I am looking for a backup tool to use with Linux. It should backup to an external hard drive and I should be able to recover the data (only a selection of files) without having to install nonstandard software. This means I would prefer it to be recoverable from any Windows or Linux system I connect the drive to. Using software that is available on standard installations or on a live cd would be okay as well, but I do not want to depend on installing software on a pc I do not own.

Features that are non-negotiably needed are:

  • The possibility to exclude certain folders/files in the folders that should be backed up.
  • A possibility to prune old backups (preferably automatically based on a set of rules)
  • The possibility to run the tool as a cronjob (e.g. daily)

Features that I would really like to have are:

  • A mechanism to decrease the amount of disk space used (e.g. zipping, incremental backups or hardlinks)
  • Notifications in case anything goes wrong
  • Having the cronjob retrying more often in case the drive was not connected at the regularly scheduled time.
  • A GUI for configuration

So far I am using backintime, but it runs unreliable with the python libraries/versions provided by my distribution and does not notify me when there are problems during backup. I also realize that this is just a frontend for rsync, but I have not yet found another frontend that works better for me.

  • 1
    Rsync provides all the features you mention up there and many more. It is very easy to run it as a cron job and not that hard to configure, maybe that's all you need in the end.
    – Johnride
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 16:34
  • what distribution do you use? Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 17:24
  • I use rsync stared by cron, but you could use grsync, a GUI front-end for rsync.
    – Marc
    Commented Mar 5, 2014 at 1:33

3 Answers 3


luckyBackup might be the tool of your choice:

  • Being a frontend to rsync, you don't even need this frontend for recovery: recovery tools are already included with your Linux distro (recoverable without installation of additional software)
  • The possibility to exclude certain folders/files in the folders that should be backed up is given via the front-end (see screenshot below)
  • A possibility to prune old backups (preferably automatically based on a set of rules), again shown in the screenshot: You can define how many "snapshots" should be kept.
  • The possibility to run the tool as a cronjob (e.g. daily): Scheduling for execution of already created profiles via cronjobs is supported.
  • Notifications in case anything goes wrong: Visual feedback at the tray area informs you about what is going on. It's also possible to e-mail a report after profile execution.
  • Uses a simple and easy to understand GUI: That might be subjective, but I'd say so, yes. Take a look at additional screenshots to make up your mind.

Task properties Cron Frontend
Screenshot of Task properties to the left, and the Cron Frontend to the right (click images for larger variants)

Missing points of your "wish list":

  • there is no integrated scheduler (or I haven't found it yet). But setting up cron jobs is made easy (see screenshot)
  • hard links (or the like) are not mentioned in the docs (except for "preserving" them when backing up your data)

Bonus features you didn't request explicitly:

  • you can switch between simple and advanced mode, to keep things clear and have details shown when needed
  • Remote connections are also possible, for both source and target
  • A simulation mode which shows you what would be done


Packages are available for many distributions, and can be found at the download page. If your distribution is not listed, a Tarball is there as well. And if needed, you can even grab versions for OS/2, MacOS X, and Windows.


As per your needs Déjà Dup looks like right choice.

Déjà Dup setup screenshot

Déjà Dup is front end for duplicity command line tool, but basically, it uses rsync to generate incremental, encrypted backup volumes

As per your question non-negotiable features needed:

  • Déjà Dup can be set up to run daily
  • Possibility to choose which folder/folders to backup
  • Possibility to specify if backups are to be kept forever or for a period of time, after which, old ones will be deleted.

Some of additional Déjà Dup features

  • Déjà Dup makes incremental backups, but form time to time will make new full backup too (prevention of bugs and broken backups)
  • On Ubuntu Déjà Dup does use OSD notifications
  • It doesn’t use cron but it have built in a monitor to keep tracks of scheduled backups.
  • Déjà Dup uses a simple and easy to understand GUI
  • Possibility to choose backup location (local folder, external HDD, custom location, web services like UbuntuOne or AmazonS3, ftp, WebDav..)
  • Possibility to restore files to their original locations by default, or to restore files to a specific folder.
  • On Ubuntu its possible to restore only specific files (reverting to previous version of file)


Déjà Dup is included in Ubuntu (since version 11.10). If you’re using another Linux distribution, you’ll probably find it in your distribution’s repositories.

Actually perhaps best thing for you is to check Déjà Dup wiki

  • I am currently choosing a desktop backup solution and was considering using this. However a quick google search revealed numerous reports of people having data loss due to failed restores (see for example here and here). Since being able to restore is the entire point of backup software, I'm going to stay well clear of this option.
    – JBentley
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 1:05
  • As every software it can crash I suppose. In my case never had any issue restoring from it and used it for restoring to different ubuntu's for example restoring from 12.04 to 14.04 many times. I rarely go after bad reviews not explaining how and what was done. Said this i also never have backup saved on one place only and i also always have at least two different backup strategies for crucial documentation. Reeling on only one software piece for important data is not best way to go.
    – danijelc
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 8:17

I highly recommend CrashPlan. They have an online backup service that they will offer to sell you, but the backup software itself is free to use:

CrashPlan Configuration

  • Incremental, encrypted backups to a USB drive, over the local network, or over the internet
  • Runs as a service on Windows, OS X, and Linux and automatically backs up on a schedule
  • Automatically prunes old backups
  • Requires Java 6 or newer, but this is easily available on the supported platforms

I do also highly recommend their online service - It's pretty cheap for peace of mind that I don't have to worry about data loss anymore, and "unlimited" really means unlimited when they say "Unlimited online storage"

  • Mote that ". As we shift our business strategy to focus exclusively on enterprise and small business segments" (...) "Code42 will no longer offer new – or renew – CrashPlan for Home subscriptions, and we will begin to sunset the product over several months. " - crashplan.com/en-us/consumer/nextsteps Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 7:42
  • Yeah, that made me really sad :( Commented Aug 17, 2018 at 16:44

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