How do you archive old projects?

Hi all!

I guess the most common way to archive older projects is to simply bounce the audio tracks separately. With Cubase Pro 8, and its new bounce in place feature, this process is probably more streamlined than ever. However, the problem with that method is that you lose the ability to modify a parameter on a track (or several tracks), which is always convenient (though at the risk of running into compatibility issues from unsupported 3rd party plugins, etc). This is why I wonder how you guys approach the process of archiving your projects, in case you need to recall them later in the future. Please add as much detail as possible, including folder structure and nomenclature.


I have 3 stages of archive.

  1. Every so often I copy a project I’m working on to a different internal hard drive.
  2. I make a copies of completed projects to a different computer in a different room.
  3. Finally, I’ll make an off site backup a few times a year.

For this to work, I have to keep appropriate software, OSs, and ancillary hardware on which to run old projects. For example, I still have a magma box with 4 powercore cards just in case I need it for an old project. (Wish I could still use the reverbs).

Fortunately, I’ve never had to resurrect a very old project. I only record my own music anyway. If you make your living at recording, this is an important issue to nail down. Good thread topic.

I do make copies of my projects to an external HDD that’s in an adjacent room. For what I do, that’s good enough. However, I’m more interested in hearing how people cope with projects that have older plugins. Do they keep copies of those old plugins (I see you fall in this category)? Or do they eliminate the need to keep legacy products by bouncing tracks to audio?

Also, what kind of project saving system do they implement as far as organizing the project files (i.e. Date>Band Name>Album Name>Song Name or some variant of this). It interests me to learn the several approaches people take.

Thanks for chiming in though! :slight_smile:

I have the following stages of archiving:

  1. Each day I use WinRAR to create a ZIP file containing the CPR-files of all my current projects. This ZIP file is on an other internal harddrive.

  2. Each week I use a handy german program called Drive Snapshot to make incremental images of my OS- and project drives on an external harddrive.

  3. Finished projects are backed up via “Backup Project” and stored on DVD’s onsite and offsite. Preperation:

  • Pool: Prepare Archive
  • Freeze all VSTi’s
  • Export all tracks as FLAC to a temporary directory
  • Backup Project to a temporary directory
  • Create a directory “Documentation” with all the other stuff concerning the project. (lyrics, tracksheets, etc.)
  • Burn 3 copies of the temporary directory to DVD
  • Store them in different (cool) locations

NB: The temporary directory is on a dedicated external harddrive so that I have quick access to my older projects. I often “recycle” old ideas :slight_smile:

And I have a virtual machine (VMWare) containing all previous versions of Cubase (with plugins), starting with SX. In this I can open (very) old projects. They won’t allways run, but I can export what I need.

As I work manly with Komplete 9U and other VST instruments and only record my vocals, I tend to do this:

  1. Save the project with the VSTs etc all in place. I back this up to an external HDD.
  2. Export a midi song file and backup at the same time.
  3. Write a quick notepad file of anything I made a note of or any unusual settings. Save with it. (I don’t use the Cubase notepad in case I can’t open the project or want to use another DAW).
  4. If I’m ok with the song, I render all to audio before mixing and save the stems and save a copy of the song with audio tracks only. Back up.
  5. Mix with effects. Save finished song. Back up.
  6. Save mixdown. Backup.
  7. Once a month…backup my backup! (Someone once told me that you’re never truly safe unless you backup your backup lol!).

This year, I streamlined a lot of plugins and only use the ones I truly need now…however, as they’re relatively small file wise, I keep an ‘old plugins’ folder in My Documents as well as backed up externally…then I can install them if I need them.

Might sound like too much, but I like to be have the choice to go back to the song at different states…or bring in a midi file without having the whole bunch of VSTs loaded etc.

Very interesting to read how you all archive!

Saving backup projects. Removing all unused material. Keeping just the final state. Burning it to DVD (hoping they will work for at least 10 years…).

At the latest since I jumped from 32 to 64 bit 100% compatibility to projects older than 4 or 5 years is an illusion. UAD plugins are still working as they did (great platform in this regard).

The good thing is: whenever I open retro projects, I just don’t care much. I’d do another mix today anyway. No client ever demanded a virtual 1:1 mix plus improvements years later. Maybe some month after finishing/before release, yes. But not 5 years later.

What’s left is: the arrangement/all audio files/VSTi-bounces. Specially processed files (heavily treated with plugins that are not available anymore) are bounced to audio anyway. Stereomixes + masters in 32 bit float. The final product in 16 bit. Good starting points at least, when old work needs to be recovered for any reason.

My archive method is as follows

  1. Bounce to disk using batch every single possible stream including FX and groups, that way you can always re-construct the mix anywhere on any DAW as all the FX and plugin processing has been bounced.

You end up with a huge amount of stereo files and it is hard from anything but an SSD to replay them all - but you can go int and edit silence out of files and use bounced groups to mute any mono tracks that where feeding them.

Either way you have truly archived the exact mix including every single plugin used.

  1. I bounce to disk using batch every single track without any plugins FX or groups just the RAW track streams.

Copy around three hard drives, put one hard drive off-site.


As regards being able to replay projects from a PC workstation with plugins form the original project files etc then I have actually archived my Cubase 6.5 PC workstation and bought a new PC workstation for Cubase 7.5/Pro 8 but that is an expensive route of course.

Having been at this for quite a while I have gone from various analog tape formats to digital tape (ie ADATs) to some kind of hybrid tape/Synced DAW to all Native.

I have lost a fair amount of stuff.

Backing up for 5 or maybe even 10 years in some DAW format will probably work.

But when, 20 years from now you want to bring up that amazing piece of genius you managed to cull from the Gods . . . plug ins, VSTis, MIDI, specific outboard gear, etc. may all be memories.

Rendered .wav (or other timeless format) files of everything you want to preserve - as themarqueeyears suggests - from raw tracks to important processing - all with the same identical sample accurate start times - may be your only hope.


You have to assume that in 20 years time, there will be no computers of the type we currently use. You also need to consider the storage medium. I have a drawer full of DAT tapes (data backups) and guess what? No working DAT drive to read them … but at least I have copies on DVD, and these I am in the process of copying onto Blu-ray – and I’ll keep them all.

That’s my exact approach, and not just for compatibility reasons:

If a project is finished, it’s done in my book. If after three years a VSTi or a plugin needs tweaking, the project apparently wasn’t finished, or not convincing enough in the first place. I force myself to put and end to a project this way, and the separate raw tracks still make it possible to revisit and re-record parts on top or to replace. It by definition becomes a new project - in the current DAW of that future point in time.

I started doing a few different types of backups after Steinberg had stopped supporting the old project versions. That really ticked me off, because I have so many projects that are old (300+) and can no longer be loaded into new versions of Cubase.

Now, in addition to the regular ways mentioned above, I backup all MIDI data as .MID files just so that if I wanted to go back, or continue at a later point, I can recreate the projects, or at least try to relive the moments of the time of creation. I also always rendered a mix-down that I can listen to at anytime even without Cubase (great when searching for something ancient).

I still say that Steinberg should release a little EXE that can at least extract the MIDI and Audio data from old (i.e. no longer supported) projects!

For me, I’ve found the “backup project” to new location works well and grabs everything fully self-encapsulated except a few presets that I have in common locations.

As for backing up, backing up. My projects are on a removable drive. I run bitorrent sync to mirror the entire drive to a server I have in a rack dedicated for just this purpose (and for backing up from other locations for work, etc.). This always either completes in real-time or at night if I’ve disabled it.

I then backup the mirror offline (via internet) to Crashplan.

That way, the part that takes the longest (and is most CPU demanding) is offloaded on the mirror, not the DAW.

It’s pretty darn slick. I’ve had to use it, twice, for a complete loss and it worked perfectly!

Got everything back.

Thanks so much for the responses, guys!

Most of you use incredible archiving systems. Very clever stuff! The reason why I created this thread is because, even with my limited amount of software/plugins, the new version typically replaces the old (except UAD since they keep the old versions, as someone mentioned). Lately, for me those have been Ozone 6, FabFilter Pro-Q 2 and Cubase Pro 8. This made me realize that my project archiving system is not very effective, much less fool proof, when it comes to longevity. I definitely need to improve it and, after reading you guys’ responses, I think I have a better idea of what to do now.

I already apply a lot of the same principles as some of you. But there’s always room for improvement. Now I need to think about what will be my final solution towards this matter. Thanks again for your input on this subject that has been on my mind as of late.

+1 That would be great indeed!

+1, agreed, but all they really need to do is publish the file format of older version’s project file (.ALL, .ARR etc) and the open-source community will do the rest …

I use this as well but I don’t depend solely on it; in fact, I use it more as a project version control system, whereby after each major development of a project I create a new version using the “File | Back up Project…” function and then continue work on the new version, but there’s an alleged issue with this if the original project is still accessible when you continue your work on the new version.

I just got an second BackUp HDD (external). That´s all. At the end of the work I just copy the whole project folder onto it…done…and a bit oldschool… :wink:

Maybe old school but very pragmatic. I do it the same way. One internal, one external backup disc that get updated daily.

I’ve spent a substantial amount of time during the course of this year re-opening old projects dating back 12 years!

Historically I had backed up the entire projects folder to DVD (really old stuff I could actually save to CD!). The problems I faced when re-exploring these projects, an issue which I hadn’t considered at the time, was of course the vast majority of plugins and VSTi’s etc I’d used at the time were long-time obsolete and no longer on my system. In practice that wasn’t an issue as my intention was to do complete remixes/rebuilds using current technology anyway.

However, with view to long-term archiving I realise it may well be wise to do some prep-work first before backing up. Creating audio for all those MIDI/VSTi parts would be one thing to consider as someone has mentioned. And, actually freeze might be one easy way of doing this as an alternative to C8’s RIP function. I found in some really old projects I’d frozen a lot of parts and so while the VSTi itself was no longer available I still had the ‘frozen’ audio associated with its MIDI/Instrument track. (Of course the ‘frozen’ audio had to be manually imported from the freeze folder).

Backup and archiving are two different things. For routine daily backups I have an automated process run using ‘syncback free’ that executes every night - this simply does an incremental copy of my Cubase folders and copies to an external USB3 HDD. In the past if the work was REALLY important, perhaps work for a client etc, then I’d have another backup offsite - usually a DVD… though this was a real pain to manage and update daily! Now storage is cheap so I guess another external drive would be the way to go.

I archive projects that are complete and never likely to be revisited (except maybe in a decades time!) I now use Cubases’s project ‘backup up’ - that way you create a clean uncluttered projects folder and then I simply move the entire folder to yet another external HDD which I have labelled ‘archive’. The original working folder I delete. So, I end up with the backed-up copy, a new compact archive copy and space freed up my working drive. (And again, if this stuff is critical then you’d want offsite copies too!)

I’m rather glad storage is cheap, because with my audio, video and photographic work and the need to back it all up and archive it, the combined capacity of all that is constantly growing and I’m chewing through the terabytes! :astonished: An extreme example was one recent time-lapse project I did which included a Cubase project and associated photography and video footage - it compressed down to 250Gb and now occupies half the total capacity of an older 500Gb drive I’d previously replaced with a newer 2Tb drive.

I dread the day when USB3 and SATA/eSATA becomes obsolete! :open_mouth:

I think the way I’ll aproach archiving form now moving forward will be as follows:

  • After finishing up a project, I’ll remove unneeded files from the pool.
  • Then I’ll Freeze or BIP (still haven’t decided which) all VSTi’s.
  • After that, and this is the part that’s new, I’ll export each track as WAV files with and without FX. This leaves me with 3 separate folders (Project, Raw and FX) of each project all backed up into a separate HDD.
  • Included inside the Project folder will be a Notepad file detailing all the plugins used with their respective version, as well as other important notes about the project (Sample Rate, Bith Depth, Tempo, Time Signature, etc).

Going about it this way, I could go back to ANY project without worries about compatibility issues with plugins or even the DAW I happen to be using in the future. And if I want to remix the project using new plugins, I simply pull the raw tracks from the folder without needing to go into Cubase. I think this gives me the most flexibility, with minimal risk since I won’t be required to have the same exact plugins/DAW version installed on my machine as the one used at the time the project was created unless I really need to.

Hope I’m not forgetting anything :slight_smile: