Linux Hack of the Week #18: Using rdiff-backup

If you’re like me, you probably have a Linux box running in your house. Maybe it’s a Raspberry Pi, some other box as your file server, a media center, or just a box to tinker with. Regardless of the use case, as time goes on you will inevitably end up having a significant amount of data that should be backed up. The good news? Hard drives are cheap! You can use rdiff-backup to backup from disk-to-disk, or over SSH to a remote machine. Bottom line: you’ve got no reason to not backup your software.

Though I have mentioned home networks, this can also be used in production as a backup solution. I find it much easier to use, and just as reliable as tools like Bacula.

Install the Software

Installing is as easy as dnf install rdiff-backup:


Oddly, rdiff-backup is one of the few Linux commands where -h or --help does not give you command usage information. You can use the man page (man rdiff-backup) or visit this web page for more information. Let’s walk through a few examples.

In these examples, we’ll use a backup directory of /backup. This could be an NFS mount, a USB drive, or just another disk slice.

The simplest way to backup is to run rdiff-backup sourceDirectory backupDirectory. If you are using the /backup model, it’s important to make sure you backup into a destination folder beneath /backup. Here, I am backing up the folder example to /backup/example. To do that, I am using rdiff-backup example /backup/example:

Checking your work is as easy as running an ls:

You may notice a new folder, rdiff-backup-data, which is where metadata and versions are saved.


Yes, you read that correctly; rdiff-backup supports versioning. To restore a file, simply pick the day you want to restore back to and run rdiff-backup -r 1D file destinationFile:

Removing Versions

Rdiff-backup will keep an infinite number of backups. Here, you can specify a date such as 1W/1D/2M, etc.


If you are in need of a Linux backup solution, give rdiff-backup a try. It is easy to use and doesn’t come with any overhead. As always feel free to let me know if you have any questions:

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