Archiving databases

by ChessBase
7/11/2008 – Data corruption -- it's a heartbreaker and can strike without warning. The best defense is to be prepared by making backups of your important database files. Learn how to create compressed database archives in the latest ChessBase Workshop.

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The word "archive" has a strange connotation to a lot of folks; images of tall bookshelves containing scores of musty, worm-eaten books or boxes covered with thick layers of dust might spring to mind.

In the case of ChessBase and Fritz databases, though, the concept of "archiving" ought to be a pleasant one -- it's literally a real data-saver, can rescue you from misfortune, and spare you a world of grief.

We need to face facts here: computer data can get corrupted, and it often doesn't take much to do it: a virus, a badly-timed power outage, a disk defrag that goes horribly wrong, and on and on. And the biggest mistake you can make is to say "It won't happen to me"; over the last decade I've talked to two users (who I recall vividly; there were definitely more) who lost a project on which they were working (everything from an article the whole way up to a full-length book) because of some form of data corruption or loss.

Both ChessBase and Fritz give you the ability to back up (archive) your databases. There are myriad reasons why you'd want to do this:

  1. To preserve a copy of your data in case a database becomes corrupted/unusable;
  2. To compress the database files so they require less disk space;
  3. To e-mail the database as a single file instead of multiple files;
  4. To create a daily backup of a work in progress in case you wish to return to an earlier version
  5. To be able to transfer the data from one computer to another

And the list goes on. The important question here isn't the "why?" but instead the "how?"

A ChessBase/Fritz database consists of multiple files. The exact number of these files will vary, depending on the number and type of keys (opening, endgame, etc.) you have attached to the database. The "Archive" function of both programs gives you the ability to back up these multiple files into a single archive file. This archive file has the additional advantage of requiring less computer disk space to store than does the database in its original multi-file form. (Experienced computer users familiar with compressed file formats such as .zip and .rar will recognize the concept).

The method for creating an archive file differs between the two programs; we'll provide instructions for both in a moment. But first there are a few other ideas we'll need to look at. The first is that creating an archive file gathers all of a database's numerous files and packs them into a single computer file ending in the extension .cbv. The second is that the act of creating a .cbv file doesn't affect the original database files; they're still there and don't get erased or deleted by the process of creating an archive.

The third concept, though, is a sort of inverse of #2 -- if you unpack a .cbv file into the same folder as the original database files from which it was created, you will overwrite those database files. The implications ought to be clear -- you create an archive .cbv file on a Monday, add some games and annotations to the original file, then on Friday you accidentally unpack the .cbv file into the same folder as the database files; you've just accidentally overwitten all the work you did Tuesday through Thursday and that effort is now irretriveably lost. It's for that reason I offer the following advice: when you create an archive file, store it in a different folder than the files of the database from which it was created. More on this in a moment.

Let's look now at the nuts and bolts of creating a backup archive file of a database.


  1. Highlight a database in the main Database window by single-clicking on its icon;
  2. Go to the Tools menu, select "Database", and then "Backup database" from the submenu. You'll see the following dialogue appear:
  3. Select "Uncrypted" from the dialogue (more on this below) and click "OK";
  4. Use the resulting Windows File Select dialogue to select the folder into which to store the database's archive file (see above for a warning, though). You can also renme the database archive, but that's not recommended -- just use the default name to ease future identification:

Why do you want to choose "Uncrypted"? Selecting the "Crypted" option allows you to created an encypted file, requiring a password to reopen/uncompress the archive file. If you do choose this option, you'd better make danged sure you remember your password -- no one affiliated with ChessBase will be able to open the file, so don't send it to us and request that we find some way to open it; we can't. In truth, unless you're a top level GM accustomed to taking his/her secret opening preparation on the road with him/her on a laptop machine, I don't see any particularly useful reason for encrypting a database archive file.


  1. Load the database you wish to archive by hitting F12 (to open the Database window), then going to the File menu, selecting "Open", and "Database" (from the submenu), then using the resulting Windows File Select dialogue to select the folder and database you wish to load;
  2. Go to the Tools menu, select "Database", and then "Backup database" from the submenu.
  3. Use the resulting Windows File Select dialogue to select the folder into which to store the database's archive file (see above for a warning, though). You can also renme the database archive, but that's not recommended -- just use the default name to ease future identification (see illustration above).

Note that the procedure for Fritz skips the step in which you can choose to password-encrypt the archive file; this feature isn't present in Fritz11.


In both programs, simply go to the File menu, select "Open", then "Database". Use the File Select dialogue to navigate to the folder in which you've stored the archive file and double-click on the filename to select it. The archived files will be uncompressed into the same folder, and the .cbv archive file will be deleted automatically. (This is why I recommend saving an archive file into a different folder than the original files; the database files will be overwritten without a prompt from the software).

That's all there is to it. Creating database backups can save you a lot of work in case your original data gets corrupted. It can also save effort in sending a database as an e-mail attachment; instead of attaching multiple individual files, you can compress a whole database into one file and send that single archive as an attachment instead.

Until next week, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments on ChessBase Workshop. No tech support questions, please.

© 2008, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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