Cobian Backup Tutorial

The following tutorial is provided as just one of many possible methods, using just one possible program of many available for backup of your crucial files. Use at your own risk, but this is a tested program for version 8 and these instructions are based upon that.

This is not going to be formal, and it is intended for students, faculty and staff, whether you are backing up your computer on campus or your personal computer. Remember, however, that you will probably need Administrator status on your computer to install this and use it.

Cobian Backup is a versatile freeware backup program, and is recommended and used in the Library. It’s also available here. Note that the original developer is turning it over to another person but it remains open source and the next version (9.0) is under development, so it seems likely to continue to be available for some time.

This can be used to schedule backups for a certain time, to compress the file(s), and even to encrypt the files for more security.

Cobian works on Windows NT, 2000, XP, Vista (use an older version from these sites for 98, etc.). It can backup to a network drive, or a CD, or any connected drive. You have an option to compress it to save room, to encrypt it so nobody else can read it (so you can store your passwords and email in there).

What to Backup?

This depends a lot on how you work.

1. You don’t backup programs. You reinstall them (download them, get them from CD, etc.).

2. You DO backup configuration and template files. For example, the configuration files (including bookmarks, etc.) for browsers, email software, etc.

If all your email is done online via the University’s LionsLink, that is already backed up by the Help Desk staff. However, if you use Thunderbird or Outlook and download your email from LionsLink or other sources, you need to depend on your own backup method.

3. Data files. These are the files that you created: word processing, spreadsheets, PDFs, graphics, signs, etc.

How do I do it the easy way?

Isn’t that the question everyone asks?

The software is called Cobian Backup, it’s version 8, and you can download it here or from SourceForge.

* Download it, and save it to your hard drive. The file will be called CbSetup.exe .

* Close your other programs (always a good precaution when installing software) and doubleclick on the cbsetup.exe file to start it.

* Accept the conditions for the license.

* Let it install in the default location, and create icons on the start menu.

* Installation type should be “As an application (Autostart for the current user)”. This is probably the second choice from the top.

This will allow the program to be loaded automatically (you’ll see a Black crescent moon in the system tray for version 8 “Black Moon”).

* Cobian Backup installs. Click the Done button when it activates.

* In the toolbar, click on the clipboard (Create a new task) icon.

* The Properties box shows up and leads you through the steps. You start in the General section.

* Name the backup: call it “Backup 1” or whatever you like.

* Disabled is NOT checked, it is blank.

Include subdirectories and the other boxes ARE checked.

Backup type is Differential which checks to see if a file was changed since the last FULL backup. Since we will be doing full backups each time, this is appropriate.

Full copies to keep can be set to 2 or greater. That will keep some older ones available in case anything is wrong with the latest one (such as being put on a bad sector of the CD or drive where it is being stored, which can occasionally happen).

Make a full backup every should be set to 1. That will create a full backup every time.

* In the left panel, click on Files. Here you select what files to backup, and where to put them.

A nice feature is that you can drag files from My Computer listings and drop them into this, just as if you were moving them (but you aren’t) and they show up in the list.

* In the Destination box, you need to put the drive to receive the files.

If you want to put this on a USB drive, a CD-ROM, a DVD, etc., you can enter the proper place.

For UA Fort Smith faculty and staff backups

For UA Fort Smith faculty and staff: Since the Help Desk staff backs up the R: and N: drives, anything saved to them should be safe. Because of the way our network drives are named, just using the letters may not work properly here, so you need to enter this manually.

For the N drive, click on Add and browse down for the R drive (or the N drive). Select one of those.

An R drive listing will look something like \\\dfsroot\home\faculty\yourname\

For those of us who have a large amount of crucial data, we might have to ask for additional space on the R: drive, or else backup to the N: drive (if we have permission from the other users in that area, and enough space is alloted.)

An N drive listing will look something like \\\dfsroot\Shared\your area\yourname\

* Add “backup” to the end. This will put the file into a separate backup directory and keep it out of your way.

The yourarea is the specific place you can use on the N drive, if this is acceptable to the other authorized users.

The yourname is your campus login name, of course.

ONLY do ONE of these – either R or N — but you don’t need both.

Selecting what to backup

Okay, now comes the only hard part, and it’s not too bad. Really! I said it’s drag and drop, didn’t I? In the Source section, you can either do drag and drop, or use the Add button. Drag and drop might be easiest for now.

* Okay, now use the Windows Start button (green, lower left on the screen) and get your My Computer window up. Reduce and move it so it leaves room for you to see the Cobian Source window.

* Now, what do you drag and drop into Sources?

a. C:\Documents and Settings\yourname\Application Data covers the settings and bookmarks for your browsers, OCLC Connexion, and a bunch of other software you have installed.

b. C:\Documents and Settings\yourname\Desktop covers your desktop — what you have on it, etc. This would let you get back to your regular arrangement quickly, once you reinstalled your software.

c. C:\Documents and Settings\yourname\My Documents — STOP! and from here you do NOT usually want the entire directory. For example, the My Music subdirectory in here has all the music you listen to, and you should have that backed up someplace else. (Of course, on your home computer, you may well WANT to back this up, especially if you have paid to download music!).

If you have all your documents in the one big My Documents directory, you may just want to mark them all and drag them to the Sources box. If you have any special subdirectories for them, drag and drop those.

d. C:\Documents and Settings\yourname\Favorites gets bookmarks from IE but not Firefox.

e. Now, if you created a special directory or directories for your word processing/ spreadsheet/ whatever files on C:\, you need to add that to Sources, along with any other special directories that could not be easily recreated.

When to backup

* In the left panel, click on the Schedule section.

* Schedule type is daily for every day.

* Time is during your regular lunch hour.

Of course, you can use the other features to schedule it differently if you like. Just bear in mind that when you’re not logged in, the backup can’t happen — it won’t happen when you turn off the computer and go home. And you don’t want to have it happen just when you’re leaving because then you’ll have to wait for it — it’s too tempting to just skip it and shut down.

Lunchtime is good. You don’t have much happening on your computer, so nothing will be slowed down — although I haven’t noticed it yet when Cobian is running (except for the little icon appearing in the system tray) until the little popup appears saying it’s finished. Still, the less going on, the better, as active files cannot be backed up.

* In the left panel, click on Archive.

* Select your Compression method as Zip compression. This is common and easily handled by programs other than Cobian.

* If you have anything that might be confidential that is not already password-protected, you should also encrypt the backup file with a password. Select Encryption type as Blowfish (128 bits) and enter the password (as “Passphrase”) twice. The quality bar will show how good your password is (longer = better). If you’re using a password program, put the password in that.

* In the left panel, click on the Special section.

* Here you can limit the files collected. For example, you might exclude “.ini” and “.db” files, which show up in a lot of directories but are not vital here. Also, you can exclude *.mp3 and *.wma to avoid getting music, or similar limitations.

* Events and Advanced are not necessary. You can leave them in default settings. Click on OK to finish setting up.

* In the toolbar, click on the Log setting. This will show the results of the work the program does.

Log Messages You May See

If you get a log message saying something like “ERR 9/27/2007 12:10:52 PM This is NOT an error: A new version is available. Download it from the program’s site!” then you need to update your version. This won’t happen too often.

Uh-oh– You got an error message, saying there are errors, but not specifying. Scroll back up the log and look for the red error message on the line for that particular file. Chances are, it was unable to backup a particular file — because you had a program using it at the time. If that’s the case, no big deal. Just remember which program it is, and be sure to close that before you go to lunch in the future.

Making Changes

Any time you want to check the log, or change the settings (say, if you moved a critical data file to a new directory), right-click on the black crescent moon in your system tray and open the program.

How do I make sure a backup was made?

Cobian gives you the option to get a report by email, but the simpler solution is to just go and look for the file where you said to put it. If you have a big file there, and the log looks good, you can test it by looking inside it (right-click and Open) to see if it looks okay.


If you are backing up to a CD, be sure you have room on the CD in the drive to handle everything. Same for a USB Flash drive, or whatever you are using. The files are simply copied if you don’t specify compression or encryption, so you can get to them easily.

If you plan to encrypt the backup, because you have some confidential stuff in there such as certain emails or passwords, then you’ll also need to download the encryption software from Cobian.

Use at your own risk, but this seems to be a good, stable program that is “set-and-forget” for most people, and works with the campus network as it presently exists.

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8 Responses to “Cobian Backup Tutorial”

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Cobain workes fine for small files for me but when i do backup for bigger files (like over 100 MB) I get a “read tide out” or “file not found” -message.
Best regards Eric

RESPONSE: sorry, you’ll need to go to the author to ask for details. Sounds like there’s a size limit. You might check for the latest version and try that first, if you haven’t already.

My webmaster installed the Cobian 10 backup on a USB drive and scheduled it for an automatic backup. At the time it is scheduled the mushroom desktop icon blinks to a red exclamation point. What does that mean and if it is a problem, what needs to be fixed?

The exclamation point usually means a problem. Right-click on it and see what comes up. Your webmaster probably should troubleshoot this for you.

Can you recommend a file/folder compare program that will verify that the source and backup files/folders are identical?

Great tutorial.


Check the report in Cobian and you can see what it did and didn’t handle, if that’s a concern.
Outside of that, I have no preference on comparison software, but there’s some out there if you search.

Hi, im using Cobian Backup 10. My problem is the logs that were sending by Cobian are getting bigger. Before it send up to 3mb logs. But now it reaches to 12mb. I chose only the log errors are logged. Why the logs are getting bigger ? Can someone help me on this case. Thanks.

Check what it says in the logs. It may be encountering problems and reporting them, or you may have some programs generating new files in the directories you set to backup.

It works great in my system. Thanks for the tutorial.

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