Shared Distributed Music Backup System

If you found this page via a file on a USB stick someone gave you, welcome.

No? Well, welcome anyway and read on.

The latest version can be found here.

Basic Idea

Ever gone to play your favourite album and it's gone missing or is damaged beyond repair? If only you had a backup of it.

SDMBS defines a way to share the load of keeping offsite backups of your music in a distributed way.

Backing Up Your Music

  1. Pick a few albums that are important to you
  2. Back them up to a 1Gb USB stick
  3. Give the USB stick to someone who doesn't have those albums

Storing Backups

  1. Someone entrusts you with their backup on a USB stick
  2. Confirm the backup is valid
  3. Keep it somewhere safe
  4. If you later acquire the albums on the USB stick
    1. Erase the albums from the USB stick
    2. Backup your music

That's pretty much it.

If one of your backed up albums is ever damaged or lost you contact the person with your backup. They will either have the backup you gave them or the album itself. Then simply restore from their backup and go on listening to your favourite music.

Backup Validation

It's very important to confirm that the backup someone has entrusted you with is valid.
You should spend the time to validate each file and then let the sender know the results.

Popular validation software for music files are:

  • VLC

    free, open source, multi-platform, supports every well known music format

  • iTunes

    free, Mac/Windows, supports MP3 and Apple's proprietary formats.

    iTunes can be coaxed into mostly supporting FLAC with Fluke

  • SqueezeCenter

    free, open source, multi-platform, supports every well known music format

    • The SqueezeBox, Transporter and SqueezeBox Duet are all awesome hardware music players, I highly recommend them.
    • Alternately you can use any music player that supports HTTP streaming with SqueezeCenter

Creating The Backup

How you create your backup will depend on which platform you are using. Ideally you want the files you create to be a cross platform, lossless compression format that has good support for tags.


  • Lossless compression

    • lossless so you can restore the original album should a disaster occur
    • compression so the copy to the USB stick is quicker
  • Cross platform backup format

    • pick a format that everyone can read to make validation easy
  • Tags

    • everyone has their own method of file naming but tags are mostly standard most good music validation software supports tags and will index them

I highly recommend using FLAC as your backup format.

There are many good music backup software packages available. I recommend the following

  • Windows
  • Mac OS X
    • iTunes is installed by default but as yet does not support FLAC. It does support Apple's proprietary lossless codec, ALAC, which is stored in an MPEG4 container typically with a .m4a extension.
    • See the 'Mac OS X' section of the FLAC download page for more options.
  • Linux