Using Unison with BackupPC to backup laptops

These instructions are provided in the hope that they’ll be useful to others. If you find them useful, please drop me a note: stephen [at] Similarly, if you implement this setup on platforms other than Windows and wish to contribute your code (either under GPL, or transferring copyright to me) please do so.

The Problem

One common problem plaguing IT professionals is how to backup data on laptops and other mobile devices. There is considerable value in mobile data, but many users seldom, if ever, bring their laptops back to the corporate or academic campus where it may be regularly backed up.

BackupPC is an excellent open-source product for backing up computers. It excels at backing up desktops and servers, but laptops (as moving targets) are especially difficult. By default, BackupPC can be configured to wake up periodically, say hourly, and look for laptops that have appeared on the network. This is not without issues (some of which can be worked around), but these are compounded when laptops do not have static IP addresses.

A better solution is to allow users to backup valuable data on the laptops on-demand. This page details my solution to do this.



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