I'm looking for an incremental backup tool to use on a plain old running disk based linux system, such as ubuntu or the like, and a tool which is freeware.

This is for a plain old desktop linux, and not for a virtual setup.

I'm already aware of tools that can be used to do backups when the system is idle like clonezilla.

I'm also already aware of many tools that are suggested for this purpose but which can not be trusted to accurately capture a running OS, like for example rsync, which is fine for a static file-system, but not for a running file-system.

An example of what I'm looking for is Acronis for linux and windows, but it's not freeware.

I also read somewhere that Btrfs (Butter-file-system) has some of this capability.

This is a similar question, but does not ask about an incremental backup.


If you are using LVS (and many OS's do), and have free space (or you can shrink a filesystem to free space or add more disk to it), you can take a snapshot, mount the snapshot and do an RSYNC of that. This will work provided you are using a journalling filesystem - and most modern filesystems do journalling.

  • Interesting idea. By "a snapshot" what were you referring to? – Elliptical view Jul 27 '16 at 3:32
  • Also, appreciate the LVS idea, but am not running on such. Will update my Q to clarify that. – Elliptical view Jul 27 '16 at 3:38
  • @ElipticalView - LVS has a concept of a snapshot - which records the state of a[n LVS] block device at a point in time, so its consistent. It keeps track of the changes between the live filesystem and the snapshot, so it does not take up as much space - but it can be mounted as if it were a copy of the filesystem. You need some kind of snapshotting facility to do what you are trying to do. – davidgo Jul 27 '16 at 5:03
  • Are you sure you are not running on LVS - most modernish Linux systems are ? Can you provide an output of the commands "pvs;vgs;lvs" ? – davidgo Jul 27 '16 at 6:48

Btrfs is the way to go. It can take snapshots of live systems, and then can do incremental backups. There are many FOSS solutions, you can find a list of them on the Incremental Backup page of the Btrfs wiki, with ot without ssh/rsync. It also has a section on how to it by hand, it is useful in case you want to understand the basic idea.

  • Btrfs is a filesystem, which would mean that he has to reinstall his system, right? – SPRBRN Jul 27 '16 at 7:07
  • 2
    @SPRBRN is indeed a file system. It was my understanding that he had not yet setup his system, otherwise why should he say * such as ubuntu or the like*? Even if he already has setup the system, re-installing is an option to consider, when compared to the hassle (or cost) of finding an alternative solution. – MariusMatutiae Jul 27 '16 at 9:41
  • you're probably right! – SPRBRN Jul 28 '16 at 7:34

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