I need to make backups of a variety of files, ranging from code files to pictures and music.

I intend to backup to a USB stick, and for security/data integrity I want to only backup manually. The USB stick will be unplugged when not being actively backed up to/restored from. This means backup software which relies on a push model - watching a set of folders and automatically backing up every X days - is out.

Because I'm just backing up to a USB, I don't need encryption, cloud access, or network access.

Filters are important to me, as a lot of my code files are in project folders with files I don't want to copy (built executables, object files, etc.) Being able to manually choose what's included is also important - some of my files are in separate folders, so anything that copies just a single folder isn't likely to work. Hand-in-hand with filters and manual file/directory selection, the ability to look at what I'm actually backing up before I do it would be awesome.

Backup to zip/7zip would be nice. Backup to any compressed non-proprietary format is acceptable. Straight folder synchronization is not okay. Backup to a proprietary format only the backup software can read/write is not okay.

Being able to choose complete vs incremental backups would be nice. I anticipate making full backups of my code files for data integrity, but only needing incremental backups of my media as that doesn't change much (and is prohibitively large to full-backup every week). Tying in with incremental backups and general data integrity, auto-naming of backups would be useful.

Ideally, the software would be free. I would reluctantly accept a commercial program if no freeware options are presented, but my budget for a commercial option is only around $30 or so.

Toucan comes very close to what I need, but it's a little on the glitchy side and I had to abandon it when it choked on a multiple-folder backup. WinDataReflector is also very close to perfect, but the lack of incremental backup is painful for my media backups.

  • Pointer: Maybe you could use the autorun.inf to achieve your goal – so as soon as the stick gets mounted your backup software would be started?
    – Izzy
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 9:34
  • @Izzy Interesting idea, I hadn't thought of re-enabling autorun. I'll probably leave it disabled in the interest of security, though. A few extra clicks to start the software won't bother me.
    – cf-
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 12:16
  • On Linux, that would be pretty easy and secure: create an UDEV rule for the "device ID" of the stick. So autorun would only apply to that one stick (and the rule would basically say: "If that stick is inserted, run the backup" – which when done e.g. pops up a notification that it's now safe to remove the stick). Not sure if there's something equivalent on Windows. Though it would probably be doable via a scheduler job, checking in intervals for a specific drive/directory/file being available ;)
    – Izzy
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 12:20
  • It looks like Windows autoplay doesn't allow me to set a rule for a specific USB drive. "If you have connected a volume device to your computer (for example, a USB flash drive or external hard drive), that device will not appear in the Devices section of AutoPlay. AutoPlay only lists non-volume devices" Some quick research indicates I can enable AutoRun for USBs, but only as an all-or-nothing setting. Too bad, specific device rules would be pretty awesome.
    – cf-
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 20:25
  • "Straight folder synchronization is not okay"? I don't understand Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 20:30

1 Answer 1


Take a look at Cobian Backup.

It's free, backs up to ZIP, has include/exclude filters, multiple task definitions, incremental/differential/full backups.

I don't think it has the ability to look at what I'm actually backing up before I do it.

In your case, do not schedule the backup tasks but start them manually.
(I do this too, I have not even installed CB as a service. At the end of the day I double-click the app, right-click it's icon, choose Run all tasks, check shut down computer when done and leave).

Here is a review from 2013. I don't know if Cobian Backup still has the VSS/Windows 8 issues, I only use Win7. The website says CB is For Windows XP, 2003, Vista, 2008, Windows 7.
Other reviewers say I was also able to run Cobian Backup in Windows 10 and Windows 8 without any issues (which does not surprise me, because all it does is file manipulations, and it recognizes/uses VSS).

  • This looks perfect! The pre-backup/post-backup events are really useful, too. I'll accept your answer in a few hours, just in case someone else comes up with another suggestion before then.
    – cf-
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 12:20

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