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What are the directories one should back up, in order to have a backup of all user-generated files?

From a vanilla debian install, I can do enough apt to get the packages that I want. So if I don't want to backup the entire system, where all in the filesystem do user-generated configuration and data files reside?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

It depends on what you mean by "user-generated". Most of the configuration you will have are about services/daemons and applications running on your system. Most of them put their configuration in /etc. The user-based applications have their configuration in your home directory (usually in a application directory). But you can have some applications that also store their data in /var/lib or /var/spool.

So the answer, is: "it depends on what you're running on your machine".

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you forgot /home –  xenoterracide Aug 23 '10 at 13:52
hu, no, I wrote "The user-based applications have their configuration in your home directory". –  Luc Stepniewski Aug 23 '10 at 14:59

You'll be backing up some 'garbage' doing this... but if you just backup all of /home, /etc, and /var/ you should have everything (unless you know you put something somewhere else). You'll want to leave out /var/tmp, /var/run/, /var/lock for sure. After that I'd read Luc's reply.

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How about /root? –  Tik0 Dec 26 '14 at 15:02

In short, you want to backup /home (generally where user-generated files reside), /etc and /usr/local. The last two will backup your configuration files. I would recommend using some backup software like sbackup which does what you need and is easy to use.

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This depends on applications and services you installed, and what version of Linux you are using. Most settings are in /etc, so this is an important folder to backup.

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