You don’t state which version and build of Moneydance you are running, e.g. 2019.4(1892) so the following assumes it is version 2019.
Moneydance 2019 has two methods for making a backup.
The backup location can be found under HELP – SHOW BACKUP FOLDER. In both cases you can select the backup location and as such it is good practice to set the location on a cloud server such as Dropbox, in case your hard drive fails.
Manual backup. A manual backup can be made under FILE (MONEYDANCE on Mac) – BACKUP EXPORT. The file naming convention is yourdatasetname-yyyymmdd-tttt.moneydancearchive
Automatic backup is set under FILE – PREFERENCES – BACKUPS. Auto backup makes a backup every time you close Moneydance. Moneydance only keep the last auto backup of the day, overwriting any previous auto backups for that day. You can set the number of backups to be kept. When this number is exceeded the oldest backup is deleted. The file naming convention is yourdatasetname.yyyy-mm-dd.moneydancearchive
If you have more than one computer and are syncing your data between then ensure they backup to different locations.
A moneydancearchive file is a compressed data set.
The contents of a backup file is AES256 encrypted and provided you have set a password under FILE – PASSWORDS can only be opened by Moneydance by entering your password after using FILE – RESTORE FROM BACKUP.
When you FILE – RESTORE FROM BACKUP you do not overwrite your existing data set. This is in case you later find you need access to your old data set A new data set is created with the naming convention – from manual backup yourdatasetname-yyyymmdd-tttt.moneydance the date time code taken from the backup file - from auto backup yourdatasetname (plus at number) e.g. yourdatasetname 2.moneydance The default data set location can be found under HELP – SHOW DOCUMENT FOLDER. You can delete old data sets you no longer want. You can rename a restored data set with Moneydance closed as you would any other folder provided you retain “.moneydance” extension. A data set is a folder not a file containing other folders and files. When you open Moneydance it will open in the “Welcome to Moneydance” window with the data set name listed on the right.
Just to expand on Derek's comments, unlike word processors, spreadsheets and other like applications Moneydance data is not stored in a single file. This is for a number of reasons that include that since Moneydance supports syncing between multiple computers it needs files (updates) that can be passed between machines so using small files that contain these updates makes this much more efficient. Each local instance of Moneydance will roll these updates into a master file, but I believe it is safest to backup all data rather than arbitrarily try to decide what is needed.
Also if you attach documents to transactions each of these attachments is stored as a separate file. So it is important to not only have all the files it is necessary to maintain the folder structure so that Moneydance can find all the data where it is expected to be.
For information a Moneydance backup backs up a specific Moneydance data set, so it ensures you have your data. What is does not do is back up the state of your environment so things like preferences, custom themes etc are not backed up as part of Moneydance's inbuilt backup
Just to add to the discussion, from my years working with critical data:
The number of Backup data sets should have a minimum of 3
generations/versions, just in case a version fails.
If you do store information outside of your local computer, just as the
"cloud", enusre that the password for the encrypted data is strong. Just
becuase it is AES encrypted, a weak password associated with the
encrypted data is like no encryption. As different from an on-line
password, once the data has been copied by the "actor", the person can
use brute force to "guess" the password.
One of my pet peeves with MD is that they only provide a backup of data
by either the File->export ... or exiting the program. I find it very
useful to use the CTRL-S feature to cause the program to write all the
unwritten transactions (since the last CTRL-S or when MD was last
exit/start to the master. I do this after a large number of changes or
at least once per evening. (i don't often close MD because I am always
going in there to get some information.
having three different ways of saving the data means that you can always
recover somewhere with a minimum effort, and before having to convert
the sync copy to a master copy.
Through observation of the data set, the data set is updated immediately upon any change being made, a txn file is created. So I am not sure if CTRL-S (or CMD-S on a Mac) actually adds anything. It does update the time stamp of a file called settings, but its contents seem to remain the same. Its contents only change when you close Moneydance.
I would be good to get a statement by support as to what actually happens when using Moneydance 2019 concerning the above, as it’s not clear, at least to me.
You are correct, it just writes out _any_ non saved transactions of the
current data set. No archive file is written unless one does an exit.
The referenced article is from early 2017, so there must have been a
change during the iterations of MD 2015. As a long-time user, I do
remember a menu option that was removed some time in that period.
The only reason for the control key (or CMD) then is to save the data in
the periodic when the transaction is "entered" and when the program does
it timed save to the current data set. I was unable to determine the
time period (20 seconds?).
I really do want to hear from IK support on this! Is this "hot key"
_just_ leftover from the past? I know I have lost transactions without
it (power failure) but it this really worthwhile for the risk (and being
As I stated previously, depending on the quit/archive method for backup
is not totally safe, as it is possible to have a disk error in the
write, or promoting an inherent software error within the data. It is
good policy to go to preferences and change the folder to another disk
(or "cloud" but only if you have it password protected).
By necessity (and paranoid), one should backup the data through export
on a periodic basis based upon the personal preferences to risk (and
frustration) due to the above possibility. Obviously, one does this
whenever changing or adding software/extensions. This backup should be
kept "off-site" for obvious reasons.
IMHO,the above strategy is a timeworn procedure performed by those that
have been burnt by program or data failure or illegal intrusion.
I believe that the keyboard save shortcut is a left over from the days when Moneydance did not do the automatic saves. This goes back quite some years. Some liked the ability to discard a whole session if they stuffed up. My personal opinion was given we are talking about financial data, and that it can be somewhat critical that automatic saves occurring quite frequently was the way to go and could protect against such things as power failure. If you stuffed up it was backup restore time at worst.
This is also consistent with how Reckon (Quicken) worked.
Thanks so much to Derek, dwg and sprimost for the detailed and very helpful explanations which answer my question most satisfactorily.
I do have version 2019.1 of Moneydance and have now located the backup files. In addition to manual backups I do regularly, I have Macrium Reflect software which does complete backups of my C drive twice weekly to two different hard drives. These backup files can be mounted, just like a hard drive, and individual files located and extracted with ease. A real bacon-saver. With these, MD's own backups and my manual backups to external drives and the Cloud it would take a real catastrophe to lose my data.
To take advantage of bug fixes and feature adds. Just do an EXPORT BACKUP then download and install.
One other point about backups that is important if you are using Moneydances internal sync engine. When a backup is made, if you were syncing, the syncing method is set to don’t sync. This prevent syncing if you restore a backup. This can be important if the need for restoring a backup was related to syncing. Other backup methods such as making a copy of your data set want do this and can mean a restored data set will sync and your data set will be corrupted again.
As an alternative backup method that may or may not be good for you.
I always back up my entire mine.moneydance folder under Windows \Moneydance folder.. I don't attach files so all my data backs up to about 17mb in compressed format. I also don't sync between computers. In the rare instance I need a current copy of of my files I will backup and then copy that compressed file to my other computer.
Occasionally I use the export backup within MD but mostly I backup to a zip file with other programs outside MD. When I want to use the new backup I will copy the zip to the computer, extract the zip file. My next step may or may not be a good idea but I've never had any problems. I then go to my \Moneydance folder and delete that old mine.moneydance folder and copy the extracted mine.moneydance folder to to the correct Moneydance folder.
I don't restore because in the past the restored file had the same name as the export backup and I found it more work to change back to mine.moneydance. Not sure if that's still true as I have tried a restore for a few years.
My backup routine of using a third party program that will backup to a zip has been very helpful and quick and I can keep as many backup copies as I need, in my case I keep 6 copies.