When we discovered GFI Backup 2009 Home Edition we ended our long search for a decent freeware backup tool. It had all the functionality a home user needed, with a decent mixture of user-friendly and advanced options to suit most people’s tastes. When GFI released a 2011 version of the software, we approached it with a real sense of anticipation.

Sadly, the end result is disappointing. GFI Backup 2011 comes as a catch-all installer covering freeware, professional and network versions – what functionality you get depends on the license you choose during installation. It’s been recoded from scratch, and is now administered from your browser using an Apache server. If that sounds complicated, it’s because it is: the freeware version is now little more than a cut-down version of the paid-for releases.

In itself, that’s not a bad thing. The free version was always a file-based backup tool, and it remains so in the 2011 version. But the problem is, the file-based options have been cut back: you can still back up individual files and folders or specific types of files, but there are no options for backing up program or email settings, or individual Registry keys.

The user interface is still reasonably intuitive – there’s a wizard to follow when creating a new backup job, for example, but it’s not as friendly as it used to be. GFI Backup 2011 now reflects the fact it’s aimed at commercial users; the freeware version seems little more than an afterthought.

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Once it was the free backup tool of choice for home users, but no longer: GFI Backup 2011 has nothing unique to recommend it against a slew of other free backup tools.