Setting up a new machine

January 08, 2021

Dang! Got a new laptop and I have to set up everything… again…

I always find it exciting when I get something new, such as a new laptop. When buying one, changing jobs (assuming the employer provides me one) or replacing old by new.

The first thing I like to do is to assess the machine’s power, see what is made in terms of memory and disk space. Then, I see how far I can get in terms of privileges (i.e. can I install/uninstall whatever I want?).

This is important to me because I like to keep things clean and tidy so, eventually, I can start making my own mess by installing my stuff. During my career I kind of got a mental list of software I lean on, things that I really need, other things that I might need and others that I heard that are nice but I never really used it.

As I became to customise my settings more and more, having a new machine wasn’t that exciting anymore. I not only have to remember to install all of these things that I need, but it became also tedious and demanded a large cognitive effort. Also, I got frustrated many times because I thought I was all set up until I realised I forgot to install a particular tool.

Consistent environment

The way I now approach this is to automate my setup as much as I can so that every time I set up a new machine, my development environment will be consistent each time. In order to make this happen, I like to structure my environment setup with the following categories:

  • Tools
  • Access
  • Configuration


I like to go with an approach of running a single command and install everything I need at once. The operating system that I’ve been using is macOS but most of the things that I’ll mention here also applies for Linux. In terms of Windows, probably you will find an equivalent. What is important here is to stick to the concept of automation.

What I use to install the tools that I rely on is Homebrew and it is simple as that:

$ brew install git

The command above installs git, as an example.

You also can use brew to install macOS apps (i.e. browser, code editor, image visualisation, etc) via Homebrew Cask

$ brew install --cask firefox

When you install something via brew (a.k.a Homebrew), the software is now managed by it. Meaning that whenever you need to upgrade, reinstall or delete, you can do via homebrew as follows:

$ brew upgrade git

The good thing about this is that you can now dump all your software list you ever installed via brew into one file and that can be used to set up a whole new machine with a single command. You can achieve that with Homebrew Bundle.

Please follow the official documentation to install it properly.

Once you are all set, you can run the following command that will consolidate all the things you have installed into a file usually named Brewfile:

$ brew bundle dump --file=Brewfile

Then, the Brewfile will look like this:

tap "github/gh"
tap "homebrew/bundle"
tap "homebrew/cask"
tap "homebrew/cask-fonts"
tap "homebrew/cask-versions"
tap "homebrew/core"
tap "homebrew/services"
brew "git"
brew "go"
brew "make"
brew "neovim"
brew "tmux"
brew "unzip"
cask "buttercup"
cask "docker"
cask "firefox"

Now, imagine you do that now, save this file somewhere (i.e. cloud). When you receive a new machine or even format your current machine, you can run brew bundle to restore all the software that you used to have. See the command below:

$ brew bundle --file=homebrew/Brewfile

The above will install everything as if you were running brew install git, brew install go, etc.


Now you have your stuff in place, there will be a “necessary” pain of authenticating with most of them (i.e. your cloud storage, your music app). The way I like to approach this is to get handy a password manager.

PS: I usually use brew cask to install mine so I don’t have to install it manually ever again

In case you don’t have a password manager, I’d consider downloading one now, here’s why.

A few options to consider:


This category is pretty much to make sure once you are all set up, your tools are the way you left them before changing machines (or before you restored your current machine). I personally don’t bother too much about browser config because I have personal accounts that bring my config from the browser’s cloud, but editor configuration is something that is really close to my workflow and if I don’t see my editor or my terminal the way I remembered, I might have a Hard time trying to remember where things were before becoming productive.

About code editors, you might have seen around some GitHub repo called dotfiles. The reason for this name is because most of the configs are files that have . in front of its name (i.e. .gitconfig, .vim, .zshrc, .idea, etc).

So what most people do, they create a git repository somewhere (i.e. GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket, etc) and consolidate all configs into one place so whenever you clone your repo (from a brand-new machine), you can run a couple of commands and have your original config in place.

In addition, you can also add customisable scripts to speed up your initial setting. As an example, VSCode is an editor that you can install a number of plugins to support your day-to-day development. So, although I’m not a heavy VSCode user, I use it sometimes and I have a few plugins that help during these occasions. So I came up with a script that will read all my current plugins and store them into a file so whenever I set up a new environment, the script will install all of these plugins so that when I open VSCode, the settings.json will contain all plugins that I used to have in my previous environment. That’s was pretty much inspired by Homebrew Bundle

Here’s a snippet:


# Creates symbolic link from this dir into where vscode is installed
# then reads VSCodeExtensionsFile and install each extension one by one
  # Creates symbolic link
  rm -rf ~/Library/Application\ Support/Code/User/settings.json || true
  ln -s `pwd`/vscode/settings.json ~/Library/Application\ Support/Code/User/settings.json

  # Install extensions
  while read extension; do
    code --install-extension $extension
  done < vscode/VSCodeExtensionsFile

  echo "Done."

# List vscode extensions and place into VSCodeExtensionsFile file
  echo "Reading existing extensions from VSCode onto $extensions"
  echo ""

  code --list-extensions | tee $extensions

  echo "Done."


— Edited on Wed 20 Jan

If you want to use the the script above, you can copy its content into your machine with the following steps:

  1. Create a file on your /usr/local/bin so that you can execute from anywhere
$ touch /usr/local/bin/vs-code-bundler
  1. Grant permission to the script to being executed
$ chmod +x /usr/local/bin/vs-code-bundler
  1. Open the file we created and paste the script
  2. Test the script

Run the command below to get your existing extensions and dump into a file.

$ vs-code-bundler dump

Then check the content of vscode/VSCodeExtensionsFile and see if it matches with your existing extensions:

$ cat vscode/VSCodeExtensionsFile

Save this file somewhere and next time you can run the bundle command to install everything if you need to:

$ vs-code-bundler bundle


If you read until now, thank you very much, I hope this article help you somehow or help someone you know!

I’ll share below my personal dotfiles where I apply most of the things I’ve discussed and feel free to copy & paste and make your own config according to what makes sense to you.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me on

A few shout outs to friends that helped me and inspired me to do this post: