Location, Location, Location: A Programmer’s Guide to Backing Up Your Work

Maybe you’ve been lucky so far. The main computer you code on has never crashed. Nearly all of your code is in repos. However, the little crash demons are always there, ready to wipe out the project changes you’ve been working on, the apps you need to do your work, or even your entire system you’ve spent countless hours making just the way you like it. Having your work backed up in multiple locations and multiple ways is a must.

Luckily, it doesn’t really have to take a lot to time to back up your system regularly, and no more than a few hours in total to get it started. A good rule of thumb is to have all of your work backed up in at least three places. There are three main precautions all programmers should take to make sure this nightmare scenario never becomes a reality.

(1) Make a backup on a portable storage device

It’s important to back up the data you add/make changes to every day, so a daily scheduled backup is definitely in order. It’s great if you can afford a removable drive, but even an old flash drive can work as long as it has at least twice as much space on it than the size of the files you’re backing up, which is a good rule of thumb.

Partitioning Your Device

If you want to back up multiple computers on a single storage device or want to put clones/operating system install drives on the same device, it is best to partition whichever drive you’re using. There are many benefits to partitioning, including better performance and easier organization, though greater susceptibility to viruses and more wear-and-tear on your device may be factors to consider. This Wikihow article shows how it’s done with native apps on both PCs and Macs.

Making and Scheduling Backups on a Removable Drive/USB Drive

Both Macs and PCs have native apps that let you make and schedule backups for free: through Time Machine for Macs and through File History for PCs. Making backups and scheduling backups on Time Machine and through File History is fairly straightforward. Although Time Machine’s backups can only be scheduled hourly with the native app, there are free third-party apps allow more frequent, less problematic backups if needed.

(2) Make a clone (bootable drive) on a portable storage device

Although daily scheduled backups are important to keep your work up-to-date and safe, avoiding the need to reinstall and reconfigure all of your apps so that you can hit the ground running and avoid downtime are reasons enough to make a clone of your current computers’ state as well as backups. If you are a PC user, this comprehensive article shows you how. Although the article recommends the third party app SuperDuper! for Macs, Mac’s native Disk Utility app is very easy to use to make a clone. One drawback, however, is that you need to have the operating system booted from a different source than the computer the clone is being installed on. However, it’s a good idea to have the install files for your operating system available on a USB drive or as a partition of your removable hard drive, anyway..

For a Few Dollars More

For many Mac users, Disk Utility is all that’s needed to make and update a clone. However, there are some well-used third-party apps that offer a great number of benefits over Disk Utility, especially in regard to automatic scheduling and automation of specific tasks. Two of the most touted of these apps are Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) and SuperDuper!.

Although SuperDuper! offers a free version and not just a 30-day free trial, the free version of SuperDuper! does not offer benefits such as scheduling and automating backups/clones that its paid version and CCC do. Although the paid version of SuperDuper! is a bit cheaper (currently $27.95) than that of CCC (currently $39.99), CCC offers a much greater level of functionality than SuperDuper! does, and it is often rated more highly. CCC5, the latest version, shows multiple useful new features available in just one update.

(3) Back up and Clone to the cloud

Along with a computer itself and at least one removable drive/USB with backups/clones, the cloud is an essential place to locate backups/clones of your work, especially if you bring a laptop with you to work in multiple locations. Of course, backups of your work to the cloud can be as simple as syncing your files to native sync services such as iCloud, OneDrive, or Google Drive and using git repos. However, you’ll need a paid, third-party service such as BackBlaze and IDrive if you want a less problematic, more accommodating cloud storage setup that includes benefits such as free physical hard drive shipping and backing up multiple devices, including mobile devices, at once. In addition, such services offer unlimited or nearly unlimited storage for a much lower price than big name storage providers and even sync services can provide.

How often to back up? As for me, I use two removable disk drives with the same backups and clones for the two computers I use, in case one of them dies, including partition space for OS Mojave on each drive. I back up my work daily on one drive and do a weekly backup on the second drive.

and I am moving my work from Google Drive to BackBlaze, which has continuous backup of the files I work on and which I know will come in handy if the computer I have with me on the go decides to go on the fritz. Basically, the crash demons don’t have a chance.

Originally published at medium.com on November 14, 2018.


Welcome to Commcodia, where web and software developers can…


Welcome to Commcodia, where web and software developers can freely learn, code, and share their knowledge to the edge of what can be done and beyond.

Christopher DiStasio

Written by

Full stack web developer with a passion for creating an effective and intuitive user experience, with experience in Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, and React.


Welcome to Commcodia, where web and software developers can freely learn, code, and share their knowledge to the edge of what can be done and beyond.

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