I need a similar backup-tool for Ubuntu (preferably also for XUbuntu) like Time Machine for Mac. I especially need the functionality to restore the whole system like Time Machine does:

When you get a new Mac, you can transfer all of your applications, files, settings, and other information from a Time Machine backup you've already made. When you start up your new Mac for the first time, the Setup Assistant asks you if you would like to restore from backup. If you've already set up your new Mac, you can use the Migration Assistant (located in Applications/Utilities) to do the same thing.

The tool itself should be:

  • easy to use (such that I can not make errors, no CLI)
  • make back-ups automatically and regularly
  • restore the whole system (applications, files etc...)
  • incremental back-ups (it should not make an image of the whole files for each back-up)
  • it should be able to save to an external HDD
  • Could you describe what "full recovery" means to you? What do you start with and why do you want to recover? To recover from a harddrive headcrash (=new harddrive) is different to "recover" your setup into a freshly installed system. Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 21:31
  • To get my point across: reinstalling all your applications that you use in one Ubuntu version in another might be impossible (because the software is outdated, the API no longer supported whatever...). So how far is good enough? Could you describe your situation more precisely - Why do you need to recover your applications but not the environment? Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 21:34
  • Might be a misunderstanding here. I also want to recover the whole environment. I never actually used Time Machine but to recover the whole system (environment + application + files + etc...), it seems that it works like this: Computer brakes down. Reinstall your OS (on the repaired computer or another computer). During the installation it asks if you want to recover everything from the Time Machine (which are files on a external drive). Then you say yes, some things are automatically done and the recovery is finished. You can work like nothing ever happend.
    – gillesB
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 22:56
  • So I am not sure if Time Machine is that comfortable. But it is advertised like that. And even if it does not work like that. I want that functionality.
    – gillesB
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 22:58
  • Then why not reinstall the whole system WITHOUT first reinstalling your OS? backintime (and Deja Dup afaics) can backup your whole system including your OS so when it breaks down you just need to copy everything from the backup dir onto an empty disk and boot up - like nothing ever happened. Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 12:49

2 Answers 2


You may want to consider skipping the "install the OS" part and recover directly to an empty disk. For that you will need a complete backup of the whole system including all OS elements.

backintime can do that if you run it as root and take a bit time to configure it. And it was written because there was a lack of Time Machine on linux (see about page). I have personal experience with both backup with this program as well as recovering the data (see below)


  • easy to use: 7/10 - No CLI necessary.
    • -1 You have to start it as root so it can backup /etc (where your configuration files are).
    • -2 You have to use cron to automate the backups
  • automatic and regular backups: Yes (you have to use cron for this, have a look at gnome-schedule a graphic frontend for cron)
  • restore the whole system: Yes. You need to run it as root for this.
  • incremental back-ups: Yes.
  • save to external HDD: Yes (keep in mind that the Filesystem on that HDD must support hardlinks. The ext Filesystems will do, NTFS and DOS-FAT won't.)
  • template for whole system backup. If you start as root the default include / exclude settings are designed to make bakup easy.
  • All backups are stored in a regular file format so you can use normal copy/paste functions for restore.


  • see easy to use above
  • No direct connection to cron, thous necessary to use external program.
  • While recovery is not complicated, it doesn't integrate into the system as much as Time Machine does. You have to pull the stuff out yourself.
  • Complete system recovery is not possible from running system (i.E. you need a live-cd or something to boot up your machine and then can copy from the backup directory to the newly installed system).
  • Slow. To make a backup of my 40 gb home dir takes about one hour (I make home dir backups every one/ two months)


Its designed to make backups as easy as possible and recovery as system-independent as possible. That has the cost that backups take time and the recovery needs (minimal) knowledge.


I use Backintime for my desktop computer since about three years now (now three years after first posting this, I still use it). In this time I had several situations where I had the need to recover from the backups, most of the time because I switched computers once because I accidentally crashed by harddrive. The simple storage structure in files on my external Hard Drive made this easy to me. The approach I used is similar to what you describe in that I first installed a new system and then plugged in the external drive. No nice window did pop up asking me if I want to recover everything but I had to copy the content of the backed up directory into my new homedir. While I did this with the command line, I see no reason why this shouldn't work with a regular File Browser as well.

I also use Backintime to backup my business server over network. While I regularly check the integrity of the backup I had not yet the necessity to recover them. I do sometimes (every 6 months or so) backup the "whole system" from the root account but mostly I have specific backups covering the data sections of my applications (like the content of /var)


Déjà Dup backup tool can be set up to cover your needs. Backup utility Déjà Dup is graphical wrapper around the command line backup tool duplicity.

The backup tool is easy to use with simple and clear GUI. Déjà Dup makes incremental back-ups with occasional full backups.

Déjà Dup start screen

It makes back-ups automatically and regularly, and it can be scheduled as per needs

Déjà Dup scheduling screen

Déjà Dup can restore specific file folder or the whole system (applications, files etc...)

Déjà Dup folder choosing screen

thorough information on full system restore can be found here

Déjà Dup backup tool is able to save to different locations (e.g. an external HDD, web services like UbuntuOne or AmazonS3, ftp, WebDav, Local folders etc)

Déjà Dup storage location choosing screen

I'm using Déjà Dup on weekly basics for some years now, backing up my data to external HDD's and so far I had no any issues. In several occasions I restored backup on different PC too (even password protected and encrypted data)... Déjà Dup is an straightforward, great backup tool simple to set-up and simple to restore from.

List of Déjà Dup backup tool features can be found here

  • Deja-dup can't do "...the functionality to restore the whole system".
    – user21796
    Commented Feb 25, 2016 at 13:08

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