Is there a Time Machine like backup system for Ubuntu? If not, what is the closest thing?


I've used rsnapshot to excellent effect. You can have it rsync and keep as many old versions, based on time as you want/have space for. I've got 6 potential versions of things from today, daily for a week, 4 weeks, and then 6 months worth. I've already used it to recover several file I thought I'd lost due to overwriting.

The only problems I have had was it not running due to the previous run not completing in time, and so it left the lockfile dangling. This was on a remote machine that did password-less logins over SSH to rsync files off for backup/archive and I didn't log in very often to the server to check it. Running a logwatch script on there (emailing problems from the logs) at least made sure I saw the problems to restart it, and it's been hassle free ever since. On my local server, it's been no problem at all.

  • Ah nice. From that page: "Using rsync and hard links, it is possible to keep multiple, full backups instantly available. The disk space required is just a little more than the space of one full backup, plus incrementals." You've used it for a while and found it stable then? – quark Jul 31 '09 at 7:00

You may want to try Back In Time

  • You may want to point out that Back in Time is directly inspired by Time Machine, and uses rsync internally. lifehacker.com/5212899/… – user4358 Sep 23 '09 at 11:22

Déjà Dup (day-ja-doop) is a simple backup program. It hides the complexity of doing backups the Right Way (encrypted, off-site, and regular) and uses duplicity as the backend.


  • Support for local or remote backup locations, including Amazon S3
  • Securely encrypts and compresses your data
  • Incrementally backs up, letting you restore from any particular backup
  • Schedules regular backups
  • Integrates well into your GNOME desktop
  • I've used this successfully for almost a year now, and backup has never been this painless. – Wolfram Arnold Jan 17 '12 at 23:54

When using rsync, see Time Machine for every Unix out there for a tutorial, using the --link-dest option to create hard links to files that have not changed since the last backup. Like:


# Mount point of the external disk

date=`date "+%Y%m%d-%H%M%S"`

rsync -aP --link-dest=$latest $HOME/Documents $current

ln -s $current $latest-$date
mv -f $latest-$date $latest

Mac OS X Time Machine not only uses hard links to unchanged files, but also uses hard links for folders in which no file has changed at all.

I think that most Unices do not allow hard links to folders, but if your rsync creates them, then beware when deleting old backups: you should use unlink to remove hard links to folders, and never remove any file you see in such hard-linked folder. When using rm on hard-linked files, only the hard link is removed. Good. But when recursing into a hard-linked folder and then deleting the files one sees there, the "original" files are removed and that affects all hard-linked folders that refer to the same thing, even more recent backups!

In other words: running something like rm -R 20140101-221000 might recurse into hard-linked folders and then boldly invoke rm on the "original" files. You've been warned.

(The above site also mentions FlyBack, which still gets comments though the latest download dates from late 2007 May 2010. Maybe it's just very robust software, with no need for changes.)


TimeVault was specifically designed to emulate TimeMachine. The theoretical feature set is what I want from a TimeMachine clone, specifically the space savings. Unfortunately it appears to be dormant: there's been little development activity in a while. I mention it for completeness, and because, if they can be prodded to work on it further, it looks quite promising.


I am not aware of TimeBachine directly but we use RSync with a scheduled cron job.

  • RSync is a good way to create a backup copy, but it doesn't help you keep a version history, which is, in my opinion, the handiest part of Time Machine. – jtb Jul 28 '09 at 22:24
  • 1
    @jtb, just to point out the obvious: Time Machine is mainly a backup system, not an archive (and certainly not a version control system). Especially files (or versions of files) that live shortly (less than a week) on your harddisk, may be expired from the backup much sooner than you may think. – Arjan Jul 29 '09 at 7:49

I for one am using Simple Backup Config/Restore, and backup the selected locations to an external hard-drive once every other day or so. Didn't have a problem as of yet, so I can't vouch for the restore part, but the backup one is OK.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.