In this big scary world we live in, it is imperative that one performs regular backup of their data if he/she happens to fall victim to potential hackers! Unfortunately for some, it can be rather complicated figuring out this whole process and it would make sense to utilise a free and easy (yet powerful) tool to do the job. For this review, we check out MiniTool ShadowMaker Free which is a handy piece of software that can create, manage and restore backup images of drives on your computer or to an external drive. What sets this product apart from the others is that it allows the user to create a backup of any physical disk without jeopardising important features such as compression, encryption or verification of backups. Time to check out this software!
- Compatible with all editions of Windows OS (XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10)
- Supported File Systems: exFAT, Fat16, Fat32, NTFS and Ext2/3/4
- Supported Storage Media: HDD, SSD, USB External Disks, Hardware RAID, Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Home File Server
- Quick System/Disk Backup – users can backup their whole system or partial backups as required.
- Schedule setting – daily, weekly or monthly auto backups
- WinPE Bootable Media Builder
- Safe System/Disk Restore
- Backup Scheme
- Disk Clone – create a mirror of an existing disk on a new drive
We download and install the MiniTool ShadowMaker from the website in quick succession. The file size is relatively small, about 70 mb. We launch the program and it first asks us to choose the computer to manage. If it is a Remote computer, you’ll have to enter that computer’s IP address.
On the main home page, it doesn’t look overly complex or difficult to figure out. It prompts us to ‘Set Up Backup’ – well that’s easy! Other options laid out in the top row – Backup, Restore, Manage, Logs, Tools and Feedback. We are also presented with a small icon stating ‘Manual’, that when clicked, pops up a comprehensive guide on using the product which we found very helpful. Let’s go ahead and click Set up Backup.
The next page shows the ‘Source’ and ‘Destination’ drive information. To select the destination folder, simple click on the box and navigate to where you want to store your backup.
We can Schedule how often we want our backups, we can toggle this ‘On’ and ‘Off’. We choose to perform the backups on a monthly basis to start at 2pm and on a certain day of the month. Elementary my dear Watson!
For the Backup Scheme, on the Free version we are allowed only Incremental backups with the 3 latest versions retained on the backup image file.
The Options section gives us the opportunity to configure the Drive Image i.e. Image Creation Mode, File Size, Compression, and Email. We particularly liked that we can amend the maximum file size for the image and configure the computer to shut down after the backup (good way to prevent it running all night if you are away from your computer). Furthermore, we can also set a password for the backup if you want to prevent anyone else from accessing it.
We select our Destination Folder and then select Back up Now (or Back Up Later if you prefer from pressing the white drop down arrow)! The backup process does take some time dependent on the size of the data requiring to be backed up.
We are again highly impressed with MiniTool’s focus on providing as much support as possible for their users. There is an indepth and highly detailed user manual of the product that provides step by step articles (with images). These include, how to perform a system backup and how to restore a disk. If written guides aren’t for you, there is also a video that shows an example of carrying out a backup. If you get stuck along the way, you can make comments at the bottom of the page and the MiniTool developers will respond to you fairly quickly to help you further. MiniTool Support Center is available to assist users 24/7.
We found this a comprehensive, advanced tool and there were no settings or features that seemed difficult to work out. The process was simple and straight forward which would please most users, especially those who are more on the novice side when it comes to their computer capabilities. Best thing of all? It’s completely free with no limitations on how much data you can backup and/or restore.