I work on several different machines. I have a lot of specific things I like my shell to, or the prompt to look like, or aliases, etc.

What do you think the best way to keep all my machines shells to act the same?

First off, I'm aware that different machines will need different paths to bins and other differences, so my first inclination is to just include a file at the end of my profile, this is the one that we'll keep in sync.

What is the best way to keep files synced up? I can put the file on a remote system, and perhaps use git, to push, then pull my changes every once in a while. However, isn't Rsync better suited for this?

  • 4
    Not dumb at all. – Dennis Williamson Jun 15 '10 at 7:12
  • Check out base on GitHub. It addresses this issue comprehensively. More details in this answer. – codeforester Jul 13 '19 at 12:59

This is how I do it:

  1. I never put real content on the ~/.bashrc or ~/.bash_profile files, instead those files are just symlinks to the real configuration files kept in a subdirectory in my home folder, for example ~/dotfiles/bashrc and ~/dotfiles/bash_profile.

  2. I keep the ~/dotfiles folder under source control using Git, and hosted at GitHub.com

  3. When I install a new system, I just clone the GitHub repository to a new local ~/dotfiles folder and create all the symlinks (currently by hand, though this step should be easy to automate).

  4. I use this same procedure for other config files, like .hgrc (for Mercurial), .vimrc and several others.

  5. Whenever I edit one of the configuration files, I just commit and push to GitHub, and then pull in every other machine.

This is still somewhat laborious and manual, but I've been happy with it.

This is the current content of my ~/dotfiles folder:

|-- bash
|   |-- aliases
|   |-- config
|   |-- env
|   `-- promptcolors
|-- bash_profile
|-- bashrc
|-- gitconfig
|-- gvimrc
|-- hg-templates
|   |-- map-cmdline.dlog
|   |-- map-cmdline.nlog
|   |-- map-cmdline.sglog
|   `-- map-cmdline.slog
|-- hgrc
|-- ssh
|   `-- config
|-- vim
|   |-- after
|   |-- colemak-mappings.vim
|   |-- colors
|   |-- doc
|   |-- filetype.vim
|   |-- ftplugin
|   `-- plugin
`-- vimrc

I stole this idea from the great Peepcode Advanced Command line screencast (worth the $9 in my opinion).

And this is where I keep my GitHub repository, in case you want to take a look. Don't expect anything of great interest, I'm just a bash/command line newbie.


  • Don't these files contain sensitive data? – marines Mar 26 '15 at 11:31
  • What do you do when you need to have something different in each machine? The location of some library for example. – Orlando Rivera Letelier May 9 at 0:28

For all the people still trying to find the best solution for this problem, there is now a very actively maintained tool that does everything you need and more:

It goes far beyond syncing zsh or bash profiles. It can sync settings of a large amount of tools. Essentially, it uses the same symlink concept as the accepted answer but automates it so you only ever need two commands:

  1. mackup backup
  2. mackup restore

There are a number of different tools that will accomplish this goal

Or see the big list of all things dotfiles related at http://dotfiles.github.io/

(Full disclosure: I am the original author of Hermit and still one of the primary maintainers)


Use Dotty to securely store your configuration files and easily keep them in-sync across your machines.

  • Please see this post for how to recommend products in answers. – Donald Duck Sep 10 '20 at 11:04

I think that https://github.com/fsquillace/kyrat does what you need.

It is a very lightweight ssh wrapper which does not need root access or any installations to the remote host.

A simple a example of usage:

$> echo "alias q=exit" > ~/.config/kyrat/bashrc
$> kyrat myuser@myserver.com
myserver.com $> q

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