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This question is motivated from a reply by Craig Sanders. Thanks, Craig!

In what case, are byte or block level backups, i.e. disk or partition image backups, more suitable than file-based backups?

For example,

  • for routine backup of partitions and disks,

  • for case of emergency when data is lost, and one would like to create a copy and restore later, in order to perform different data recovery applications/methods to see which one actually works.

One example of byte or block level backups, i.e. disk or partition image backups is dd.

Some examples of file-based backups are cp and rsync.


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Disk images are mostly useful for BMR (bare metal restore). In Linux you can typically BMR with file backups, but not as easily. – jordanm Sep 11 '12 at 1:09
In my opinion, the file-based are better. When you lost the half of your backup, it's easiest recover the other half with a backup system based on files. But jordanm is right with the backups of bare-metal. – Rufo El Magufo Sep 11 '12 at 1:31

Any instance when information outside of the file system needs to be saved. I can think of two instances:

  • As mentioned in the comments, bare metal restores when the boot sector and partition table need to be saved so an exact copy of a server can be created.
  • Some databases can be configured to write to a raw partition and not use a file system
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