rdiff-backup  2.0.0
About: rdiff-backup is a Python script to back up one directory to another (combines the best features of a mirror and an incremental backup).
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rdiff-backup Documentation

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rdiff-backup is a simple backup tool which can be used locally and remotely, on Linux and Windows, and even cross-platform between both. Users have reported using it successfully on FreeBSD and MacOS X.

Beside it's ease of use, one of the main advantages of rdiff-backup is that it does use the same efficient protocol as rsync to transfer and store data. Because rdiff-backup only stores the differences from the previous backup to the next one (a so called reverse incremental backup), the latest backup is always a full backup, making it easiest and fastest to restore the most recent backups, combining the space advantages of incremental backups while keeping the speed advantages of full backups (at least for recent ones).

If the optional dependencies pylibacl and pyxattr are installed, rdiff-backup will support Access Control Lists and Extended Attributes provided the file system(s) also support these features.


From Linux system package

Many Linux distributions have packaged rdiff-backup, which can then easiest be installed using the system tool e.g. apt|yum|dnf|zypper install rdiff-backup.

NOTE: consider that the package might not install the optional dependencies pylibacl and pyxattr, packaged e.g. as python3-pyxattr and py3libacl.

From our own packaging

If you want or need a more recent version than provided by your distribution, the rdiff-project releases its' own packages, which you can install as follows.

IMPORTANT: the following instructions assume the availability of a version of rdiff-backup equal or higher to 1.4.0 (beta) or 2.0.0 (stable).

On Linux

You need to make sure that the following requirements are met:

  • Python 3.5 or higher
  • librsync 1.0.0 or higher
  • pylibacl (optional, to support ACLs)
  • pyxattr (optional, to support extended attributes) - the xattr library (without py) isn't regularly tested but should work and you will be helped
  • SSH for remote operations

Then you can install one of the following packages:

  • rdiff_backup-VERSION-PYVER-PLATFORM.whl - wheel distribution - this is the recommended installation approach (because you can easily deinstall), either with sudo pip install rdiff_backup...whl to install globally for all users, or with pip install --user rdiff_backup...whl for only the current user. Advanced and cautious users can of course install within a virtualenv. Deinstallation works similarly with sudo pip uninstall rdiff-backup (global) resp. pip uninstall rdiff-backup (user).
  • rdiff-backup-VERSION-PLATFORM.tar.gz - binary distribution - can be "installed" using tar xvzf rdiff-backup...tar.gz -C / but it can't be easily deinstalled, you'll need to do it manually.

NOTE: the installation approach should make sure that rdiff-backup is in the PATH, which makes remote operations a lot easier.

On Windows

Just download and unpack the file rdiff-backup-VERSION.winBITS.zip available as asset attached to one of the releases available in the releases section and drop the binary rdiff-backup.exe somewhere in your PATH and it should work, as it comes with all dependencies included.

For remote operations, you will need to have an SSH package installed (also on Linux but it is generally more obvious).

From source code

This is an advanced topic, but necessary for platforms like MacOS X and FreeBSD, and described in the developer documentation.


Creating your first backup is as easy as calling rdiff-backup <source-dir> <backup-dir> (possibly as root), e.g. rdiff-backup -v5 /home/myuser /run/media/myuser/MYUSBDRIVE/homebackup would save your whole home directory (under Linux) to a USB drive (which you should have formatted with a POSIX file system, e.g. ext4 or xfs). Without the -v5 (v for verbosity), rdiff-backup isn't very talkative, hence the recommendation.

Subsequent backups can simply be done by calling exactly the same command, again and again. Only the differences will be saved to the backup directory.

If you need to restore the latest version of a file you lost, it can be as simple as copying it back using normal operating system means (cp or copy, or even pointing your file browser at the backup directory). E.g. taking the above example cp -i /run/media/myuser/MYUSBDRIVE/homebackup/mydir/myfile /home/myuser/mydir/myfile and the lost file is back!

There are many more ways to use and tweak rdiff-backup, they're documented in the man pages, in the documentation directory, or on our website.


If you have everything installed properly, and it still doesn't work, see the enclosed FAQ, the rdiff-backup web page and/or the rdiff-backup-users mailing list.

We're also happy to help if you create an issue to our GitHub repo. The most important is probably to explain what happened with which version of rdiff-backup, with which command parameters on which operating system version, and attach the output of rdiff-backup run with the very verbose option -v9.

The FAQ in particular is an important reference, especially if you are using smbfs/CIFS, Windows, or have compiled by hand on Mac OS X.


Rdiff-backup is an open source software developed by many people over a long period of time. There is no particular company backing the development of rdiff-backup, so we rely very much on individual contributors who "scratch their itch". All contributions are welcome!

There are many ways to contribute:

  • Testing, troubleshooting and writing good bug reports that are easy for other developers to read and act upon
  • Reviewing and triaging existing bug reports and issues, helping other developers focus their efforts
  • Writing documentation (e.g. the man page), or updating the webpage rdiff-backup.net
  • Packaging and shipping rdiff-backup in your own favorite Linux distribution or operating system
  • Running tests on your favorite platforms and fixing failing tests
  • Writing new tests to get test coverage up
  • Fixing bug in existing features or adding new features

If you don't have anything particular in your mind but want to help out, just browse the list of issues. Both coding and non-coding tasks have been filed as issues.

Installing the latest development version

When testing and giving feedback, please make sure you are running the latest development version.

Development version from PyPi

For most platforms the easiest way to install the latest development version of rdiff-backup is via the Python package installer:

pip3 install --pre rdiff-backup

Note the --pre switch. If it fails to compile, you might also need to install librsync-dev first.

Development version from PPA (for Ubuntu)

For Ubuntu users there exists a PPA that updates daily to have the latest git master version easily available. To install, simply run:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:rdiff-backup/rdiff-backup-development
sudo apt-get update

Development version from Copr (for Fedora/CentOS/Red Hat)

For Fedora users there exists a Copr where the rdiff-backup development version is frequently updated to. To enable it, simply run:

dnf copr enable frankcrawford/rdiff-backup

Contribute by developing code

For source code related documentation see docs/DEVELOP.md