How to use soft and hard links with the CrashPlan App

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File links are used to create shortcuts from one file location to another on your device. If used unwisely, these links can cause many types of software—including the CrashPlan app—to interact with the same files more than once.

This article describes how to use soft and hard links in order to avoid problems for the CrashPlan app.

How file links work

Your device uses files to physically locate information on the hard drive (or other storage drive, like a solid state drive). For an in-depth examination of exactly how your device works with files and file links, check our External Resources.

File links refer to files, but they don't contain much information themselves. There are two different types of file links that operate slightly differently: soft links and hard links.

Soft links

soft link is a type of file link that references another file. Soft links are also called "symlinks" in some environments. Soft links can point to any file on your system, even supporting links from one hard drive or logical volume to another. In fact, soft links can also point to a file or path that doesn't exist yet. Because soft links are so versatile, they are used throughout many UNIX operating systems, including Mac and many Linux distros.

Soft link backup considerations

Mac and Linux

  • The CrashPlan app backs up soft links, but not the target of the soft link. If you back up a soft link with the CrashPlan app, be aware that only the link is backed up—not the target file.
  • Soft links can link to files with relative paths or absolute paths. When you download a soft link, it is downloaded in the same state it was backed up in (relative or absolute). It is possible to download a soft link and its target in such a way that the link does not accurately point to the target.


The CrashPlan app does not back up:

  • Soft links or the targets of soft links
  • Junction points or the targets of junction points

Hard links

hard link is a type of file link that references a specific physical location on a storage drive. Hard links are more efficient than soft links because they don't deal with the complexities supported by soft links. Hard links are also limited in some ways, such as being restricted from hard linking directly to a folder. However, hard links represent another instance of a file without actually being a separate copy, and that can cause problems for some software.

Hard link backup considerations

  • The CrashPlan app follows hard links when examining your drive for files to back up. As a result, using lots of hard links can quickly increase the total file count that the CrashPlan app backs up, and an unusually high file count can cause poor performance or other unexpected behavior from the CrashPlan app.
  • The CrashPlan app follows hard links when examining your drive for files to back up. As a result, using hard links can cause the CrashPlan app to examine the same information more than once, which can add to backup processing time.
  • Some software and utilities, such as Apple's Time Machine utility, use hard links to accomplish their tasks.

De-duplication and hard links

Hard links can cause the CrashPlan app to examine the same file more than once, but the CrashPlan app will not waste space by backing up the same information multiple times. The CrashPlan app uses data de-duplication to back up all your information as efficiently as possible.

For more information on data de-duplication, read How Backup Works.


Always avoid backing up hard links

If your backup selection includes multiple hard links to the same file, the CrashPlan app processes the links individually, which can cause poor performance.

To prevent this, deselect files and folders that contain hard links with the CrashPlan app's file selection feature.

Consider avoiding use of hard links

Many types of software can exhibit strange behavior when working with hard links. If your system can operate well without using hard links, you may want to avoid using them altogether.

Be aware of your soft links

Soft links can trick you into thinking some information is backed up, but in fact only the soft link is backed up. You may want to test your backups by making sure that you can download files from your backup.

Soft links do not carry the same risks as hard links, but they can cause you potential complications when downloading unless you plan ahead and carefully consider your use of soft links.

Still unsure?

If you have more questions about how the CrashPlan app works with soft and hard links, contact our technical support team.

External resources

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