I'm currently backing up my current setup to move over to some new hardware and was wondering what other developers think of first when given a fresh OS installation.

Please answer one item per answer so they can be voted on independently.

+8  A: 


Hundreds of links to useful documentation and tutorials.

Ben S
Tools such as foxmarks/xmarks ( exist so that your bookmarks are synced automatically between systems. Pretty sure you can choose which folders to sync, if you want a little privacy.
Mark Rushakoff
Use Google Bookmarks( its awesome..
one word:
I. J. Kennedy
+1  A: 

Eclipse installation.

Since eclipse is nicely portable, this saves me having to download and install each plugin one at a time.

Ben S
+7  A: 

If I can only choose one: Visual Studio settings.

Noon Silk
+9  A: 

My .emacs file.

John R. Strohm
You don't have it under source control? For shame ;)
+24  A: 

My home directory.

Laurence Gonsalves
In particular, my ~/.ssh directory
As I use windows, this is my user directory, esp. including my documents, development, and downloads directories.
Greg D
+17  A: 

Audioslave - Show Me How To Live.mp3

Spencer Ruport
I'd vote up if it was wiki :p
Done. :P ~~~~~~~~
Spencer Ruport
I've also wikified the question, as it should have been from the start.
Ben S
+1  A: 

The first and most important is /home directory. The rest can be just installed. Also some /etc is good as well.

I keep my /home on a 2nd hard drive, so I can usually just reinstall the OS then mount /home
+17  A: 

I agree with Laurence that the home directory would probably be first, but after that, on a Debian based system:

dpkg --get-selections > ~/installed_packages

on the original system, followed by something like

dpkg --set-selections < ~/installed_packages
apt-get -u dselect-upgrade

on the new system, to keep pretty much all of the installed software the same as the previous system.

Mark Rushakoff
Don't forget to first copy over /etc/apt/sources.list*
Ryan Thompson
+2  A: 

Hardware drivers/Service Packs.

David Anderson
+6  A: 


It's so wrecked by now with all my customisations and things that running the installer properly and starting from scratch would take days...

Matthew Iselin
Thanks for the reminder, lol.
Ben S
+10  A: 

My SSH private key and my OpenVPN private key.

Since I keep every configuration file and my home directory under version control on a remote server on my VPN, these are the only two things I need to get back all the rest, regardless of where in the world I happen to be. (Well, provided I have broadband internet access.)

Jörg W Mittag
+9  A: 


Never leave home w/o it.

Wouldn't that be "Never leave ~ without it?"
ROFL! Right on!
+4  A: 

Call it lame, but my collection of desktop wallpaper is up there on my list :).

This seems a little weird at first but when I look back at how much time I've spent on it makes sense and the last two reinstalls I did it was one of the first folders to move back over and be used.
Brian Surowiec
Totally non-essential, IMHO. -1
+1  A: 

Any programs I have made, along with source code so I can keep working. And, my avatar :P

+4  A: 


.. it's all in nLite already :p

+1  A: 

my music player (in my case winamp 2.95 since that was the best version i.m.o.) and my music. ;^)

(yes I could play them from a nas, but since I'm on a laptop and frequently program on location, having it on the main computer is very practical)

same here... :)
+1  A: 

Google Chrome. So I don't need to use IE to get all the updates to my apps. (Though I guess Firefox on a fresh build would open sometime the same century... so might have been worth a call)


Firefox and then Flashget

+1  A: 

Home directory, followed by application settings (%appdata% in Windows) for Firefox, Thunderbird etc.

Yep, very important for me. Would take ages to reconfigure all the addons and things from scratch - not to mention all my emails stored in there...
+2  A: 

Depends on the OS.
If Linux, then .bashrc/.bash_profile, ssh keys, and other staff, then documents/code and other general things.
If Windows, then installation of drivers/utilities, mingw/eclipse/tortoisesvn and others. And only then documents/code/p0rn.

Andrejs Cainikovs
+1  A: 

If not the home directory, at least the mail box...esp with windows. (The profile directory with Thunderbird.)

+1  A: 

The home/ directory. If not possible, then .bashrc, .vimrc and I'm good to go..

Michael Foukarakis

Photos, Eclipse, music

+1  A: 

Quicksilver (Mac)

+10  A: 

Setting decent Windows Explorer settings:

  • details view,
  • show extensions,
  • show all hidden and system files,
  • open new instances in new process,
  • etc. etc. etc. ;-)
Doh! This is the very first thing indeed! :D
Andrejs Cainikovs
This happens even before drivers get installed. Seems so little yet makes such an improvement on usability.
Brian Surowiec
If, you use windows - yes it is some of the most important things you do!If you use Nautilus in Linux just pres Ctrl+H to show hidden files.



At home, I am a Mac: I copy everything, including home directories of each family member, thanks to Apple Migration assistant.

At work, I am a Unix: from project to project, I try to preserve my .exrc file for vi customization, and some aliases and functions defined in .bashrc or .bash_profile.


Aliases, keyboard shortcuts, shortcuts, etc.

+2  A: 



an imaging software to create an image.

Tobias Langner

my home directory, followed by /usr/local/bin (where i put small scripts, rather than adding something else to everyone's path)

Martin DeMello
`/usr/local/bin/` will still pollute others' path. I tend to keep my scripts in `~/bin/` and add it to `$PATH` in `~/.bashrc`.
Alan Haggai Alavi

I rather try to not install fresh OS but copy my pre-configured partition image with all programs, settings and security stuff already in place. And then i copy recent projects/source code/recent home dir to it.

.zshrc or .bashrc

Ultimately I just love the perceived speed and efficiency of a clean slate.

What I have is a 'downloads' folder that contains every app I ever installed and kept.

This is ported over to the new installation and get installed as i use them. I never save configurations and my music etc is all backed up on an external drive keeping the OS installation relatively painless.

Most important is to copy my Battlezone 2 folder now I lost the CD.

+4  A: 

On Windows, my favourite sysinternals tools

Mainly Process Explorer and Autoruns

Andrew Bainbridge

Firefox! = )


First you must have all your hardware drivers.

Second: Most Used Apps: Antivirus and/or Firewall IDEs Compilers Offices (MS or OpenOffice) Image Editors Media Player CD burners

...etc etc...

Third: Your data.

+2  A: 

New hardware means windows ( at least in my country ), so the first thing I do is to install a more user friendly OS ( Slackware, Backtrack, Ubuntu - you name it! ).


The first thing I copy is the Mac OS X keychain so that I don't have to re-enter all of my passwords for wlan or sites that I don't remember the user/password combinations anymore.

André Hoffmann
+1  A: 

My VMWare virtual machines. :)


I use Mozy, so I just download the client and grab everything off of that. Very simple.


Using WHS for backups, having access to the old backup (and the ability to mount+browse the old computer's file structure completely) has been invaluable. You'll always forget something.

Andrew Coleson
+2  A: 

My TrueCrypt file filled with passwords.

You just lost your plausible deniability.
Ryan Thompson

I generally would have messed up my system in a year or two with all my files scattered here and there. What I generally do is copy all my data to the new system under a "Files from older installation" folder. This assures me that I have all my files and avoids the painstaking process of filtering out actual useful data. Also, I'm up and running in no time.

As and when I need files from my older installation, I move the required files out to a more organized location. But then again, this "organized way of keeping files" wont last... :-)


For me its strange that we have to do this every time from one h/w to another, manually. That there is no tool or software* to do such stuff. Something that could copy something (My Thunderbird Mailbox) to another version of the OS if needed (XP to XP or XP to Vista), and also know whether such a move would work (compatibility,...)

*AFAIK, for Windows. And only nLite was mentioned, but this not a migration tool as such. I have not tried the Migration Assistant on Mac OSX, so I don't know how effective this is - does it copy third party app's preferences, data etc effectively?


Agree'd with quicksilver, then it would be my keychain backup.

John M
+1  A: 

all those free ebooks which I have collected over the years


I've never shared the machine I work on with other people, so I'm used to completely owning it - I customize it as I want, I have root (Administrator) access on it, I configure all the drives and partitions, etc.

As such, I always have system and data on separate partitions. Even when I reinstall the OS, I can do it easily and just format the system partition without copying anything anywhere.

So, if I migrated to a new system, it wouldn't be as much my home directory that I copy, but rather my home partition.


My wamp folder with my dev environment and in-progress work and my PortableApps folder with 90% of the applications I need for dev work. The rest is icing...


Keypass files
OpenVPN key & config file

That's all I need to get my work done. My bookmarks are handled by Xmarks now, so I just set that up in Firefox and all my stuff magically returns. I have backups of my work home dir on JungleDisk, I don't need that stuff immediately but it's there.


The porn and other naughty images would be my first suggestion but those I keep on an external disk so no need to copy those. :-)

My emails, perhaps? But no, I use webmail mostly with online archives so no need to copy those.

Most other important data that I have is also stored on external disks so I actually don't have to copy anything from my old to my new system. All I need to do is install all the applications I use on the new system.

So, technically speaking, I would "copy" all applications I use, by installing them on the new system.

Workshop Alex
+2  A: 

I copy nothing over, I keep everything in subversion and simply do a get

Joel Martinez

Since Windows 7 fetches all my device drivers at installation, the only thing I do today is load my user directory backup and voila.


for me, i will backup my /storage because i store everything on it such as my softwares,development tools,tutorials,documentations,etc..


My collection of utilities/tools/editors (regardless of which OS)..

Like the stuff listed here:


My Pictures, then install svn and get the rest.


Outlook's personal.pst

Aggelos Mpimpoudis