How to Backup Obsidian

How to Backup Obsidian

If you spend much time in Obsidian, then you’re going to want to make sure that your work is preserved. You don’t want to risk losing all that work due to a faulty hard drive, a network glitch, or even your own error. Accidents happen, and you need to be prepared.

I had my own accident happen recently, and my backup system saved me.

The best way to ensure your work is preserved is to backup Obsidian. That means creating at least one other copy of your vaults on another source, apart from your main computer. This way if something goes wrong with your computer, you have an extra copy of those files. Even if you have a worst-case scenario and you lose all the files on your computer, you won’t have to sweat it, because you have them on another source.

What does a good backup system look like?

There are five things I look for when assessing a backup system:

  1. Ease of use: backups should happen automatically if possible
  2. Sync speed: you want “current” backups, they should be as similar to your working vault as possible
  3. Safety: how many copies of your backup are you creating? What happens if both your computer and your backup are corrupted?
  4. Ownership: do you own your data, or does someone else?
  5. Cost: how much does it cost to create or maintain this system?

You probably have different priorities than I do, so you have to decide how important each one of these factors is to you. For instance, I cherish owning my data, but I probably care about that more than most people.

In any case, we’ll go through a few different systems and rank them based on these five different factors. The “best” system is the system that fits your goals. How you ultimately decide to backup Obsidian is entirely up to you.

Easiest backup system

The easiest backup system uses a tool you already have: your file system. Many people backup Obsidian by making copies of their vault. To do this, open your system file explorer, copy the folder that contains your vault, and paste it onto a flash drive or some other external drive. Then you should rename it: it’s not a bad idea to use a date, e.g. “2022-07-14-myvault”.

This system is quick and relatively easy. The problem is that it’s not automated, and after a while, you’re likely to forget to do it. It’s also a pretty heavy solution: since you’re duplicating your entire vault every time, this solution will take up more storage space than most other solutions. This may not be a big deal if you have a small vault, but as your vault grows, you may need to look into a more efficient solution.

Here’s how I rank this solution:

Ease of useSync speedSafetyOwnershipPrice
A+DFA+A+ (free!)

This is better than nothing, but it’s only good if you do it consistently. If you lose your vault and your latest backup was a month ago, you’ll be kicking yourself for not trying out one of these other solutions.

Automated Backup Systems

Many backup systems save your whole hard drive, such as Carbonite, EaseUS, and others. Since they back up your whole computer, they will also take care of backing up your Obsidian files.

They’re usually more expensive than the other solutions on this list, and not always super safe—I’ve had multiple friends whose backups were corrupted on these types of systems. If you use this type of system, I recommend checking your backups at least once a month. But they are very convenient, and they give you great peace of mind.

Ease of useSync speedSafetyOwnershipPrice
A+ADDC

Set it and forget it systems

The next easiest solution also automatically saves your files in the background. But unlike the automated solution above, these systems usually only backup a single folder on your computer, which means they’re usually more affordable. You can place your Obsidian files inside this folder, and it will automatically backup Obsidian for you every time you change your files.

Ease of useSync speedSafetyOwnershipPrice
A+A+BFB

Syncing systems are pretty easy to use, and they work automatically. You install a program, sign up for an account, drop your Vault into their special syncing folder, and the app will do the rest. As long as you have their app running in the background, your files are backed up.

They also usually have generous free tiers. Most people could probably store all of their notes for free this way.

The bad news is that you don’t usually know if your files are backed up multiple times or not. The safety of your data is in the hands of the company you choose. Similarly, your privacy may be at risk, because many companies will comb through your files and potentially sell your data.

The most feature-rich syncing service is the one built by the Obsidian team, Obsidian Sync. Obsidian Sync is one of the best options in this category, but it has no free tier. Also, it only works for Obsidian, you can’t store other files there.

Other file syncing services are:

If you want to trade a little security for more privacy, there are a few more obscure services that offer end-to-end encryption. These are a little riskier because they could be abandoned or go out of business, but for now, they seem safe:

Most versatile backup systems

If you have a little more technical expertise, you might want to consider a version-controlled backup system. This is what I chose because I like the versatility.

The most common version control system is called “git”, and people commonly store their Obsidian Vaults in Git Repositories, and host them on a platform called Github. This is a very versatile and safe system if you know what you’re doing (or if you’re willing to learn something new!)

Here’s my ranking for this system:

Ease of useSync speedSafetyOwnershipPrice
BBBDA+

This system is incredibly versatile, and it allows you to modify the above rankings in any way that you like. For instance, you could make it safer by using two different sync services, and git would allow you to push to both simultaneously, making it no more difficult to use. If you’re willing to put in the effort, you can get all A+ rankings here. That is not possible with any of the other methods above.

If you want to try this, here’s a tutorial to get you started: Backing up your Obsidian Vault on Github (for free!).

If you want to improve that ownership metric, you can host a git repo yourself (this is personally my favorite solution).

Backing up with plugins

There aren’t a lot of backup options yet in the plugin community, but there are a couple. Both of them fit into categories we’ve already talked about: one is a git solution, the other a Dropbox solution.

Obsidian Git automates the commit messages, it’s a good solution if you want an automated version control backup system.

Remotely Save is another plugin solution that looks excellent. It supports many different sync services (such as Amazon S3 and Dropbox) and also supports end-to-end encryption. Some say Remotely Save is good for working with small groups too.

Obsidian Dropbox Backups is a little different: it’s a combination of our first two methods. It’s an automated way to create time stamped backups in Dropbox. It will automatically copy your whole vault over to Dropbox every twenty minutes. Similar to our first solution, this may be good for smaller vaults, but I would stay away from it if your vault is very large: with a big vault it would be a very messy and heavy solution.

You can install either of these plugins from the “Community Plugins” tab in Obsidian.

If you haven’t tried any of the amazing community plugins offered in Obsidian yet, here’s how to do that.

Summary

If you work with very many notes, you need to learn how to backup Obsidian.

Building a good backup system should be a top priority. We’ve covered many different methods for backing up Obsidian, and hopefully one of these methods will work well for you.


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