I would like to put all of my auto-save files into a directory, say something like


Based on what's written in the wiki, I came up with this:

(setq backup-by-copying t      ; don't clobber symlinks
      backup-directory-alist '(("." . "~/.emacs-saves"))    ; don't litter my fs tree
      delete-old-versions t
      kept-new-versions 6
      kept-old-versions 2
      version-control t)       ; use versioned backups
(setq auto-save-file-name-transforms
      `((".*" "~/.emacs-saves" t)))

Now my autosaves are going in my home directory, which is actually kind of an improvement, but not what I want.

Can someone explain to me what I'm doing wrong, and how to correct it? I'm also very interested in what this syntax means (It's an example from the wiki entry):

(setq auto-save-file-name-transforms
      `((".*" ,temporary-file-directory t)))

What's with the comma in ,temporary-file-directory?

3 Answers 3


Put a slash at the end of your string. It's a directory.

(setq auto-save-file-name-transforms
  `((".*" "~/.emacs-saves/" t)))

The comma is used in the backquote notation.

(setq x 123)
(setq y `(my-x ,x))
(setq z (list 'my-x x)) ;; same as y
  • 1
    auto-save-file-name-transforms doesn't even need to be set to put all the backups into one directory. Only backup-directory-alist is needed.
    – erikstokes
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 2:53
  • 7
    regarding the above comment - this question is asking about auto-save files and not backup files. Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 15:06
  • ahh that slash at the end fixed it for me! That has been bugging me for too long
    – Jesse
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 16:09

I had the same problem and now I use:

(let ((my-auto-save-dir (locate-user-emacs-file "auto-save")))
  (setq auto-save-file-name-transforms
        `((".*" ,(expand-file-name "\\2" my-auto-save-dir) t)))
  (unless (file-exists-p my-auto-save-dir)
    (make-directory my-auto-save-dir)))
(setq auto-save-default t
      auto-save-timeout 10
      auto-save-interval 200)

I don't now what "\\2" exactly does (maybe someone will explain) but it works correct, found it at (https://stackoverflow.com/questions/15302973/emacs-auto-save-why-are-files-not-stored-in-the-correct-folder).

You can also replace setq part of the above example by:

  (setq auto-save-file-name-transforms
        `((".*" ,(file-name-as-directory my-auto-save-dir) t))))
  • According to documentation, locate-user-emacs-file creates the directory if it doesn't exist, so the unless-section shouldn't be needed. The documentation seems to be lying though, according to my tests. Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 17:54
  • And "\\2" is a back reference to the second matching group of the regex in the first element of auto-save-file-name-transforms (".*" in your code). There is no second matching group, so I think this works as expected by random chance. I haven't tested it. Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 17:57

You need only the backup dir set correctly:

(setq backup-directory-alist '(("." . "~/.emacs-saves")))

I don't have any trailing / either. Also as erikstokes mentioned above, you don't need auto-save-file-name-transforms for backups to work.

  • backup-directory-alist is needed to put backups into one directory, auto-save-file-name-transforms is needed to put autosaves into one directory. Not clear if the OP wants both.
    – npostavs
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 15:28
  • 7
    This question is asking about auto-save files and not backup files. Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 15:07

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