Updated: 
9 December, 2011
Cobian Backup for Windows

Cobian Backup is used for creating archives of your digital files. They can be stored on your computer, office network, removable devices or Internet servers.

Version used in this guide: 
10
License: 
Free Proprietary Software
System requirements: 
  • Microsoft Windows
What you will get from this guide: 

The ability to back up all documents, files and folders.

The ability to compress and decompress your backup files.

The ability to encrypt and decrypt your archived files.

1. Introduction to Cobian Backup
1.0 Other tools like Cobian Backup

GNU Linux, Mac OS and other Microsoft Windows Compatible Programs:

Archiving or performing a backup of your documents, files and folders could be as simple as copying files from one location to another secure location; for this, special tools are not required. However, when archiving greater numbers of documents and files, you will benefit from using either a specialized program to backup files (like Cobian Backup) or a file synchronisation tool, programs that ensure that both the original or ‘source’ location and the new location have exactly same content. Apart from Cobian Backup, there are many tools for helping you to archive or backup your documents; here is our recommended list as follows:

  • Freebyte Backup is a freeware backup program designed for Microsoft Windows;
  • Unison File Synchronizer is a free and open source program for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, and GNU/Linux;
  • Allway Sync is a freeware Microsoft Windows files synchronisation tool;
  • FreeFileSync is a free and open source files synchronisation tool for GNU/Linux and Microsoft Windows;
  • Time Machine is a backup utility developed by Apple, included with Mac OS (version 10.5 and up);
  • Ubuntu GNU/Linux users please read Backup Your System guide describing tools you may use.
1.1 Things you should know about Cobian Backup before you start

Cobian Backup is used to archive, (or to make a backup copy) of your files and directories. Backups can be stored in other directories or drives on your computer, other computers on the office network, or on removable devices (CDs, DVDs and USB memory sticks).

Cobian Backup lets you archive your directories and files on a regular basis. It works silently in the background on your system (that is, in the system tray), checking your schedule and executing the backup process when necessary. Cobian Backup can also compress and encrypt files as it generates the backup file.

2. Install Cobian and Backup Your Files
2.0 Install Cobian Backup

Installation Note: Before you begin the installation process, verify that you have both the latest versions of the Microsoft Windows Installer and the Microsoft.NET Framework.

Installing Cobian Backup is a relatively easy and quick procedure. To begin installing Cobian Backup, perform the following steps:

Step 1. Double click ; the Open File - Security Warning dialog box may appear. If it does, click to activate the light blue Extracting the resource progress status bar, followed a few moments later by the following screen:

Figure 1: The Cobian Setup Please select a language window

Step 2. Click to activate the Please read and accept the license agreement screen; check the I accept option, and then click again to activate the following screen:

Figure 2: The Select an installation directory window

Step 3. Click to activate the following screen:

Figure 3: The Installation type and Service options window

Step 4. Check the Use Local System account option in the Service options pane, so that your own resembles Figure 3 above.

Important: This option ensures that Cobian Backup will be running silently in the background all the time, so that your backups will occur as scheduled.

Step 5. Click to activate the following message prompt:

Figure 4: The Cobian Backup 10 message prompt

Step 6. Click to activate the next installation screen, and then click to continue with the installation process.

Step 7. Click to complete the installation process. After the installation process has been completed, the Cobian Backup icon will appear in the Windows System Tray as follows: .

2.1 Backup Your Directories and Files

In this section you will learn how to perform a simple backup or archive of a specified files and/or folders. Cobian Backup uses a backup task which can be configured to include a specified group of files and/or folders. A backup task can be set to run on a specified day and time.

To create a new backup task, perform the following step:

Step 1. Click to create a new backup task, and activate the New task window as follows:

Figure 2: The New task pane

The left sidebar lists a number of tabs and their associated screens - used to set different backup options and parameters - are displayed in the pane at right. All the options in the General tab are described below:

2.1.1 Option Descriptions

Task Name: This Task Name text field lets you enter a name for the backup task. Use a name that identifies the nature of the backup. For example, if the backup is going to contain video files, you could name it Video Backup.

Disabled: This option must be left unchecked.

Warning: Enabling the Disabled option will override the rest of the options, and prevent the backup task from running.

Include Subdirectories: This option lets you include all the subdirectories/folders within a selected directory/folder for the backup task. This is an efficient method for backing up a large number of folders and/or files. As an example, if you select the My Documents folder and check this option, then all files and folders in My Documents will be included in the backup task.

Create separated backups using timestamps: This option lets you specify that the date and time of the backup task will be automatically included in the folder name containing your backup file. This is a good idea because it means that you will easily be able to identify when the backup was performed.

Use file attribute logic: This option is only relevant when you choose to perform an incremental or differential backup (see below). File attributes contain information about the file.

Note: The following option is only available for Windows OS versions more recent than and including Windows XP.

Use Volume Shadow Copy: This option lets you backup files which are locked.

Cobian Backup verifies this information to determine whether there has been a change in the source file from the last time a backup was performed. If you then run an Differential or Incremental backup, the file will be updated.

Note: You will only be able to run a full or 'dummy backup' if you disable this option (the dummy backup option is explained below).

2.1.2 Backup Type Descriptions

Full: This option means that every single file in the source location will be copied to your backup directory. If you have enabled the Create separated backups using timestamp option, you will have several copies of the same source (identified by the time and date of the backup in the folder title). Otherwise, Cobian Backup will overwrite the previous version (if any).

Incremental: This option means the program will verify if the files selected for backup have been changed since the last backup was performed. If there has been no change, it will be skipped over during the backup process, saving backup time. The Use file attribute logic option needs to be checked in order to perform this backup.

Differential: The program will check if the source has been changed from the last full backup. If there is no need to copy that file, it will be skipped, saving backup time. If you have run a full backup before on the same set of files, then you can continue backing it up, using the Differential method.

Dummy task: You can use this option to get your computer to run or shut down programs at certain times. This is a more advanced option which is not really relevant to our basic backup procedure.

Step 2. Click to confirm your search options and parameters for your backup task.

2.2 Create a Backup File

To begin creating a backup file, perform the following steps:

Step 1. Click in the left sidebar of the New task window to display a blank version of the following screen:

Figure 3: The New task (MyBackup) window displaying the Source and Destination panes

Step 2. Select the files you want to back up. (In Figure 3 above, the My Documents folder is selected.)

Step 3. Click in the Source pane to activate the following menu:

Figure 4: The Source pane - Add button menu

Step 4. Select Directory if you want to back up an entire directory, and Files to back up individual files. To specify individual files or directories to be backed up, select Manually, and type in the file path or directory for your backup.

Note: You can add as many files or directories as you like. If you wish to back up files currently on your FTP server, choose the FTP site option (you will need to have the appropriate server login details).

When you have selected the files and/or folders, they will appear in the Source area. As you can see in Figure 3 above, the My Documents folder is displayed there, meaning this folder will now be included in the backup task.

The Destination pane specifies where the backup will be stored.

Step 5. Click in the Destination pane to activate the following menu:

Figure 5: The Destination pane - Add button menu

Step 6. Select Directory to open a browser window where you select the destination folder for your backup file.

Note: If you want to create several versions of the backup file, you may specify several folders here. If you selected the Manually option, you must type in the full path to the folder where you want to keep the backup. To use a remote Internet server to store your archive, select the FTP site option (you will need to have the appropriate server login details).

The screen should now resemble the example above example with file(s) and/or folder(s) in the source area and folder(s) in the destination area. However, don't click OK just yet! You still need to set a schedule for your backup.

2.3 How to Schedule Your Backup Task

For your automatic backup to work, you need to fill in the Schedule section. This section lets you specify when you want the backup to be performed.

To set the schedule options, perform the following steps:

Step 1. Select from the left sidebar, to activate the following pane:

Figure 6: The Properties for myBackup displaying the Schedule type pane

The Schedule type options are listed in the drop-down menu, and described below:

Once: The backup will be done once only at the date and time specified in the Date/Time area.

Daily: The backup will be done every day at the time specified in the Date/Time area.

Weekly: The backup will be done on the days of the week selected. In the example above, the backup will be done on Fridays. You may select other days also. The backup will be done on all days selected at the time specified in the Date/Time area.

Monthly: The backup will be done on the days typed into the days of the month box at the time specified in the Date/Time area.

Yearly: The backup will be done on the days typed into the days of the month box, during the month specified, and at the time specified in the Date/Time area.

Timer: The backup will be done repeatedly at intervals specified in the Timer text box in the Date/Time area.

Manually: You will have to run the backup yourself from the main program window.

Step 2. Click to confirm the options and settings for the backup schedule as follows:

Figure 7: The New task window displaying a configured Schedule type pane

Once you have decided on a backup schedule, you have completed the final step. The backup will now run on the folders specified according to the schedule you have chosen.

3. Compress and Decompress Your Files
3.0 Compress Your Backup File

Step 1. Create a backup task containing the backup files you want to archive, as documented in the Create a Backup File section.

Step 2. Select from the left sidebar to activate the New task screen as follows:

Figure 1: The New task screen displaying the Compression and Strong Encryption panes

The Compression pane is used to specify the method for compressing your backup.

Note: Compression is used to reduce the amount of space for file storage. If you have a bunch of old files that you use only occasionally, but you still want to keep, it would make sense to store them in a format where they take up as little space as possible. Compression works by removing a lot of unnecessary coding out of your documents, while leaving important information intact. Compression does not damage your original data. The files are not viewable when compressed. The process must be reversed and your files 'decompressed' when you want to view the files again.

The three sub-options in the Compression type drop-down list are:

No Compression: This option does not perform any compression, as you would expect.

Zip Compression: This option is the standard compression technique for Windows systems, and the most convenient. Archives once created can be opened with standard Windows tools (or you can download the ZipGenius program to access them).

Selecting a compression type listed automatically enables the Split options section, and its corresponding drop-down list.

The Split options apply to storage on removable media, for example CDs, DVDs, floppy disks and USB memory sticks. The various split options will subdivide the archive into sizes that will fit onto your storage device of choice.

Example: Let's say that you are archiving a large number of files, and you want to burn them to a CD. However, your archive size turns out to be larger than 700MB (the size of a CD). The splitting function will split the archive into pieces smaller than or equal to 700MB, which you can then burn onto your CDs. If you are planning to back up onto your computer's hard disk, or the files that you want to back up are smaller than the device you plan to store them on, you can skip this section.

The following options are available to you when you click on the Split options drop-down list. Your choice will depend on the type of removable storage device available to you.

Figure 2: The Split Options drop-down list

  • 3,5" - Floppy disk. This option is big enough to perform backup of a small number of documents
  • Zip - Zip Disk (check the capacity of the one you are using). You will need a special Zip Drive in your computer and the custom-made disks
  • CD-R - CD disk (check the capacity of the one you are using). You will need a CD Writer in your computer and a CD writing program (see DeepBurner Free version or other disk burning tools).
  • DVD - DVD disk (check the capacity of the one you are using). You will need a DVD Writer in your computer and a DVD writing program (see DeepBurner Free version or other disk burning tools).

If you are backing up onto several USB memory sticks you may want to set a custom size.

To do this, perform the following steps:

Step 1. Select the Custom size (bytes) option, then type the size of the archive in bytes into the text field as follows:

Figure 10: The Custom size text field

To give you an idea of sizes

  • 1KB (kilobyte) = 1024 bytes - a one-page text document made in Open Office is approximately 20kb
  • 1MB (megabyte) = 1024 KB - a photo taken on a digital camera is usually between 1 - 3 MB
  • 1GB (gigabyte) = 1024 MB - approximately half hour of a DVD quality movie

Note: When choosing a custom size to split your backup for a CD or DVD disk, Cobian Backup will not copy the backup to your removable device automatically. Rather, it will create your archive in those files on the computer and you will need to burn them to the CD or DVD disk yourself.

Password Protect: This option lets you enter a password to protect the archive. Simply type, then re-type a password into the two boxes provided. When you try to decompress the archive, you will be asked for the password before the task commences.

Note: If you want to secure your archive, you should think about using another method than a password. Cobian Backup lets you encrypt your archive. This will be covered in the Encrypt your Backup File section. Alternatively, you may also refer to the Truecrypt Guide to find out how to create an encrypted storage space on your computer or removable device.

Comment: This option lets you write something descriptive about the archive, but it is not a requirement.

3.1 Decompress Your Backup File

To decompress your backup, perform the following steps:

Step 1. Select > Tools > Decompressor as shown below;

Figure 3: The Tools menu displaying the Decompressor option

The Decompressor window appears as follows:

Figure 4: The Cobian 10 Backup - Decompressor window

Step 2. Click to open a browse window to enable you to select the archive you want to decompress.

Step 3. Select the archive (.zip or .7x file) and then click .

Step 4. Select a directory into which you will unpack (output) the archived file.

Step 5. Click to open another window that lets you choose the folder in which to unpack the archive.

Step 6. Select a folder, and then click .

Use Windows Explorer to view the files that go to that folder.

4. Encrypt and Decrypt Your Backup File

Encryption may be a necessity for those wishing to keep their backup secure from unauthorised access.

Encryption is the process of encoding, or scrambling, data in such a way that it appears unintelligible to anyone who does not have the specific key needed to decode the message. For more information on encryption, please refer to How-to Booklet chapter 4.How to protect the sensitive files on your computer

4.1 How to Encrypt Your Backup File

The Strong encryption pane is used to specify the encryption method to be used.

Step 1. Click the Encryption type drop-down box to activate its list of different encryption methods as follows:

Figure 1: The Encryption type drop-down list

To keep things simple, we recommend that you choose from either the Blowfish or the Rijndael (128 bits) methods. These will provide excellent security for your archive, and let you access the encrypted data with a chosen password.

Step 2. Select the Encryption type you want to use.

Note: Rijndael and Blowfish both offer approximately the same level of security. DES is weaker but the encryption process is faster.

Step 3. Type and re-type the password into the two boxes provided as below.

Figure 2: The The Encryption type and Passphrase text fields

The strength of the password is indicated by the bar marked 'Passphrase quality'. The further the bar moves to the right, the stronger the passphrase. Refer to the Create and Maintain Secure Passwords and KeePass guides for instructions on how to create and store secure passphrases (or passwords).

Step 4. Click .

4.2 Decrypt Your Backup File

Decrypting your backup file is easy and quick. To decrypt your backup file, perform the following steps:

Step 1. Select > Tools > Decrypter and Keys as shown below:

Figure 3: The Tools menu with Decrypter and Keys item selected

This will activate the Decrypter and Keys window as follows:

Figure 4: The Cobian Backup 10 Decrypter and Keys window

Step 2. Click to select the archive you want to decrypt.

Step 3. Click to select the folder in which to store the decrypted archive.

Step 4. In the Methods drop-down list, Select the same encryption type you selected in the Encrypt Your Backup File section.

Figure 5: The New Methods drop-down list

Step 4. Select the appropriate encryption method (the one you used to encrypt your backup file).

Step 5. Type your passphrase into the Passphrase text fields.

Step 6. Click .

The file(s) will be decrypted to the location that you specified. If the files were also compressed, you will need to decompress them as outlined in the Decompress Your Backup section.

FAQ: 

Q: If I have my archive of files on a DVD, can I decompress and decrypt my files on a computer other than my own? What about using them in an Internet cafe?

A: You can restore your archive, whether it is encrypted or compressed, on any computer running the Cobian Backup program.

Q: I have a real problem with lack of computer space. I'm not sure how much space I can save by compressing my files. Can you give me some simple examples?

A: Most space on your computer is usually taken up by photos, video and audio files. You can see how much room they take up on your computer by right-clicking on the folder that stores them and choosing properties. If you do not have much space left on your computer, consider creating an archive of these files, and then removing the originals from your computer.

Q: I'm always being asked to update programs I get from the Internet. If a new version of Cobian Backup comes along and I download it, I'm worried that I'll lose access to my compressed and encrypted files. Should I download updates?

A: You should always download the latest updates as they often provide security and operational upgrades. Cobian Backup will continue to work well on your computer, and any new version will always be compatible with any backup you made using an older one.

Q: Won't the fact that I have this program on my computer make it obvious that I have encrypted material?

A: You do not need to keep an encrypted backup on your computer. Cobian Backup is not a well-known program for data encryption, as that is not its main feature.

Q: Is it better to use this program or* TrueCrypt *for encrypting files?

A: Its preferable that you use TrueCrypt to encrypt files on your computer. The encryption mechanism is stronger and you have the possibility of adding and deleting files from the encrypted volume. You can also backup a TrueCrypt volume using Cobian Backup.

Q: Are there any extra things I need to know if I implement the 'Backup to ftp server' option?

A: You need to know whether your provider offers the FTP service and the necessary login details. It is preferable that you use the secure version of FTP known as SFTP, if this is offered by your provider.

Review questions: 
  • What is the difference between an incremental and a differential backup?
  • What is the best way to secure your backup?
  • How can you fit a 1GB backup onto a CD disk?
  • How can you restore just one file from a backup?
  • Is it possible to create an automated task for your computer to update the weekly backup every Friday afternoon? How do you do it?

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