Backup your dotfiles to GitHub

I came across a dotfiles repository on GitHub the other day and it made me realize I've been backing up mine the wrong way! Let’s set up our own GitHub repo and start doing it the right way, today.

Dotfiles are text-based configuration files for Unix tools. By backing them up to GitHub we make sure all our favorite configurations, hacks, and tweaks don’t get lost in case of a system crash.

Let’s go!

Create a folder called dotfiles and copy the files we want to back up.

Create the folder

mkdir dotfiles

Copy the files you want to backup

cp ~/.<filename> ~/dotfiles/.<filename>

For example, I’ve added my .zshrc and .vimrc files

cp ~/.zshrc ~/dotfiles/.zshrc
cp ~/.vimrc ~/dotfiles/.vimrc

First commit

Create a new repository called dotfiles on GitHub or use the GitHub CLI tool.

Initialize and add the files

cd dotfiles
git init
git add .

Commit and push

git commit -m “first commit”
git push origin master

Automate it!

Let’s create a simple bash script and add it to crontabs to run automatically.

create the script

echo -e "#!/bin/bash/" >>

Open the file in your favorite editor and add the following

# create a timestamp alias for the commit message
timestamp() {
  date +"%d-%m-%Y @ %T"

# files to backup
cp ~/.zshrc ~/dotfiles/.zshrc
cp ~/.vimrc ~/dotfiles/.vimrc

# pull & push
if [[ `git status --porcelain` ]]; then
    git pull origin master
    git add .
    git commit -m "Update: $(timestamp)"
    git push origin master

As you can see I’ve added the .zshrc and .vimrc files again. You can add any (config)files you want here!

To add the job to cron, type

crontab -e

You can use to generate how frequent you want the backup script to run. Let’s do every Monday at 10:00 by adding the following line to the cron file and save it

0 10 * * 1 cd dotfiles && bash

That’s it!

We’ve created a GitHub repo to back up dotfiles to, and automated the process with a bash script that runs periodically with cron. As always, drop your feedback in the comments! ✌️

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