE version choice or architecture), UEFI support is unconfirmed|
|Boot fixing options from recovery environment is severely lacking|
EaseUS Backup Free is a full featured application that gives the average user more than enough functions at the free tier. The inclusion of both incremental and differential backups as well as file backups, all while giving you options for image merging and synthetic backups makes for a great free product. EaseUS successfully restored our test backup that had multiple merged incrementals within it which is a good vote of confidence.
Our main concern is with the lack of recovery environment options in terms of creating WinPE versions of your choice and secondly the lack of boot fixing options within the environment.