Backing up your Linux home directory using Back In Time

Published on 2013-10-10 by John Collins.

Backing up your personal computer is a necessary precaution against data loss due to accidental damage, theft, or hardware failure. I recommend using an external USB 3.0 hard drive for this purpose (if you computer supports them), because they are so much faster. I would also suggest storing this hard drive in a separate location to your computer, or carrying it with you on your person, which will give you a simple "off site backup" solution.

Back In Time

According to the Back In Time homepage:

"Back In Time is a simple backup tool for Linux inspired from "flyback project" and "TimeVault". The backup is done by taking snapshots of a specified set of directories."

While you can back-up any directories you please, I like to back up my home directory and keep all of the data I care about there.

Installing Back In Time

On my Linux laptop running Fedora and Gnome, one command installs this application for me:

$ yum install backintime-gnome

Once it is installed, you will get the icon to run it on your application menu (run the non-root version for day-to-day usage).

Configuring a backup profile

The first thing you will need to do is choose the destination for your backups. Here I am choosing the USB hard drive I have connected:

You can optionally configure a backup schedule on this screen. Next, you must choose the directory to backup. I have chosen /home/john:

You can also choose to exclude some directories from the backup. Typically I exclude the Downloads directory from my backups and is tends to be too large, as well as containing files I can easily download again in the event of a failure.

Back In Time will make a snapshot backup of the selected directories when run. Each backup will only copy the files that have changed since the date of the last backup, and a full history of the changes is maintained by the application on the target hard drive. The thing I like the most about Back In Time is that the backups it creates are just standard files and directories, that can be navigated in the normally way.

Updated 2023 : note that the above post was originally published in 2013 and may be outdated, but is left here for archival purposes. The link to the project home page is now dead, so I updated that to point to Github.