Automatically Backing Up Flash-Drives With SilverKeeper

With the use of tiny USB flash-drives becoming increasingly common in our lives, it is scary how heavily we rely on these not so reliable storage devices. They can go missing, get stolen, or just pack it in and die. And if you haven’t backed up all your files from it, then this can be really devastating.

But few people remember to regularly backup so here’s an easy tutorial on how to get your computer to automatically backup your flash-drive for you. Following this, you should be able to rest assured that everything is safe. This how-to uses SilverKeeper, a free backup application made by Lacie.

This article will also show you how to make backups happen as soon as you mount your flash-drive using Do Something When, and a basic Automator workflow. Without further ado, let’s get started!

Setting Up SilverKeeper

Download the free SilverKeeper from Lacie and open it up. If you’ve never used it before, you should be asked if you’d like to use the setup assistant. Just click ‘Later’ as I’ve found it much easier just to do it manually.

You’ll now see the SilverKeeper window. Basically the application takes all the files from the Source folder you select on the left, and copies them into the Destination folder you choose on the right.

Click on the ‘New Set…’ pull down menu and click ‘New Set…’ Navigate to your flash-drive and choose it. You should then be prompted to pick your Destination. I would recommend creating a new folder inside your Mac hard drive just for flash-drive backups, and choosing this.

Be careful when choosing the Destination for backups. You need to make sure you choose an empty folder to backup into, to ensure than you don’t overwrite or lose anything you don’t want to.

Creating a New Set

Creating a New Set

Once you’ve set the Source and Destination, hitting the big ‘Go’ button will initiate the backup. Simple!

Pick Your Source Destination

Pick Your Source Destination

Schedule & Settings

In the section at the bottom of the SilverKeeper window are some tabs to explore. The Status tab gives you a basic run down on what it’s been up to.

If you’d like to set it up to run the backup on a regular basis, click on the Schedule tab and tick ‘Scheduled Backup’. You can set how often you want it to backup, and when. When the next backup time arrives, SilverKeeper will launch itself and run the backup.

Getting Into a Schedule

Getting Into a Schedule

The options tab holds some important features; you can set SilverKeeper to keep a set number of backups by ticking ‘Copy Set to Folder’ and entering in the amount you’d like. This is useful if you realize you need to revert something to how it was a few backups ago. Leaving ‘Never Remove Files’ unchecked means that if you delete a file from the Source, it will be deleted from the Destination upon next backup.

The Exceptions tab lets you inform SilverKeeper of any files you don’t need backed up, or of files in the Destination that you don’t want deleted.

True Automation

There is a problem with scheduling backups. Being so portable, a flash-drive may not always be plugged in when SilverKeeper tires to do it’s thing. When this happens, SilverKeeper will let you know that the backup failed. It becomes your job to manually do it next time you connect the flash-drive unless you wait out for the next scheduled backup.

But there is a solution. If you don’t always have your flash-drive in your computer at the same time each day or week, read on to learn how to automatically trigger backups each time you mount your flash-drive.

Step 1: Download Do Something When

First, we’re going to be downloading another application for this, called Do Something When. This application sits in your System Preferences, and as the name suggests, it triggers an action when something else happens. We want to trigger the backup each time you mount your flash-drive. Once downloaded, install it so that it’s ready for later.

Step 2: Automator Workflow

Now to make the action that is triggered, Automator is the way to go. Fire it up from your applications folder, and drag the action ‘Launch Application’ from the library on the left into the workflow on the right. Click on the pulldown menu to find SilverKeeper.

So far, this workflow will just open SilverKeeper for us. Now we want it to press the go button. Because there appears to be no way to manually trigger backups in SilverKeeper other than physically clicking ‘Go’, we need to record ourselves doing this in Automator. Make sure you’ve got both the SilverKeeper window and the Automator window visible, and click the red ‘Record’ button in the upper right of Automator.

Now as quickly as you can, move the mouse and click ‘Go’ in SilverKeeper, and then the Stop Recording button in the black floating window that appears. It wouldn’t hurt to drag the Playback Speed slider all the way up so that everything happens fast on the new workflow segment that appears.

Your Automator Workflow

Your Automator Workflow

That’s it! Workflow complete. Give it a test by pressing the ‘Run’ button and see if the curser clicks ‘Go’ and initiates backup. From the menu go File > Save As… and save it as an Application.

Step 3: Linking It All Together

Open up the Do Something When preference pane inside the System Preferences, and enter in a rule name down the bottom such as “Flash-Drive Backup”. Next to ‘When’ find your flash-drive, and chose ‘Mounts’. Beside ‘What’, choose ‘Open’ and then locate that automator application you just saved. It may be a good idea to enter in a short delay.

Now press ‘Save’, hit the ‘Start’ button at the top, and check ‘Automatically Start on Login’.

Do Something When

Do Something When


Provided everything worked smoothly, your flash-drive will be backed up automatically every time you connect it to the computer, to the location you set in SilverKeeper. This is a great method for ensuring that if you do ever loose it, your backed up work should be safe and pretty up to date. You can of course use SilverKeeper and Do Something When with other types external media as well if you need to.

Let us know if you have any questions or comments on backing up your flash-drives below, and I hope you find this useful!