How to Back Up Your Linux System

External hard drive plugged into laptop via USB
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Don’t risk data loss. Back up your valuable data from the Linux command line. We’ll be using the rsync command for this, and we’ve even found some nice optional graphical interfaces for it.

There are many ways to accomplish making a backup copy of your files. We wanted to show you a robust, flexible, and reliable way to protect your data. We choose rsync because of its well-respected algorithms that calculate the differences between files in the source directory and the target directory. Only the differences between two versions of a file are transferred, not the whole file if that can be avoided.

When this efficiency is paired with its solid track record in performing file copies and directory synchronizations since the mid-1990’s, rsync is a perfect candidate for creating backups from the Linux command line.

Additionally, there are independent software programs that act as a front-end for rsync. They provide graphical user interfaces (GUIs) to rsync which some people may find easier to use.

The simpler and faster it is to make a backup, the more likely you are to do so.

Using rsync With an External Hard Drive

To make a backup copy of your data to an external hard drive, the hard drive must be mounted and accessible to you. If you can write to it, then so can rsync. In this example, an external USB hard drive called SILVERXHD (for “Silver eXternal Hard Drive”) is plugged into the Linux computer. It has been auto-mounted by the operating system.

You will need to know the path to the drive. In GNOME, open the Nautilus file browser and locate the name of the drive in the sidebar.

Hover the mouse pointer over the name of the external drive and a tooltip will show you the path to the drive.

tooltip for an external drive

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