Best Offline Backup Software 2023: Old School Rules
You’re ready to backup your data, but you’re not sure about using one of our best online backup solutions. Maybe the cloud isn’t your thing or you’re just old school. No matter, because we’ve put together a list of the best offline backup apps.
If you want something that can work online and offline, you should check out our CloudBerry Backup review.
Whatever route you take, creating a backup is a good idea because you can’t know when your hard drive will rotate its last cycle or experience a crash or malfunction.
Data recovery software might help you in that situation, but you can’t be sure it will retrieve your data. You shouldn’t rely on solid-state drives, either, because, despite their failure rate of less than 1 percent, they experience more errors.
Storing your data in multiple locations, such as external drives and servers, is a good method to ensure its safety. It’s so useful that it’s known as the 3-2-1 rule.
If you’ve only worked with cloud storage and don’t know what the difference between it and backup is, you should read our explanation. Before proceeding with the list, we’re going to compare offline to online solutions.
Offline vs. Online
The main difference is that offline backup doesn’t send your files anywhere, which is also one of the biggest benefits of using it. Initial backup takes a long time to complete with online services. Offline services are faster because they don’t have to transfer your data to create a backup. What you gain in speed, though, you lose in storage because you have to provide it.
Since your data isn’t in the cloud, getting to it will be difficult if you’re not physically close to your computer, external hard drive or USB stick. If your data is offline, that reduces the threat of online attacks to zero, but leaves you vulnerable if someone steals your device because some offline solutions don’t use advanced encryptions.
Most online backup services use several methods to secure your data, including at-rest and in-transit encryptions, TLS/SSL protocols to protect your files during transfer, two-factor authentication to keep your credentials safe and private, end-to-end encryption to ensure your privacy.
Apart from some exceptions that target power users, online solutions provide streamlined interfaces that are easy to use and require few steps to backup your hard drive or computer. Many offer the ability to backup by file type or manual tagging, too.
Online solutions are helpful when you need to backup multiple computers because you can oversee each backup from a centralized web hub. If that interests you, read our best online backup for multiple computers article. You can also use online backup for external drives. For more on that, read our best cloud storage for external drives or online backup with versioning pieces.
In the rest of this article, we’re going to describe the best offline backup services and see how they stack up.
Best Offline Backup: Cobian Backup 11
Cobian Backup is named after its creator, Luis Cobian. The product was launched in 2000 and has been updated many times since. The current version, 11, is code named Gravity. It works on all major versions of Windows.
The interface feels dated and isn’t as straightforward as it could be, but it’s functional. The left side shows a list of your tasks (backups) and the right shows you the log, history or task properties. On the top, you’ll find drop-down menus and icons that let you run, pause or cancel tasks, add a new task, access options and check for updates.
The app lets you choose a file, directory or FTP server as the source of your backup. You can choose the same for your destination. If you don’t know what FTP is, read our what is FTP guide. Cobian Backup lets you choose one of the four backup types: “full,” “incremental,” “differential” or “dummy.”
“Full,” as the name implies, creates a full backup of your files. “Incremental” helps speed up subsequent backups as it backs up all files that have been modified since the last backup. “Differential” saves the files that have been modified since the last full backup. “Dummy” doesn’t create a backup, but lets you use the task feature as a scheduler to execute events.
You can schedule tasks to run daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, on start-up, timer or manually. Cobian Backup lets you select days of the week, too. You can combine all those options to make a custom schedule that fits your needs.
To set events, you can attach them pre-backup or post-backup. They can include executing and pausing an app, command-line operations, closing a program and starting or stopping a service.
Cobian Backup Options
Cobian Backup has two types of compression: zip and 7zip. They’ll make your backup smaller, but it will take longer to create it. That said, it took the program just under a minute to backup our 2GB test folder with many files in it. The speed will vary depending on how powerful your computer is, though.
In the same menu, you can set Cobian Backup to encrypt your files using AES 128-bit, 192-bit or 256-bit. The latter is one of the strongest encryptions in use today, as it’s estimated it would take close to a billion years to crack it using a supercomputer.
Before backing up, you can include or exclude data using the filter feature. You can select files or folders or filter them. Filtering options include file size, date of creation or file extension, which you would have to type in manually.
Cobian Backup could improve its user interface, but it’s fast, can encrypt your files with the AES algorithm and has many powerful features. On top of that, it won’t cost you a dime. That makes it fit to be our number one pick.
FBackup 7 is a product by Softland, a Romania-based firm founded in 1999. It serves as a freeware version of the company’s premium backup app, Backup4all.
FBackup’s interface feels modern, attractive and user-friendly. A welcome screen greets you when you launch the app and helps you start your backup. The buttons at the top stand out and correspond to their function, so it’s easy to find what you want. The app calls backups “jobs,” and the left side has a jobs filter that lets you view and filter your backups.
The right portion of the UI shows the current selection of jobs. In addition to seeing their names, you can quickly run them again, test them or restore them.
FBackup works on all major Windows versions and the Windows Server family of operating systems.
You can add specific folders or files or choose a plugin when creating your backup. Plugins work like predefined lists of files to include. Existing plugins can backup the “my documents” or “my pictures” folders, major browsers, Microsoft Outlook and FBackup configuration.
You can get more options by downloading from a long list of remote plugins, which includes file and folder filters for Microsoft Office files, Avast, Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office and AVG (read our Acronis Cyber Protect Home Office review and AVG review).
For the destination, you can choose local or external disk, optical drive, removable storage or network. You can even save your local backup to Google Drive or Dropbox. You can expand that to include Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, OneDrive and Box if you buy Backup4all. If you want to learn more about those, read our best enterprise file sync and share roundup.
You can do a “full” or “mirror” backup. “Mirror” is the same as “full,” but doesn’t compress your files into a zip archive and can’t protect them with a password. “Incremental,” “differential” and “smart backup,” which is a combination of the previous methods, are available with Backup4all.
FBackup lets you start your backup once or set it on specific days of the week, months, on idle or every time a user logs on. Advanced options let you set a specific date and time or repeating pattern.
The filter feature lets you exclude or include files by typing in file extensions or selecting from a drop-down list. If you’re using the “simple” mode to create your backup, you can apply simple filters, which include documents, images, music and video files.
After you define your backup, you can expand it with scheduled events. They can run before or after backup, though you can only use the clear backup action before. Actions after backup can be “stand by,” “log off,” “hibernate” or “shutdown.”
They are simple and not as powerful as the options Cobian Backup offers.
You can only use the Zip2.0 encryption, which can’t protect you from individuals with access to specialized password recovery tools. The only advantage it has over AES is that it’s compatible with third-party apps.
Backup4all provides AES, though, in addition to being able to upload your backup to many cloud providers. It also uses block-level backup, which speeds up transfers by only uploading the changed portions of files, and tracks your file versions. You can get those and other features by buying the Professional version for $49.99.
Backup4all Standard will set you back $39.99, but omits cloud backup and encryption from the list of features.
We tested its backup operations by backing up a 2GB folder. It was fast, but 50 percent slower than Cobian Backup.
FBackup 7 offers a great user experience, decent features and useful plugins that help you create your backup. That said, it’s more of a showcase for the company’s premium offering, Backup4all, as many of the powerful options are hidden behind a paywall. Cobian Backup provides those features for free and it’s faster, which is why FBackup takes second place.
Retrospect doesn’t offer a free version, only a trial. It started to backup data in 1989, so it doesn’t lack experience, but there are things that could be improved. The most obvious example is the UI, which looks like something from the turn of the century and makes the company seem like it’s stuck in the past.
The UI feels clunky because it requires you to perform several steps to choose specific folders you want to backup. That’s in stark contrast to modern apps which feel intuitive and are easy to use. The icons at the top of the main window are small and you have to guess what their functions are.
The menu on the left lets you perform backup, restore or select other options. There’s an activity monitor, which shows your backup operation when you access it. That would be more useful in the main window, though.
Retrospect works on Windows and macOS.
When creating your backup, you can choose a whole volume or use one-click to let Retrospect automatically create a backup for you. You can also select specific files or folders, but you have to go through a couple of windows before you’re able to choose the ones you need.
You can save your backup to tape, which is useful if you’re living in the 70s, optical or removable drives, hard drives on local computers or networks and cloud storage. Cloud options include Amazon S3, Backblaze B2, Dropbox or local storage. It can also backup to many other cloud providers.
For more information, read our Backblaze B2 review and Dropbox review.
Retrospect stores backups in a “backup set,” which is comprised of one or more hard drives. You can save to multiple backup sets to increase your level of protection. To speed up subsequent backups, it uses incremental backup.
You can schedule when those backups run with the scheduler. Using it, you can set a specific date and time, make your backups run on specific days of the week or set up a repeating interval.
Once you do that, you can choose to compress your backup using the zip algorithm and encrypt it. Retrospect uses multiple encryption methods. SimpleCrypt is fast, but not as secure as DES. AES 128-bit and 256-bit are more secure than DES, but will slow down your backup.
Retrospect took 1 minute, 12 seconds to create a backup of a 2GB test folder without compression and encryption.
That’s average compared to other services.
You can select many types of files including music, Office documents, applications and pictures. Other than those, you can manually tag folders and files you want to backup.
Retrospect can’t set pre-backup or post-backup events as such, but you can create and schedule scripts to perform backup, duplicate, archive, restore and other operations.
The app has an interesting setting called “backup disk management policy.” With it enabled Retrospect asks for a new disk if the destination disk becomes full, keeps only the last backups or keeps backups according to Retrospect’s defined policy.
To further protect yourself from loss of disk space, you can use proactive backup, which can adjust your backup schedule based on parameters you define.
Looking Back on Retrospect
You can enjoy Retrospect’s features without paying anything for 45 days, which is the duration of the trial. After it expires, you’ll have to purchase one of the licenses. The personal license, which is a good option for home computers, is called Solo and costs $67.05.
Retrospect has many features, including backing up to the cloud, various encryption algorithms, proactive backup and backup sets. Still, it’s not cheap and the user experience is subpar, to say the least.
Like our top pick, Bvckup is a Windows app that was developed by a single author. Unlike Cobian Backup, it is not free and doesn’t offer as much.
When you start Bvckup, you’ll see the welcome screen. It has a minimalist design and hides options, so it doesn’t overwhelm the user. It’s clear and easy to use, but drab. You can choose a folder or drive for the source and destination of your backup.
You can copy files in full or use delta copying, which creates incremental backups. Delta copying is faster because files are scanned for changes and only the modified parts are copied. Otherwise, you can copy the files in full, which minimizes the risk of data loss.
Bvckup provides a scheduler, so you don’t have to run backups manually. You can schedule the date and time and set the interval after which the backup tasks runs again. For example, you could set it for every six hours, days, weeks or months.
You can also set it to run backup when files or folders are modified. Since that can make backups run all the time, you can set the minimum interval between backups to be in hours, minutes or seconds.
Compression and encryption are not available or planned. You can set events, though, by using pre-backup and post-backup commands. That said, you can only set them manually, which means you need to type them in. You’ll find the list of commands that you can use on the support website.
Bvckup 2 only took 30 seconds to create a backup using our test folder, and that makes it the fastest on this list.
Bvckup 2 Trial
There’s no free version, but there is a 14-day trial. After it ends, you have to purchase a license. You have two options: Personal or Professional.
Personal costs $19.95 and provides basic email support, maintenance updates and discounted pricing from the second licence onward.
Professional tops that with priority technical support, support for running in service mode and support for Windows Server family of operating systems. It costs $39.95. If you get a two-pack or five-pack of licenses, you get a discount.
The app is lightweight and a solid choice for those who need to create fast backups without many options. There are no compression or security algorithms, so you should go with another program if you need them. Though the price isn’t steep, Bvckup isn’t the best value, either, when you take into account what it offers.
Offline apps have their upsides over cloud services, including faster backup creation and one-time licence fees. That said, using the cloud offers more levels of protection as cloud providers keep your data in multiple locations for redundancy and let you access it from multiple apps.
Some offline apps use cloud storage for that purpose and present an interesting combination. You’ll have to pay for two services in that case, but you can read our guide to find out what the best offline cloud storage is.
We’ve made Cobian Backup 11 our top pick because it’s free, powerful and secure. FBackup is a fine choice, too, if you need a free solution that is more user-friendly. Retrospect and Bvckup 2 require you to buy a licence. The former is more expensive, but offers more features, albeit with a poor interface. The latter is not as powerful or expensive, but is more user-friendly.
If you need an alternative and you’re running Windows XP or Linux, check out Areca. For a robust solution that offers no free trial or version and works on every major Windows OS, consider CyberLink PowerBackup.
What do you think about offline backup services? Do you have a favorite? Let us know in the comments below. Thank you for reading.