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A backup file is a copy of the old contents of a file you are editing. Emacs makes a backup file the first time you save a buffer into its visited file. Normally, this means that the backup file contains the contents of the file as it was before the current editing session. The contents of the backup file normally remain unchanged once it exists.
Backups are usually made by renaming the visited file to a new name. Optionally, you can specify that backup files should be made by copying the visited file. This choice makes a difference for files with multiple names; it also can affect whether the edited file remains owned by the original owner or becomes owned by the user editing it.
By default, Emacs makes a single backup file for each file edited. You can alternatively request numbered backups; then each new backup file gets a new name. You can delete old numbered backups when you don't want them any more, or Emacs can delete them automatically.
26.1.1 Making Backup Files How Emacs makes backup files, and when. 26.1.2 Backup by Renaming or by Copying? Two alternatives: renaming the old file or copying it. 26.1.3 Making and Deleting Numbered Backup Files Keeping multiple backups for each source file. 26.1.4 Naming Backup Files How backup file names are computed; customization.
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