Why You Should Use TimeShift in Linux Mint to Back Up Your Computer

Linux Mint Timeshift

Timeshift is a relatively new utility for Linux, but it’s something very useful to desktop users. Timeshift essentially brings the restore point feature from Windows to Linux. While it sounds like a bad idea to bring Windows features to Linux, this one might actually be useful.

Timeshift allows you to create restore points of your system. They’re incremental backups that create exact images of your system at a specific point in time. You can use them to restore your system to the exact state that it was in when the backup was made. Since they’re incremental, they don’t take nearly as much hard drive space to store.

First off, Timeshift isn’t meant for servers. It’s designed for desktops, and it shines there. There are plenty of reasons that you’d want to use Timeshift on a desktop Linux system. It lets you roll back from bad updates, security issues, and just about anything else that can go wrong with your system, even the mistakes that you make yourself.

Timeshift also lets you make backups to external and networked hard drives. That means that it protects against hardware failure. That’s even better than its Windows counterpart. There’s actually another feature that’s better than Windows restore points. Timeshift can be set to just about any time interval and run automatically. You can have your system back itself up every night and never worry that your latest backup is outdated.

Timeshift is not available in most repositories, so you will need to install manually.

Ubuntu / Ubuntu-based distributions

Arch Linux

Timeshift is available in the Arch User Repository (AUR), and you can install it with the command:

Other Distributions

Download the installer and execute it in a terminal window:

Linux Mint isn’t the only possible distribution for Timeshift. Actually, you can run it on just about any distribution, but Mint is the first and only distribution to ship it by default. You can find Timeshift in the “System” tab on a clean install.

Start Timeshift

Click on Timeshift to start the setup. The first thing that Timeshift will ask you is whether you want to run your backups via Rsync or BTRFS. Unless you formatted your hard drive for BTRFS, Rsync is the right choice.

Select storage location

The next screen asks you where you want to store your backups. Pick the drive where you want your backups stored. A different drive is usually a better option, if you have one.

Set Backup Schedule

After that, Timeshift will ask you to set up the timing of your backups. Set something that makes sense for your system. Usually, weekly or nightly backups work best on desktops.

Complete Timeshift Setup

When you’re done, Timeshift will let you know that the setup is finished. If you ever want to go back and change your settings, there is a “Settings” menu within Timeshift to do just that.

Timeshift Settings

Create A Backup

Creating a backup of your system is insanely easy, and you should make one right after you set up Timeshift. This way your system has a starting point. To begin your backup, click on the “Create” button. Timeshift will immediately begin backing up your system. During the process, Timeshift will show you what it’s doing and give you a visual of its progress.

Timeshift Backup

After you have your backup, you can see it listed on the main screen. Timeshift will list all of its backups there. If you ever want to restore using one of them, you can click on the “Restore” button to begin the restoration process. Remember, restoring your system will destroy any changes made after your restoration point. That means you can lose files.

Clearly, Timeshift is an excellent utility for desktop Linux, and it makes keeping backups of your system much easier for new and non-technical Linux users. If you’re already on Mint, definitely open it up and take a look around. If you’re on another distro, consider finding a way to install Timeshift. It might just save your system.

16 comments

  1. The program is seriously NOT ready for primetime. It defaults to backing up the entire system INCLUDING the backup directory. It does not give you the option to exclude directories until after you have run the wizard, I’m still trying to clean up the mess it created.

  2. Sometimes, if it ain’t broke…..don’t fix it. DejaDup works just fine for me. Still…..its “interesting” to say the least!

  3. as installed Timeshift won’t back up your personal files, and I don’t appreciate Mint forcing me to use it prior to upgrade. I have other ways to completely back up and restore my systems. Timeshift is the “out of control goody-goody forcing his way on others” type of problem, just an annoying obstacle

    • Ralph, it would help you if you would look deeper into TimeShift. Just like in any other program there are some settings you need to check . For example, there is an option to tell it what to backup. I think in your case your home directory is not simply not selected but once you do that everything will work just fine.

      • Andrew, that’s not the point. I don’t need timeshift at all since I have another way. I don’t like being forced to use it. And there are people out there using it who are unaware that their home directories (and some other areas) are not being backed up with the installed configuration.

        Forcing package choices on others is not the open source way.

        • You said you are using another way to backup system and creating restore point in Ubuntu. Please tell me sir what it is? How it is better than this simple timeshift program in which settings are clearly self explanatory?

  4. To those of you irritated by being forced to use timeshift, you may be interested to know that in Update Manager > Preferences, there’s a checkbox with which you can disable the reminders to take a system snapshot. (Linux Mint).

  5. It most certainly does support remote files, can’t update until this c**p is installed then it attempts to backup my entire NFS server
    then ends up complains about insufficient space to write 6.7TB of files to a 500GB partition DUH!.

    I think most user have their own backup methods, and forcing users to install unwanted and obviously untested software is a cheap trick best left to Windoze.

    Tried Mint 19 for three days (timeshit not installed), nothing worked. can’t update system without it, couldn’t run any of my old programs and screwed up my server – which I eventually had to restore from an external USB HDD backup (via Clonezilla), now everything back to normal.

    If the mandatory installation of unwanted software continues I humbly suggest you rename Mint to Mintows

  6. Not as ready as they say, I agree. Relatively new to Linux, I can say for newcomers it is just as dangerous to back up with it as not. For me, an error occurred while it updated a new package and I couldn’t fix. I changed options to back up home, it then filled up my hard drive and overwrote some system files. Next reboot, I got a prompt and found out my disk was full. Yikes! Had to do fresh install. Not a big fan you can understand

  7. “Timeshift also lets you make backups to external and networked hard drives.”

    How can I setup timeshift to make the backup to a network drive?

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