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This, of course, is precisely what Time Machine does on a Mac.
An alternative is Dropbox: move all your working files into/under the Dropbox directory, and they will be automatically sync-ed to the cloud, as they change. If you disconnect from the internet, it remembers (or figures out) what to do when you reconnect.
I do both: Dropbox for immediate and continuous backups, and two Time Machine drives I alternately connect once a week or so; one kept at work and one kept at home. Belt and two suspenders with geographic diversity.
As far as freeware goes: you get what you pay for. $100/year for a 1 TB Dropbox is well worth it, IMHO (and I want to help keep them in business).
Take a look at CrashPlan. Their client app is free to download and use on local drives without needing to subscribe to their cloud backup.
You tell it what directories/files to monitor, and any changes to files in those locations get backed up at what ever intervals you want (every 5,10,15 mins, whatever). You can create multiple backup sets that backup different sets of files at different intervals to different destinations if needed as well.
You can also tell it how long to keep file versions, so you can roll any file back to a any previous backed-up version. You can tell it to keep versions for a month, or year or forever. You can also set whether it keeps deleted files in the backup set or not as well.
I use it and it works rather well. I have a backup set that backs up locally to a NAS drive at daily interval, and another set that does backup to their cloud service at a 15minute interval. I've had to restore small groups of files and it's as easy as browsing the backup file structure in their software, selecting what version (day) you want to restore and where you want the file restored to (specific location or original location).
Since I pay for the cloud backup, the software is full featured, and I do know that it lets you use it locally for free without the subscription, but I can't speak to whether all the fine/detailed settings are available for free or if some options are locked out, you'd have to check that. But at least you can try it without loosing anything, and decide if you like it.
(I'm not affiliated with CrashPlan, just a happy customer).
Have you considered Unison or Microsoft's Synchtoy - depending on how platform independent you want to be. Both allow you to preview and choose what to synch or not (at least if you use the GUI) - and allow for exclusions and so forth.
I learned a very hard lesson about backups earlier this year. I had a massive plumbing leak at my house while I was out of town that wiped out all of my computers & external drives. I thought that I had backups covered because I had everything important on multiple drives but for some unknown reason I hadn't thought about the possibility of all of them being wiped out at once (that kind of thing happens to other people & not me).
I would consider some kind of cloud backup so that you don't run into the same problem. I use both Google Drive & MS OneDrive for free but I think that I'm limited to 15 & 30 GB respectively unless I buy additional space (& I think that I'm grandfathered in to the larger free sizes so new members might be restricted to ~5-10 GB). Both of them are integrated into Windows Explorer so that you just have to store files/directories in the location on your hard drive that is designated for cloud synchronization.
This might not work for you if you don't want everything stored in the sync location. You could however have your automated backup system move these files/directories from their original location to the sync location so that they are also automatically stored in the cloud. Of course if both the original locations & the sync location are stored on your local drive then you would then be taking up twice the space on that drive. You could possibly work around this to some extent by having the cloud sync location stored on an external drive so that you get both cloud & external drive backup at the same time without taking up twice the space on your local drive. The caveat to this is that I'm not sure how well the cloud sync engines deal with temporarily unavailable drives (i.e. when you unplug your external HD).
I'm pretty satisfied with Resilio Sync, although it is not intended as a backup system in the first place and it must be well understood.
But you may can take a look at Duplicati. I think this software meets your requirements.
Years ago I wanted the same type of thing and did decide to roll my own. It worked so well that I did end up releasing it. It creates a "sync plan" that shows what needs doing to bring your backup files into sync with the current files. You can then diff the files, make changes etc until you are happy with the plan and then run it. It works with Windows file systems and FTP, cloud locations etc. It is not free but it is inexpensive. Its called "AJC Sync" and there is now another product called "AJC Active Backup" that gives instant archiving to create a multi version archive on your PC which I think is rather like the time machine already mentioned on the Mac.
YES! I have been noticing too many websites that do this. Similar to this are websites that load but then put a login dialog on top. A lot of news websites used to do this before Trump got into office - I guess they figure that if it is important for conventional news organizations to get the word out, they shouldn't be denying access to the casual (or cheap in my case ) visitor. BTW, I have figured out that the way to avoid this dialog to time hitting the stop tool button just right so that the page loads but not the dialog; I was getting really good at doing this against the Washington Post & Los Angeles Times before they removed it.
I'm turning 30 this year, time to act my age.
So, I'm leaving on an elderly cruise in Germany tomorrow
Vacation with my parents and grandparents.
We did this last year as well, because it's the only way to get my grandpa to come on a vacation (he likes boats) and my grandma wants to go on a vacation, but she doesn't want to leave grandpa at home alone anymore.
And last year was a tremendous success!
Before we went my grandparents were like "we're too old for this and this will be our last vacation", but since we came back it's all they've been talking about and they couldn't wait to go again this year
My grandma and me have always been travelling buddies ever since I was little, so it wouldn't feel right to not go with her now.
The youngest person on the ship after me will be twice my age, but the three meals a day are good so whatever
Bingo, Yahtzee, bus trip excursions, here I come!