What to backup when backing up a session?

I found the responses to @bluebones’s post about backing up really helpful — I hadn’t considered using tools like rsync or git to backup my projects, instead I’ve just been (inelegantly) copying my entire project directories onto a cloud folder.

But the posts there don’t really address which files in the project directory to backup when you’re creating a backup.* So my question is: When I’m backing up an Ardour project, should I always backup (copy) the entire project directory? I see two potential problems with this solution:

  • One the one hand, maybe it’s too much to copy — project directories seem to contain files/data unnecessary for my backup purposes: e.g. I don’t think I need the peaks/, analysis/, or dead sounds/ folder for my backups, and perhaps the interchange/ folder consists of unused samples/audio that I don’t need, and make my overall project directory bulky?

  • On the other hand, maybe it’s not enough to copy — perhaps there are some audio or MIDI files used by the project that aren’t copied into the interchange/ folder? (e.g. Does Ardour copy all imported audio samples? And are soundfont files used by a fluidsynth also copied in?) Or perhaps there are some plugin presets or instances whose data is not stored in the directory — or does the plugins/ folder always contain that data?

To address the first issue (too much), which folders can I leave out when I’m backing up a project directory? — or should I copy everything? To address the second issue (not enough), does Ardour have a ‘consolidate’ functionality, that gathers all files (audio, MIDI, plugin presets, etc.) used by a project?

*P.S. My reason for backing up is incase my computer wipes out all my files, which happened recently. While I could easily reinstall the required plugins when this happens, I imagine recovering individual files — audio files, MIDI files, plugin presets, drum samples, soundfonts — would be painful, unless I backup well.

EDIT: I should clarify, when I say “plugin presets”, I’m referring Ardour’s “preset” function, the three buttons to the right of the pin configuration button, which allow you to look through existing presets, save a new one, or save the current one.

I have at least one other level of directory above the ardour project folder. Here I keep all other stuff like docs, soundfiles etc in related subdirectories. I never use system global sound fonts but always keep the stuff I use locally
Then I mirror this directory to a different drive using freefilesync.
Good enough for my requirements


  • peaks/ is a wave-form cache. Missing files are re-created, you can also manually trigger this Session > Cleaning > Rebuild Peak files
  • analysis/ contains information about transients. Missing files are re-created when “enabled automatic analysis of audio” preference is enabled.
  • dead/ is the recycle-bin. Session > Cleanup > Cleanup unused sources moves files there. Session > Cleanup > Flush Wastebasket removes all files in that folder.

By default drag/drop only references external files, and it depends you settings (Preferences > General > Drag and drop import always copies) and settings the in Session > Import dialog.

No. however for LV2 plugin, external resources are symbolic-links in externals/. When you use rsync, use --copy-unsafe-links to dereferences symlinks thayt point outside of ardour’s session-bundle.

Depends on the plugin. Some sample-players can also reference external files. That’s common when those are huge (GB of sample-data).

There is Session > Cleanup > Bring all media into session folder.
That is for audio data only (MIDI files are always stored in the session-bundle).

Plugin presets location depend on the plugin standard. On GNU/Linux LV2 presets are stored in in ~/.lv2/ (shared with other apps) and VST3 in ~/.vst3/presets/.

Why not do a full disk backup, or at least your $HOME folder? The latter would include everything. presets, sample-collections.

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