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IDrive Personal cloud backup review

IDrive Personal remains the best cloud-backup service overall

IDrive Personal cloud backup review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © IDrive)

Our Verdict

IDrive Personal combines ease of use, affordability, generous storage limits and useful extra features to once again top our list of the best cloud backup services.

For

  • Generous storage tiers
  • Affordably priced
  • Backs up networked drives
  • Modern, intuitive user interface
  • Solid mobile apps

Against

  • Slow download speeds
  • No unlimited-storage option
  • Only email-based two-factor authentication
IDrive Personal: Specs

Number of devices backed up per subscription: Unlimited
Storage limit: 10TB
Backups of tethered external drives: Yes
Backups of network storage drives: Yes
Backups of mobile devices: Yes
Operating system/application backups: Yes, but not by default
Backups to local drives: Yes
Two-factor authentication: Yes
Drive shipping: Seed and restore

IDrive Personal's cloud backup service continues to offer the best blend of features and value, particularly for users who can stay within the service's 10TB storage plan. It remains our top choice for the best cloud backup service.

The lack of unlimited storage is my only meaningful complaint regarding IDrive. It otherwise manages to offer every feature most users will need and executes those features better than the competition.

IDrive Personal offers the best mobile experience among cloud backup services, including backing up phones, a built-in cloud-syncing service, a fantastic initial backup solution with IDrive Express and support for unlimited devices on a single plan. If you can live with the 5TB or 10TB storage limits, IDrive Personal is the best choice.

Read on for the rest of our IDrive Personal review.

IDrive: Cloud backup services defined

Online-backup services, aka cloud backup services, make online copies of all the personal files on your computer. Some of them can also back up system files, applications, smartphones, tablets and external hard drives. Most offer unlimited (or lots of) storage for a reasonable flat subscription fee, and most can also make local backups to an external hard drive.

These are different from online-syncing services such as Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive, which create copies of a specific set of files on all your devices and then keep those files in sync for easy, immediate access. It would cost too much and take too long to have these services sync all your files to all your devices as a form of backup. IDrive offers a syncing service at no charge to its backup customers.

If you have thousands of photos, videos, or music files you want backed up to a safe location, a cloud-backup service is what you need.

IDrive: Costs and what's covered

IDrive is one of the only cloud-backup services that offers a free tier, called IDrive Basic. It's limited to just 5GB, so you probably won't be backing up your whole computer to it.

You could use IDrive Basic as an online-syncing service, but it's less optimized for that purpose than the likes of Google Drive or Dropbox. Treat it as your free trial of IDrive.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The IDrive Personal subscription plan comes with 5TB or 10TB of storage, depending on price, and can be used across as many computers, smartphones and tablets as you like. I like to have unlimited storage, but even 5TB will be enough for most users' storage needs.

IDrive also backs up external hard drives and network-attached-storage (NAS) devices. Acronis True Image is the only other service I tested that offers full NAS-backup support, while CrashPlan for Small Business does for Mac and Linux only.

The 5TB plan is typically $52.12 for the first year ($69.50 per year thereafter), or $104.25 for the first two years ($139 thereafter). Tom's Guide readers will get an even steeper discount on the first year.

For at least the first year, this makes IDrive a very affordable online-backup option. Backblaze offers unlimited storage for $60 per year, but that's for only one computer.

For those with more extensive storage needs, you can bump your IDrive Personal storage up to 10TB. Pricing jumps up to $74.62 for the first year ($99.50 per year thereafter) or $149.25 for the first two years ($199 thereafter). Other than the storage cap, it's the same as the 5TB plan.

For those that are taking advantage of NAS support, the 10TB limit may be necessary. Even this tier remains more affordable than Acronis True Image for comparable storage or CrashPlan for Small Business with its unlimited storage but high per-computer costs.

IDrive offers support for Windows 7, macOS 10.10 Yosemite, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean or iOS 11.0 and later versions. It also supports Windows Home Server 2003 through 2016., and there are command-line scripts available to back up Linux systems, but you may have to contact IDrive support to get the script bundle for your particular Linux distribution.

IDrive: Performance

We tested each cloud-backup service using a Lenovo Yoga C940 14-inch laptop with a 10th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU running Windows 10 Home 64. Mobile apps were tested on a Google Pixel 3 with Android 10. Each service's software was uninstalled from both devices before another service's software was installed.

Our test set of files to back up consisted of 15.6GB of documents, photos, videos and music. We uploaded this data to each cloud backup service and then restored a 1.4GB subset of these files to the Lenovo Yoga C940. We used the GlassWire network-monitoring application to monitor upload and download speeds and the built-in Windows Resource Monitor to track CPU usage.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We conducted our tests in Middleton, Wisconsin, using TDS Telecom Extreme300 Fiber home internet service, which theoretically provided up to 300 megabits per second (Mbps) down and 300 Mbps up. Real-world speeds were typically closer to 50 Mbps down and 60 Mbps up during testing, according to Speedtest.net.

Acronis True ImageBackblazeCarbonite SafeCrashPlan for Small BusinessIDrive Personal
Initial upload speed26.4 Mbps36.4 Mbps17 Mbps27 Mbps25.1 Mbps
File-restore speed13.1 Mbps27.5 Mbps21.1 Mbps34.4 Mbps12.4 Mbps
CPU usage during backup>1%2.5%3.3%7.3%1.2%
CPU usage otherwise>1%>1%>1%>1%>1%

Our initial upload of 15.6GB of files using IDrive's standard settings took approximately 1 hour and 36 minutes, an average data-transfer speed of 25.1 megabits per second (Mbps). This was nearly identical to the speeds we saw the last time we tested IDrive, so it was encouraging from a consistency standpoint.

The other services we tested also improved on their upload performance from previous tests, however, so IDrive finished behind all but Carbonite Safe. It was close, though CrashPlan, Acronis and IDrive were all had upload-completion times within 7 minutes of one another. Only Backblaze set itself apart, coming out in front with a 36.4Mbps upload.

Restoring 1.4GB of video files took approximately 16 minutes and 13 seconds. Our connection provided 47 Mbps download at this time, while IDrive transferred the files at 12.4 Mbps.

This put IDrive in last place for download speed among the services tested. Acronis wasn't far ahead at 15 minutes and 20 seconds, but Backblaze was more than twice as fast and CrashPlan nearly three times faster.

IDrive used an average of approximately 1.23 percent of CPU cycles during the initial full backup, and the system load varied from less than 1 percent to 3 percent throughout testing. This represents a solid improvement from our previous tests and was the second-best result in this round of testing, behind only Acronis.

During regular computer usage, IDrive's background CPU load dropped to below 1 percent.

IDrive: User interface

The IDrive desktop app was already one of the best among cloud backup services the last time I tested it. While it hasn't undergone any major feature changes since, the overall look has been streamlined and is behind only Acronis as the most modern UI among the services I tested.

It's a simple two-column interface for the most part, with six main sections along the left and the information for the current section presented on the right. One of my few nitpicks is that I find the persistent button to upgrade to a pricier plan irritating. It breaks from the color scheme, and unless I'm close to my storage limit, I don't want to be prompted to upgrade.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Backup and Restore are both essentially file pickers. They are easy enough to navigate and use, but these are two pieces of the interface that remains pretty antiquated. I'd love to see IDrive modernize its desktop software, as Acronis True Image has. If IDrive simply borrowed the look from its mobile app, that would do it.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Scheduler lets you set the timing of your backups. You can select a daily time you would like the backups to occur or exclude certain days, and you can also set a cut-off time for backups to stop.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Sync lets you set up a folder that will sync across your devices. I will cover it more in Extra Features.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Server Backup seems a bit odd as a primary category for IDrive Personal, as it seems entirely designed for corporate IT staffers. But it's easy enough to ignore and some home users may use the Office 365 backup feature.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Settings contains the crucial Continuous Data Protection feature. This will recognize any changes on your drive to files smaller than 500 MB and immediately back up those files. 

The reason this isn't included in Scheduler may be because IDrive doesn't want you to confuse it for a full backup, which you must run to capture everything. Here you can also set up notifications in the event of a backup failure or select files or folders for exclusion from backups.

IDrive: Mobile apps

IDrive offers the most robust and useful mobile experience of any backup service that I tested. It's not even close.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While I would still love to see IDrive apply some more modern design principles to the mobile apps, it's not really behind the competition in this regard. The performance of the apps has also vastly improved, going from perhaps the slowest to the fastest app to navigate.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While for the most part the mobile app is just a file picker to view and download your backed-up files, it's the details that make it better.

One feature that impressed me is previews of images and videos. The fact that I can actually see what I'm downloading is tremendously helpful in locating the right file.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you know the name of the file you want, you can use the search function. It's somewhat oddly hidden in the overflow menu in the top-right of the app, but it works great.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Timeline feature lets you easily scroll back through previews of the photos and videos from your backed-up mobile device. I don't see myself using this instead of the native photo apps on either iOS or Android, but I had no issues using it.

Finally, IDrive joins Acronis True Image as the only backup services I tested that will also back up your mobile devices. IDrive offers the most extensive options here, with call logs, music, and the ability to select other files from your device in addition to the contacts, photos, videos, calendar, and SMS backup.

IDrive: Extra features

Cloud syncing is one interesting extra that you get with IDrive. We've covered the differences between syncing and backup services already, but IDrive is the only option I know of that offers both in the same package, and for no extra cost.

You can create a folder on your PC and other devices running IDrive that will automatically stay synced up. The sync folder is limited to 5GB of storage, but it is accessible from any device with IDrive installed. You can also access synced files directly through IDrive's web interface. There's also a robust sharing functionality with the ability to control and discontinue access.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

IDrive Express is a fantastic service offered on all plans which can dramatically speed up the backup or restoration process by shipping physical hard drives instead of pushing several terabytes over the internet.

An initial "seed" backup using a blank drive that IDrive sends you, and that you fill up with your data, is free once per year with IDrive Personal, or three times per year with IDrive Business. Additional backups are $59.95, and a full restoration always carries a $99.50 charge.

Whether you're seeding or restoring, you must return the backup hard drive to IDrive within 4 weeks of receipt or you will be charged $99.95 for a hard drive up to 3TB, or more for a larger drive. This will save you from slowing down your PC or local network with data traffic for weeks on end.

Disk-image backup is another fairly unique feature to IDrive. Among the services reviewed, only Acronis True Image 2020 also offers a complete disk-image backup to the cloud. This will create a complete bootable backup of your system rather than just the standard capture of user files that most of these services offer. (Some other services' software can back up disk images locally.)

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

IDrive supports two-factor authentication, but it just sends a one-time passcode to your email address each time you login, which isn't our preferred method of 2FA. Backblaze and CrashPlan for Small Business do it better by supporting authenticator apps like Authy or Google Authenticator.

IDrive Personal review: Bottom line

IDrive's Personal cloud-backup service remains the clear frontrunner for users who don't have massive storage needs. The features relative to the cost are unmatched and were it not for IDrive's admittedly generous storage limits, it would be the easy recommendation for all users.

Unlimited device support helps to balance out the costs for anyone looking to back up multiple computers and devices, but keep in mind that you'll be facing the shared 5TB or 10TB storage limits.

Support for NAS devices is another huge advantage for those that use them as local storage solutions Only Acronis and CrashPlan match this feature, and the latter only for macOS and Linux.

Given the continued solid performance, unlimited storage, ease of use and still reasonable $60 per year price point of Backblaze, IDrive may not be the clear recommendation for all users, but it's close.