Back In Time – A Simple backup tool for ubuntu

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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.Keep in mind that Back In Time is just a GUI. The real magic is done by rsync (take snapshots and restore), diff (check if somethind changed) and cp (make hardlinks).

Back In Time acts as a “user mode” backup system. This means that you can backup/restore only folders you have write access to (actually you can backup read-only folders, but you can’t restore them).

Install Back In Time in Ubuntu

First edit /etc/apt/sources.list file

sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

add the following line

deb stable main

save and exit the file

and then add the GPG key information:


sudo apt-key add le-web.key

Update the source list

sudo apt-get update

Install back in time using the following command

sudo apt-get install backintime-common backintime-gnome

Using Back In Time

Open Back In time from Applications--->System Tools--->Back In time

When it opens first time you should see similar to the following screen here select location of snapshots and schedule time

Click on Include tab here you can start adding your folders for backup

Once you completed selection of your files click on backup now

After completing the backup you should see similar to the following screen

Backup folder details

For more details about how to use check documentation from here

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20 Responses

  1. krul says:

    This is really awesome! I don’t know why it is not installed by default.

    The best is that you don’t need the tool itself to go back in time…you just browse the file system.

  2. Andi Bauer says:

    Thanks a lot this post, I heard years ago that something like TimeVault existed in Linux, too, but never found it. This is exactly the right program for my – formerly Mac using – girlfriend 🙂

  3. conor says:

    OK, the install procedure you have outlined is EXACTLY the kind that a new user would have problems with. Isn’t Ubuntu meant to be user friendly?

    What is the problme with telling a user to click on System > Administration > Software sources, click on “add key” and add that line “deb stable main” and the GPG key.

    Go to Add/Remove and search “Back in time”. double click and install?

  4. TK says:

    The reason that we Linux users often recommend shell commands is that they’re a lot harder to screw up. If one copies and pastes the commands as they are, it’s not that difficult. If you go through the whole “visual” way of doing it, you may as well create a video tutorial, because it’s just too complicated, there are just too many steps to undergo. In terminal, it’s simple and fast.

  5. Azerthoth says:

    conor, and if one is not using a garden object as a desktop environment? The different paths needed just make listing every possible permutation a serious pita, and even more confusing. The command line on the other hand is the same regardless of DE.

  6. cyberfux says:

    Hey there!

    Thanks for your tutorial, it was exactly what i was looking for 😉

    Would you mind if i translate it into german and post it to my blog & wiki?


  7. Qnop says:


    It looks like a great tool, however, I’m been using a similar tool called “Simple Backup” out of ubuntu distribution. The installation is as simple as :

    apt-get install sbackup

    The screens are quit similar. At the first glance, flash back has a nicer browser for the snapshots.

    Though, it would be interesting to compare those tools. I’d glad if somebody can point me out any such resources.

    Anyway, I think “Simple Backup” is simpler, but I don’t need more than that. And I prefer having no external sources, if it’s possible.

  8. Mark Preston says:

    Finally an iteration of RSTP/Gnome that doesn’t tell me I need gksudo to run it. Hooray!! Will somebody please tell me how this program “restores” the /home I’ve backed-up in case of catastrophic disk failure? Do I get a new disk or re-format the OS, add Back-in-Time, set the restore point as the backed-up directory and click: Restore?

  9. Paul says:

    I like the program, but I advise everyone to use Deja Dup instead. Yes, the interface of Back in Time is really good, but the way it backups is not really good. Back in Time creates a copy of the backup folder every time you backup. If that folder is around 100MB, every time you run a backup, you need another 100MB. (At least that is how it worked out for me. I have a MyPassword with NTFS.).

    Deja Dup (in Ubuntu repos) on the other hand backups “smart”. It only saves the changes you have made. So if you add a 5MB file and backup, the backup will only be 5MB.

    I hope this helps for some of you!

    PS: How to install:

    sudo apt-get install deja-dup

  10. Gemma Laming says:

    Is there a simple back-up system that will (a) download onto Ubuntu and (b) install on Ubuntu. I can find neither!

    I had hoped Linux would be a little easier to use than it has turned out to be. Everything I try does not work, and needs a great deal of computer knowledge to install. I find it very difficult and wastes a great deal of time.


  11. Rob says:


    It does the exact opposite of what you’re saying.

    BackInTime uses hard linking to reduce duplication. In essence it only backs up the changes. All the other unchanged files are there, but are hard linked back to the original hence no extra disk space is taken.

    It’s all on the BackInTime website:

    “In order to reduce disk space it use hard-links (if possible) between snapshots for unchanged files. This way a file of 10Mb, unchanged for 10 snapshots, will use only 10Mb on the disk.”

  12. Rob says:


    Linux is a time consuming operating system. That said, the above steps aren’t too hard to follow, and if anything will teach you a little about the operating system you’re using.

    You just need to get to grips with the terminal window, then cutting and pasting commands is very easy.

  13. jordanwb says:

    Does this create a single file or does it simply copy the files?

  14. Blaine says:

    Excellent, thanks to everyone for the help.

    I’ve recently come from Vista, and (ideally) want a Linux version of “System Restore” – does anybody have any advice about which system/registry folders are worth keeping backups of?

    Thanks a million!

  15. Roberto says:

    How to backup MySQL data?

  16. qnob says:

    I’m pleased to share my callback script for backing up MYSQL with backintime. I also backup the currently installed packages:


    case “$1” in
    1)echo “Backup starting”
    mysqldump –user=mythtv –password=mythtv mythconverg > /root/backup/mythdb.sq
    /root/bin/ /root/backup/dpkg-list.txt
    2)echo “Backup finishing”
    3)echo “Backup completed for ${2} ${3}”
    4)echo “An error occurred:”

    case “$2” in
    1)echo “Application not configured”;;
    2)echo “Process already running”;;
    3)echo “Can’t find directory”;;
    4)echo “A snapshot for ‘now’ already exists”;;

  17. Kino Velez says:

    I had been looking for something like this as the No So Simple backup does not do incremental. Almost a year later is this till the best way to do this or is there another preferred application.

  18. honestann says:

    It looks that way, but I don’t think “back in time” actually works the way you imply. For example, if you have 8 backup files in a directory and you check the size of each, you might find they are all 100MB each. This makes you ASSUME the 8 backup files consume 800MB on your disk. However, check the size of the directory that contains those 8 backup files, and you’ll find it contains only 110MB or so. This strange behavior is due to hard-links that connect files back to the earliest version of the file that is identical. The hard-link takes up almost no space on disk because it points back to the original copy of the file, but the size is given as the size of the file it hard-links to.

  19. honestann says:

    It copies the files, hence no compression or encryption like some applications (like deja-dup).

  20. Shams says:

    i want to back up systme file, so that if something happens wrong (like it always dose because of new to ubuntu ) i can revert back to the current setting.
    The questin is what are the forlders to include in order to back up the systme file.

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