4 Ways to Back Up Your Entire Hard Drive on Linux

Everyone has important data – data that needs to be kept safe. Most of the time this can be accomplished by just creating a DropBox or Google Drive account and uploading important files to it.

Sometimes, however, you need to back up an entire hard drive. Here are four ways that you can back up the entire contents of a hard drive on Linux. With each list item there are different ways to back up. Which way is the best?

linux-harddrive-gnome-disks

Perhaps the most user-friendly way to back up a hard drive on Linux is to use the Gnome Disk Utility. It’s a tool that comes with most Linux distributions that take advantage of Gnome’s desktop and software offering. Backing up with the Disk Utility is very self-explanatory: select what hard drive you wish to back up (in the form of a raw .IMG file), select where to save the backup and sit back.

All and all, if you’re looking to make a complete backup of your hard drive on Linux and you’re not interested in fussing with live disks, command-line programs or anything like that, look no further. There’s a full tutorial on how to do this here.

linux-harddrive-Clonezilla

A popular way to back up hard drives on Linux is by using Clonezilla. It’s a live disk utility that can be burned to a USB drive or optical media that you can boot from. Once booted, Clonezilla can clone entire disks or even just partitions. It can clone one drive directly to another. Or, if you prefer, Clonezilla can clone to raw .IMG files.

If you’re looking for a great hard drive backup solution similar to Gnome Disk Utility but with more options and settings for advanced users, check out this program. There’s a full tutorial for Clonezila here.

linux-harddrive-DD

Chances are if you’ve ever used Linux, you’ve run into the dd command at one point or another. The tool is incredibly easy to use. Here’s how to use the DD tool to make a backup of your Linux hard drive.

You’ll need to open a terminal window.

Once you’re in the terminal, find out what hard drive you want to back up with the lsblk command. In this tutorial “/dev/sda” will be the drive getting backed up.

With “/dev/sda” taken care of, it’s time to figure out where the DD tool will place the backup. Use lsblk to figure out what the system calls the drive that will hold your backup. In this tutorial the backup will be placed on “/dev/sdb” (another hard drive).

To run the backup, just enter the following command and wait patiently.

It is also possible to just back up one partition instead of an entire drive.

If you wish to restore the backed up drive, just run these commands again, but in reverse order.

To restore the backup, just enter the following command and wait patiently.

To restore a partition backup:

linux-harddrive-tar

Another way you can back up your hard drive on Linux is with TAR. Tar is a bit different from other backup solutions on this list. Unlike Gnome Disk Utility, DD or Clonezilla, you won’t be making an exact copy of your drive. Instead, you’ll be compressing an exact copy of your entire Linux file system into a TAR archive.

This can be accomplished with just two commands. Open a terminal and enter the following:

The cd command puts us in the / directory (or root). This is the home to all files on your Linux installation. After that just run the backup command and sit back.

Once the command above has finished its run, look for the backup.tar.gz file inside the / folder and save it to an external file system. If ever you lose some files that need to be restored, just run the following command to restore them:

Keeping a backup is important when using an operating system. You never know what’s going to happen with your data. There are many, many backup tools for Linux. This list covers the most popular. There is no doubt there are others out there that can back up drives just as well.

How do you back up your drives on Linux? Tell us below!

4 comments

  1. For users that use a Debian based distribution, there is another handy option: Systemback. This handy little application allows you to create a live image of your OS. This does not include your personal files (it can but might not be burnable) but it creates an .iso file that has your system with your exact configuration. Ubuntu 14.04 with Gnome Flashback Metacity – no problem; Kubuntu 15.10 with Plasma 5 – no sweat; Linux Mint 17.2 with Cinnamon – you got it. There are a couple of dependencies namely aufs (this was for Ubuntu 15.04) so I’m not entirely sure if there were changes following the upgrade. But I hope that this is a useful tip for people. Just remember back up your files (if you’re not already doing that, you should really consider investing the money for a sufficient external hard drive, USB stick, or cloud storage (MEGA Uploads gives 50 GB free). At any rate have a nice day!

  2. Backup Programs
    ===============
    Most people (and software companies) don’t have the least idea what is required for a good backup/restore program:

    Image backups are nice if your hard disk quits on you, but they take much more time and space than file-based backups. And most image backups do NOT let you restore individual files or folders, which is a far more common requirement than restoring an entire disk.

    Backups that make you specify which files (or folders) to backup are a recipe for disaster, when you discover that you neglected to backup the files (or folders) that you need to restore, as inevitably happens. You should always backup your entire system, with the exception of temporary files that are recreated each boot-up (such as swap and cache files).

    Backup programs should automatically exclude caches, swap files, and anything that is of a temporary nature, because there is absolutely no reason to back-up such things.

    Backup programs should allow you to exclude or include files

    Backup programs should allow you to restore individual files

    Backup programs should allow you to specify the device, folder, and backup file name, rather than assuming you want the program to do it.

    Backup programs should create an index, so that individual files can be restored quickly, rather than sequentially searching a huge file.

    Backup programs should allow you to store your backup definition, so you don’t have to enter all the parameters each time.

    Backup programs MUST also be restore programs.

    Backup programs that attempt to track changed and deleted files are overly-complex and unnecessary. Do a full system backup once a week, and an incremental backup daily. If you need more frequent backups, you should be running twin or triplet systems, and be able to switch from one to the other on demand.

    Other than backup frequency and backup device, there are (or should be) no difference in the backup requirements of any users.

    As far as I know, there are currently NO decent backup programs available for Linux or Windoze. The closest for Windoze is EaseUS Todo backup, but it is far from perfect. The best solution for Linux is a a bashfile:

    cd /

    sudo tar -cpzf “$backupfilename”
    -v
    –exclude=cache
    –exclude=/dev/*
    –exclude=/lost+found/*
    –exclude=/media/*
    –exclude=/mnt/*
    –exclude=/proc/*
    –exclude=/sys/*
    –exclude=/tmp/*
    –exclude=/var/cache/apt/*
    –exclude=/home/$USER/error.log /
    2>/home/$USER/error.log

    Restoration can then be done by opening the tar file, and browsing to the files needed to be restored.

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