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tarto Perform Incremental Dumps
Incremental backup is a special form of GNU
tar archive that
stores additional metadata so that exact state of the file system
can be restored when extracting the archive.
tar currently offers two options for handling incremental
backups: ‘--listed-incremental=snapshot-file’ (‘-g
snapshot-file’) and ‘--incremental’ (‘-G’).
The option ‘--listed-incremental’ instructs tar to operate on an incremental archive with additional metadata stored in a standalone file, called a snapshot file. The purpose of this file is to help determine which files have been changed, added or deleted since the last backup, so that the next incremental backup will contain only modified files. The name of the snapshot file is given as an argument to the option:
Handle incremental backups with snapshot data in file.
To create an incremental backup, you would use ‘--listed-incremental’ together with ‘--create’ (see section How to Create Archives). For example:
$ tar --create \ --file=archive.1.tar \ --listed-incremental=/var/log/usr.snar \ /usr
This will create in ‘archive.1.tar’ an incremental backup of the ‘/usr’ file system, storing additional metadata in the file ‘/var/log/usr.snar’. If this file does not exist, it will be created. The created archive will then be a level 0 backup; please see the next section for more on backup levels.
Otherwise, if the file ‘/var/log/usr.snar’ exists, it determines which files are modified. In this case only these files will be stored in the archive. Suppose, for example, that after running the above command, you delete file ‘/usr/doc/old’ and create directory ‘/usr/local/db’ with the following contents:
$ ls /usr/local/db /usr/local/db/data /usr/local/db/index
Some time later you create another incremental backup. You will then see:
$ tar --create \ --file=archive.2.tar \ --listed-incremental=/var/log/usr.snar \ /usr tar: usr/local/db: Directory is new usr/local/db/ usr/local/db/data usr/local/db/index
The created archive ‘archive.2.tar’ will contain only these
three members. This archive is called a level 1 backup. Notice
that ‘/var/log/usr.snar’ will be updated with the new data, so if
you plan to create more ‘level 1’ backups, it is necessary to
create a working copy of the snapshot file before running
tar. The above example will then be modified as follows:
$ cp /var/log/usr.snar /var/log/usr.snar-1 $ tar --create \ --file=archive.2.tar \ --listed-incremental=/var/log/usr.snar-1 \ /usr
You can force ‘level 0’ backups either by removing the snapshot
file before running
tar, or by supplying the
‘--level=0’ option, e.g.:
$ tar --create \ --file=archive.2.tar \ --listed-incremental=/var/log/usr.snar-0 \ --level=0 \ /usr
Incremental dumps depend crucially on time stamps, so the results are unreliable if you modify a file's time stamps during dumping (e.g., with the ‘--atime-preserve=replace’ option), or if you set the clock backwards.
Metadata stored in snapshot files include device numbers, which, obviously are supposed to be non-volatile values. However, it turns out that NFS devices have undependable values when an automounter gets in the picture. This can lead to a great deal of spurious redumping in incremental dumps, so it is somewhat useless to compare two NFS devices numbers over time. The solution implemented currently is to consider all NFS devices as being equal when it comes to comparing directories; this is fairly gross, but there does not seem to be a better way to go.
Apart from using NFS, there are a number of cases where relying on device numbers can cause spurious redumping of unmodified files. For example, this occurs when archiving LVM snapshot volumes. To avoid this, use ‘--no-check-device’ option:
Do not rely on device numbers when preparing a list of changed files for an incremental dump.
Use device numbers when preparing a list of changed files
for an incremental dump. This is the default behavior. The purpose
of this option is to undo the effect of the ‘--no-check-device’
if it was given in
TAR_OPTIONS environment variable
There is also another way to cope with changing device numbers. It is described in detail in Fixing Snapshot Files.
Note that incremental archives use
tar extensions and may
not be readable by non-GNU versions of the
To extract from the incremental dumps, use
‘--listed-incremental’ together with ‘--extract’
option (see section Extracting Specific Files). In this case,
not need to access snapshot file, since all the data necessary for
extraction are stored in the archive itself. So, when extracting, you
can give whatever argument to ‘--listed-incremental’, the usual
practice is to use ‘--listed-incremental=/dev/null’.
Alternatively, you can use ‘--incremental’, which needs no
arguments. In general, ‘--incremental’ (‘-G’) can be
used as a shortcut for ‘--listed-incremental’ when listing or
extracting incremental backups (for more information regarding this
option, see incremental-op).
When extracting from the incremental backup GNU
tar attempts to
restore the exact state the file system had when the archive was
created. In particular, it will delete those files in the file
system that did not exist in their directories when the archive was
created. If you have created several levels of incremental files,
then in order to restore the exact contents the file system had when
the last level was created, you will need to restore from all backups
in turn. Continuing our example, to restore the state of ‘/usr’
file system, one would do(11):
$ tar --extract \ --listed-incremental=/dev/null \ --file archive.1.tar $ tar --extract \ --listed-incremental=/dev/null \ --file archive.2.tar
To list the contents of an incremental archive, use ‘--list’ (see section How to List Archives), as usual. To obtain more information about the archive, use ‘--listed-incremental’ or ‘--incremental’ combined with two ‘--verbose’ options(12):
tar --list --incremental --verbose --verbose archive.tar
This command will print, for each directory in the archive, the list of files in that directory at the time the archive was created. This information is put out in a format which is both human-readable and unambiguous for a program: each file name is printed as
where x is a letter describing the status of the file: ‘Y’ if the file is present in the archive, ‘N’ if the file is not included in the archive, or a ‘D’ if the file is a directory (and is included in the archive). See section Dumpdir, for the detailed description of dumpdirs and status codes. Each such line is terminated by a newline character. The last line is followed by an additional newline to indicate the end of the data.
The option ‘--incremental’ (‘-G’) gives the same behavior as ‘--listed-incremental’ when used with ‘--list’ and ‘--extract’ options. When used with ‘--create’ option, it creates an incremental archive without creating snapshot file. Thus, it is impossible to create several levels of incremental backups with ‘--incremental’ option.
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