Moving to a new device with SpiderOak

Best practices for SpiderOak users when moving to a new device, for example when changing hardware or the operating system.

Any time you make significant changes to your operating system, you run the risk of confusing your SpiderOak account. I’ve done that a couple of times. For example, I once changed the distribution on one of my computers from Linux Mint to Linux Mageia. Only the root partition was formatted and reinstalled; the home partition and the data on it were untouched. Yet those documents on the home partition that were synchronized with another computer disappeared from the other computer and were moved to SpiderOak’s deleted files.

After consulting with SpiderOak support, I now do the following whenever I:

  • format the root partition or otherwise change my operating system, distribution, or distribution release
  • replace a hard disk or similar storage device
  • replace a computer (say, a lost laptop)
  • restore a previously made disk image
  • restore a name brand computer to its factory settings

Optionally, copy your files onto the new device. If this isn’t possible, don’t worry: your files can be restored from the SpiderOak cloud. Unless you network is faster than mine, however, this can be slow.

If the SpiderOak appdata directory is present, delete it. It might be there if, for example, you have restored a disk image. The appdata directory is at:

  • Linux: ~/.SpiderOak/. Depending on your distribution and desktop environment, this may be a symbolic link to somewhere else.
  • Windows Vista and later: %sysdrive%\Users\USER\AppData\Roaming\SpiderOak\. Recall that %sysdrive%\Users\USER\AppData\ is a hidden directory.

Install and run SpiderOak. When the setup wizard asks if you are an existing user, answer yes. When asked if you are installing on an existing or a new device, choose new, and give your new device a new name. You can change it later.

Being a new device, it will be empty. Define your backup set as desired and let it do its work. This might be fast (if for example this is a brand new computer and your backup set consists of empty directories) or slow (if for example you’ve restored a disk image and SpiderOak has to deduplicate the files it finds there).

Optionally, restore files from the SpiderOak cloud. In the View tab, select the old device, choose the directories or files you wish to restore, and press Download. You will be asked where you want to download them, and one of the choices is their original position. This is usually the most sensible choice. Repeat this step as desired.

In the Sync tab, insure that none of your syncs reference the old device. You can remove the old device from a sync, or delete the sync entirely. If you omit this step you can expect to lose data, as I have involuntarily confirmed.

In the View tab, select the old device and press the delete button. This step cannot be undone (I’ve involuntarily confirmed this, too) so double checking your work to this point is prudent.

Recreate any syncs and shares you may have had on the deleted device. And you’re done.

When you first define the backup set on the new device, you may encounter spurious warnings about exceeding your storage space. This can happen if, for example, you’ve restored a disk image, you have lots of files to back up, and you are near your SpiderOak storage space limit. To work around this, open Preferences – Interface and disable disk space calculations during backup selection. Remember to change it back to your preferred setting when finished.

I would like to recommend using merge instead of sync above, but as of July 2013 SpiderOak staff considers merge to not yet be reliable enough to recommend.

If you’d like to rename the new device (for example to the old device’s name), wait until you have deleted the old device. The go to the View tab, select the new device, press the rename button, and change as desired.

Private communications with SpiderOak support, 10-15 July 2013
SpiderOak forum discussions of the matter: one, two (registration required)
The View tab page of the SpiderOak manual

These notes refer to SpiderOak 5.1.1 on Linux and Windows, and were last updated 26 February 2014.


About Warren Post

So far: Customer support guy, jungle guide, IT consultant, beach bum, entrepreneur, teacher, diplomat, over-enthusiastic cyclist. Tomorrow: who knows?
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