Backup and synchronize your data in Windows and Linux


Updated: January 21, 2009

Most people have some important data on their machines. Most people would like to have this data safely backed up in case their hardware gets damaged. Backing up data can be done in many ways: CD/DVD media, remote sites, online storage, second hard disk etc.

In this article, I will show you a pair of highly useful programs that can help you backup and synchronize your data: Karen's Power Tools Replicator for Windows and Unison File Synchronizer for Linux.

Replicator

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Karen's Power Tools is a collection of several excellent programs, although we will focus on Replicator. It's a small, fast and versatile utility that you can use to backup your data between hard disks, including removable media.

Setting up Replicator is extremely simple. Once you run the program, click Edit Settings ... to create new jobs. Later on, use this button to edit, copy or delete existing jobs.

Replicator 1

The menus are rather self-explanatory, although I'd like to point out a few interesting features:

The File Filter allows you to exclude certain file types or certain files from the backup, useful for log files or files that you might have trouble backing up, like executables that might trigger anti-virus alarms on the destination machine, for example.

Replicator also allows you to backup files only if they have changed, and only then if the time stamp on the source is newer than the existing backup, preventing accidental over-writing of new data with old copies.

It is also possible to delete backups that contain files no longer present in your source, which means your backups will be more up to date and quite likely smaller. To make this feature safer, Replicator will first test the connection to the source drive to avoid loss of data. To make things even safer, it can move deleted files to the Recycle Bin.

Replicator 2

Other Settings include a variety of global parameters. For instance, Global Exclusions allow you to skip the backup on Temporary Internet Files, the page file, the System Restore information, the contents of Recycle Bin on individual drives, and so forth.

You can also set Replicator to run any time you log on, whether it should close or minimize and how to treat skipped or late schedules.

Replicator 3

Replicator is a highly useful program. I warmly recommend it for Windows users who want to automatically backup their data between different machines.

Unison

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Unison is a simple, lightweight backup program. It is GUI-driven, which makes it well suitable for new Linux users. A Windows version also exists.

The first step is to select a source directory:

Unison 1

The second step is to choose the destination. This can be another local directory, although it can physically reside on another partition or even another hard disk, including removable media or network locations. You can also use ssh to backup data to remote locations securely.

Unison 2

The first time you run Unison, it will warn you it could not find any existing archives, which is OK. Ignore and proceed. Next, review your choice:

Unison 4

And off you go:

Unison 5

You can skip certain steps, move data in both directions and more. Unison is very simple and quite handy. Indeed, you should test that both your backup and restore work. The integrity of your data is the most important thing.

Conclusion

While there are tons of programs for both Windows and Linux that can do the same, including the spartan command-line scripts in BASIC or BASH, the simple and friendly choice of menu-driven, GUI-based Replicator and Unison should appeal to a broad audience of users, from newbies to lazy gurus.

I hope this short tutorial has opened some new possibilities for you. We all value our personal, critical data most highly and must take necessary steps to ensure its integrity. Using file backup and synchronization software on a regular and frequent basic is one of the more common yet effective ways on doing that.

Enjoy.

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