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Cobian Backup Review : Best Free Computer Backup Software

Cobian Backup Review

Cobian Backup ScreenshotThere are a number of computer backup programs that are available for free download, but few do everything that you want them to, and are limited in their functionality.  This is definitely not true when it comes to Cobian Backup.

It’s also frustrating when you download a free program only to find that it’s free only for 30 days, or that the key functionality has been removed, requiring you to pay for it.

The latest version of Cobian Backup (Version 11 – Gravity) does do virtually anything that you need, and it is free to use without any time limits being applied to the license.

It is what I use to backup the data on all of my computers, and it’s flexibility makes it ideal for backing up a computer over a wireless connection, for example a laptop.

Backup Software Types

There are two main types of backup software. The first type takes an image of a disk, and the second type backs up individual files.

Programs that save an image of a disk (for example Norton Ghost), have limited options in what you can include and omit when saving. They usually save a whole disk partition, which can be large and take a long time to backup. Restoring usually requires that the whole of the backup is restored, with it not being possible to just restore individual files.

This is not very practical for day to day backups, since you often want to save and restore individual files and folders.

Another factor to consider when choosing backup software is where do you want to backup to. Is the destination going to be a flash drive, another computer, an external hard drive, or are you going to upload to the internet (cloud backup)? Cobian Backup surprisingly allows you to backup to any of these.

All versions of Microsoft Windows do come with a backup option, but this is very limited, and documentation on how to use it is very limited.

I could go on writing comparisons of different programs for page after page and extolling their virtues and otherwise, but my intention today was to tell you about the wonders of Cobian Backup, and so that is what I will now attempt to do.

Reasons Why I Use Cobian Backup

My laptop holds my Photographs, Videos, Music, Email and Documents, which take up a lot of space. It’s inconvenient to have to plug it into the Router to do a backup, but if I try to backup all my data over the wireless connection, it would take about 24 hours.

Cobian Backup allows you to define multiple backups, so that you can backup different types of documents, or folders, in manageable chunks.

My photographs, for example, are saved in 3 different backups. My Music in another, Videos in yet another, then Documents, Web Sites, Family History, and Email.

Cobian Backup allows you to define for each backup, the folders and files to include, as well as those to exclude from that particular backup. For my photographs for example, I have all the folders and sub-folders set to be included, but only the jpg, gif, png files etc to be saved. Other temporary files, like thumbnails, are excluded.

I can now sit working on my laptop, while backups operate in the background, and each one takes a reasonable amount of time to complete.

Cobian Backup allows you to take Full Backups, Differential Backups, and Incremental Backups.

What are these?

  • A Full Backup includes all files that have been selected.
  • A Differential Backup includes only those files that have been changed since the last Full Backup.
  • An Incremental Backup includes only those files that have been changed since the last Incremental Backup.

For a full explanation of these backup methods, see this detailed guide on Full Differential And Incremental Backups.

Cobian Backup saves files individually, so should you need to access or restore files, you don’t have to use any special software to unpack and extract them. You can easily restore a folder, or just a single file if you want to.

Cobian Backup allows you to append the date and time as well as the type of backup to the folders created during the backup. This means that you can easily see when the backup was taken, and whether it was a Full, Differential or Incremental backup.

Cobian Backup allows you to save data to a Flash Drive, DVD, another computer, External Hard Drive or to upload data to the internet (FTP). It also allows you to use any combination of the above, so you can make a backup of a folder to an external hard drive and to the internet at the same time. Isn’t that cool!

Cobian Backup allows you to compress the data if you desire. Compressing data makes the backup process take a little longer, however the resulting files will be smaller, so if backing up data to the internet, it could work out faster overall if your connection is slow. It’s also useful to compress your data if you are short of space, for example if you are backing up to a DVD/CD or if you are low on free space on a hard drive.

Cobian Backup also does something that many other low end backup programs don’t do, it takes a Snapshot of your files prior to saving them. Normally, you cannot copy a file when it is in use, however when a Cobian backup process begins, it takes a snapshot of all the files to be included, then saves them all, as of the point in time that the snapshot was taken. This means that while the backup is processing, you can continue to work with files, to leave your email program open, etc. Is that brilliant or what!

Cobian backup allows you to schedule backups and to define how many of each type you want to retain. For example, if I tell it to take a Differential backup, to keep 5 copies, and to keep 2 Full copies as well, the first time it runs, it will take a Full backup, since it has not yet taken one. The next 5 backups will be Differential ones, and then it will detect that it needs to take another Full backup. The process will repeat, however when it has taken it’s 3rd Full backup, it will automatically delete the 1st Full backup and the 5 Differential backups taken between that and what is now the oldest Full backup.

There is far more to Cobian Backup than this, and I hope that you can see that this program has something for everyone.

For me, I love to be able to backup just the files that I want to, to have my Full and Differential copies of files, to backup in multiple locations, and above all to be able to break up the backup process into manageable chunks, so I don’t have to spend every weekend with my laptop out of commission.

Update May 2018

I thought that as this article was written by me way back in February 2011, which is 7 years ago, that I would provide an update, in case anyone reading this discounts Cobian Backup as being old and therefore likely to be no longer functional and obsolete.

This is definitely not true, as when I was looking for a backup solution for my new Windows 10 laptop at the end of 2017, despite there being a lot of other backup products available, Cobian Backup still fitted the task the best, and YES it still works on both 32 bit and 64 bit versions of Windows 10.

I do also these days use another product to synchronise certain folders (mostly images and music) with mirrors on a backup drive or in the cloud, but when it comes to email, or any data which changes regularly and where I wish to retain multiple copies of backups, so I can revert back in case of problems, Cobian Backup is “in my humble opinion” still the best free backup solution.

About Cobian Backup

Cobian Backup was written by Luis Cobian of Umea University in Sweden.

The latest version of Cobian Backup is called Gravity, and can be downloaded HERE.

For further information and support, see the Cobiansoft Forum HERE.


I have no connection to Luis Cobian, Cobiansoft or Cobian Backup, other than being a happy user. I searched for months to find a suitable backup program for my data, tried various solutions that were far from perfect, and have found Cobian Backup to be the solution to most of my backup requirements.

The Contributor has no connection to nor was paid by the brand or product described in this content.

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