How to Backup and Restore System Files in elementary OS

One of the ways to backup elementary OS system state is by using a free tool ‘TimeShift’. It provides the functionality similar to the System Restore in Windows OS and the Time Machine in Mac OS. This tool automatically takes incremental snapshots of the file system at regular intervals. These snapshots can be used to restore your Linux computer. Let’s see how to install TimeShift and configure it to make it an important tool when disaster strikes the PC.


Install TimeShift

Launch Terminal and enter the following commands one at a time.

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:teejee2008/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install timeshift

Configure TimeShift for Automatic Backups

After installation is complete, launch TimeShift from Applications. TimeShift won’t backup anything by itself by default settings. Click on ‘Settings’ in the TimeShift user interface. You will see ‘Schedule’, ‘Auto-Remove’, and ‘Advanced’ tabs.

1. Schedule Automatic Backup

This is the first thing I would do to use TimeShift effectively. Enable ‘Scheduled snapshots’ and check ‘Daily’ and ‘Boot’ options. TimeShift will now take one backup everyday and also one for every reboot. You can choose whatever the way you want.

TimeShift Settings - Schedule Automatic Backups
TimeShift Settings – Schedule Automatic Backups

2. Auto Cleanup Old Backup Snapshots

Each snapshot typically takes around 9 GB of hard disk space to backup elementary OS system files. So if you choose one per day, the hard disk space will be consumed very fast. To tackle this issue, you can let TimeShift to automatically delete older snapshots and keep the latest 5 or so snapshots.

TimeShift Settings - Remove Old Backups
TimeShift Settings – Remove Old Backups

3. Add Additional Backup Locations

Note that by default settings, TimeShift is intended to only backup Linux system files. It won’t backup the user data stored in music, pictures, documents, videos, or any other such non-system files. However, you can include additional folders or files in the backup. For example I have added ‘Documents’ directory to be backed up. You can configure it in ‘Advanced’ tab.

TimeShift Settings - Add Custom Backup Locations
TimeShift Settings – Add Custom Backup Locations

Click ‘Save’ and TimeShift will take care of the backups for you. Anytime you feel elementary OS is not running well due to misconfiguration or dataloss, launch ‘TimeShift’, click on ‘Restore’ option, and select the snapshot you want to bring your system to the exact state it was in at the time when the snapshot was taken.

Kiran Kumar
Hi there! I'm Kiran Kumar, founder of I'm an avid Linux lover and enjoy hands-on with new promising distros. Currently, I'm using Ubuntu as a daily driver and run several other distros such as Fedora, Solus, Manjaro, Debian, and some new ones on my test PC and virtual machines. I have a day job as an Engineer, and this website is one of my favorite past time activities especially during Winter ;). When I'm not writing for FOSSLinux, I'm seen biking and hiking on scenic trails. Hope you enjoy using this website as much as I do writing for it. Feedback from readers is something that inspires me to do more, and spread Linux love!. If you find a time, drop me an email or feedback from the 'Contact' page. Or simply leave a comment below if you found this article useful. Have a good day!


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