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A backup of a datafile that includes every allocated block in the file being backed up. A full backup of a datafile can be an image copy, in which case every data block is backed up. It can also be stored in a backup set, in which case datafile blocks not in use may be skipped, according to rules in Oracle Database Backup and Recovery Reference.
A full backup cannot be part of an incremental backup strategy; that is, it cannot be the parent for a subsequent incremental backup.
An incremental backup is either a level 0 backup, which includes every block in the file except blocks compressed out because they have never been used, or a level 1 backup, which includes only those blocks that have been changed since the parent backup was taken.
A level 0 incremental backup is physically identical to a full backup. The only difference is that the level 0 backup is recorded as an incremental backup in the RMAN repository, so it can be used as the parent for a level 1 backup.
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An incremental backup at level 0 is identical in content to a full backup, but unlike a full backup the level 0 backup is considered a part of the incremental backup strategy.
A level 1 incremental backup can be either of the following types:
A differential incremental backup, which backs up all blocks changed after the most recent incremental backup at level 1 or 0
A cumulative incremental backup, which backs up all blocks changed after the most recent incremental backup at level 0
Incremental backups are differential by default.