Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Cobian Backup is a free backup software for Windows. It is crammed with featured, yet seems minimalistic at first glance. Users can create multiple backup tasks for different purposes, backups can be scheduled individually, back files up to multiple different locations, compress or encrypt backups, and more. If you are looking for a truly versatile and easy to use backup tool, look no further.
Cobian Backup has been developed by Luis Cobian. It is written in Delphi and used to be open source under the Mozilla Public License. Never versions have been closed source. The software itself is supported by an extensive Help file and a Tutorial available in its Program Files folder.
Installing Cobian Backup
The installation takes you through a basic setup routine, such as TOS agreement and shortcuts creation, but it also includes more advanced steps. Some of the options beg for explanations, which are offered both in a mouse-over tool tip and in the Help file. The location of the Help file on your computer may differ, depending on your operating system. During the setup, you can switch to one of over a dozen languages via a menu on the left-hand side at any time.
Once the program is installed, it will reside in your Windows system tray. Open it to continue the setup.
Setting up a Cobian Backup
Cobian Backup offers a lot of advanced features, but the developer managed to pack them into a simple and fairly intuitive interface. To create a new backup task, click the + icon.
Backup tasks are organized like software preferences. There are eight different categories on the left-hand menu bar and options can be selected in the main window on the right. Under General you set a task name and choose the backup type. Explanations for each option are given in the mouse-over tool tip.
The backup source and destination are selected under Files. You can add files, directories, FTP, or add a source manually. The latter is useful, for example when an external device is not currently connected to your computer. If you add multiple destinations, all will be used in case all are available, however the backup won’t be abrogated in case one isn’t connected. You can drag and drop files and folders from Windows Explorer. This is the final mandatory step.
To use the Schedule is optional, but obviously key to a good backup. You can choose from a range of options. My personal favorite is the on startup one, although it’s not always practical.
All following settings are advanced and optional. Under Dynamics you can set a priority, how many full copies to keep of the backup, and when to take full copies in case you selected incremental or differential backups. To save space and increase security, you can make compressed and encrypted backups via Archive. The Filter allows you to include or exclude specific files. Under Events you can open or close programs before or after the backup. Finally, there are Advanced settings, such as using absolute paths, or running the task as another user.
You should always set a schedule for your backups, so they run automatically. However, you can also run all tasks manually at any time. Click the play button to run selected tasks, either a single one or multiple ones. Click the double play button on the far left to run all tasks. When you confirm you can set to shut down the computer when all tasks are done.
Backups can be paused or abrogated using the respective buttons, which become available when a task is running.
As a side note I should mention that Cobian Backup has crashed on me in the past. However, this never happened when a backup was running and the current version appears to be stable. Just be sure the program is actually running in ‘stand-by’ when you are expecting it to automatically launch a backup task.
Browsing the menu bar will reveal many more functions, for example cloning a task and several tools. Further advanced options are available via the Settings button. Here you can change the language, set a Hotkey, customize logs, set up the mail log function, set an FTP speed limit, customize the visual appearance of Cobian Backup and its functionality, and much more.
Moreover, Cobian Backup offers a Tutorial (file location on your computer may be different) that takes you through the entire installation and setup process. While the screenshots reveal that it is based on version 9, it doesn’t differ much from the current version. Finally, a lot of additional information, for example backup theory, is available in the Help file.
Cobian Backup’s clear interface allows quick access to key features, so that even inexperienced users can navigate it without being overwhelmed by a flood of options. Experienced users on the other hand will be impressed by advanced features that not even many paid tools are offering. Taken together, Cobian Backup is a reliable, comprehensive, and intuitive to use backup tool.
More details about backups in general and Cobian Backup in particular can be found in our Backup & Restore Guide. Cobian Backup is one of the best software programs listed on our The Best Windows Software page. If you prefer to use default Windows features, read How To Set Up & Use Windows 7 Backup & Restore Feature.
How do you manage your backups?
Image credits: File and Document Backup via Shutterstock