Crashplan’s backup control app and engine are dead simple to configure and control from the computer they’re running on, but controlling them across the network require some well hidden tricks.

Dear How-To Geek,

You guys seem to figure out any problem a reader pitches at you, so here goes. I had this great idea to save money on a Crashplan account by buying a single user account instead of a big old family plan pack, but I may have run into a hiccup.

Here was my plan: Get Crashplan account, install Crashplan on an old desktop computer in the basement, have all my computers backup to the old desktop, and then have that old desktop upload everything to Crashplan. Now here’s the hiccup. I want to run the old desktop machine headless and remote control the Crashplan client for those rare time I need to make any changes. The problem is I can’t find a single setting to allow me to do so. When I install Crashplan on my home office computer the only instance of Crashplan I can control is the local one. Is there a way to control the Crashplan engine installed on the old desktop turned backup server?


Crashplan Tweaking

Well great minds certainly think alike. You’re embarking on a backup streamlining journey we ourselves undertook a few years back. Before you embark too far on the journey we do want to point out one small hiccup you’ll experience.

CrashPlan’s backup application will happily run on your home server but it won’t backup CrashPlan archives made on other computers. This mechanism is hard coded into the CrashPlan client and serves to prevent the client from uploading redundant data. If, for example, you ran a client on your desktop PC and server, then backed up your desktop to the server you’d eventually end up uploading the same data twice from two different machines which is both inefficient on your end and on their end. If you want to continue with your plan to centralize your backups you’ll want to use another application to create the backups on the central server.

That said, as you’ve learned there are no apparent settings in the Crashplan client whatsoever that indicate you can connect to a remote Crashplan backup engine. The settings are there, mind you, but they’re hidden in configuration files and inaccessible from the client interface. We’re not going to knock CrashPlan here too much for that as what we did and what you’re proposing to do are a bit of a special use scenario and most people won’t typically be running the client on a headless and/or remote machine.

In order to redirect the Crashplan client to a new backup engine, you’ll need to search out the file. This file is located in C:\Program Files\CrashPlan\conf\ on Windows machines. Search for a similar \CrashPlan\conf folder to locate the file on other operating systems.

Open the file in a text editor. All the lines will be commented out with a hashtag (#). Look for the line #serviceHost. Remove the hashtag from the line and insert the IP address of your remote backup machine after the = sign.

Save the file and restart the CrashPlan client on your computer. It will now connect the the backup engine on the remote backup machine (specified by the IP address) instead of the backup engine on the local computer. Should you wish to control the backup engine on your local computer again, simply open the properties file and insert a hashtag at the start of the edited line to return the client to using the local backup engine instead of the remote backup engine.

If you intend to connect to and control the remote backup engine from outside your home network, we’d recommend configuring SSH and switching the service port in the file to increase security; you can read how to do so in this CrashPlan support article.

Have a pressing tech question? Shoot us an email at and we’ll do our best to answer it.

Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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