I am looking for (good) backup alternatives to the time machine of MacOS/OS X devices or file history on Windows machines. Actually what I am looking for is closer to Windows' solution than to the time machine.

So I know I can use rsync or - with a nice UI - Back in time. However I am not looking for an external backup solution!

This means I rather want to have a file history as in Windows Vista (and above AFAIK). On Windows Vista/7 this worked with Shadow copies, so this is exactly what I'd like to have:

Windows 7 shadow copy: dialog "properties" opened in explorer showing tab "Previous Versions"

So I want to save the backup/file history on the same drive (and probably partition, but that does not matter). I'd also save it on another internal drive, but not on an external one.

Is there such a solution for Linux or how can I best replicate this behaviour? That's why existing files should not be duplicated and a backup (copy of the file) should only be saved when I actually modify or remove it. This way it saves much space, especially for larger files, which you won't edit anyway. As opposed to rsync/backintime, where never-modified files are copied even with incremental backups.

  • BTW as it seems there was a try to develop a time machine for Linux and maybe a similar software, but I cannot find any more useful links.
    – rugk
    Oct 12, 2016 at 15:46
  • 1
    Your question talks about Windows VSS, and time machine. VSS, is really NOT the same as time machine. They are very different.
    – Zoredache
    Oct 13, 2016 at 22:13
  • Okay, I have not seen time machine in action. Probably I can make the question a bit clearer.
    – rugk
    Oct 13, 2016 at 22:16
  • BTW, my question mostly was about user files, but if you want such snapshots/rollbacks for your whole system/applications, there is a new technology called rpm-ostree that allows you to do this. To use this as a user, use flatpaks or (for your whole system) Fedora Silverblue is a distro that uses it.
    – rugk
    May 8, 2019 at 18:04
  • It might be hard to get working but there is a SUSE tool called snapper: wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Snapper It's a frontend to btrfs or LVM thin volumes
    – clst
    Feb 22, 2020 at 14:26

3 Answers 3


The Windows 'Shadow Copy' aka 'Volume Shadow Copy Servce' does filesystem snapshotting. The Linux equivalent requires changing your filesystem/partitions, or possibly using 3rd party tools.


  • LVM -
    • you must leave free space on your volume group, and has a pretty high performance cost. All though not super fast it is available, stable, and pretty usable out of the box on most Linux releases.
  • btfrs - not entirely stable
    • be careful to read the note about setups that should not be used. Apparently it has some major ways it can be broken and result in full data lose.
  • zfs - not natively available on most distributions yet.
    • Very popular option, but is very difficult to use as a root fs on Linux. Great for data filesystems
  • R1Soft Hot Copy - https://www.r1soft.com/free-tool-linux-hot-copy
    • I haven't used this, but I don't believe it is designed for long term snapshots, instead it is just used for getting a clean backup.

So, if you need to snapshot your root FS, I suspect you probably need to setup the system with LVM, and leave lots of free space in your volume group.

If you need snapshots for a data-only filesystem, I strongly suggest you look at zfs or maybe btrfs.

  • Mhh, R1Soft Hot Copy does not seem to be floss. Other file systems might be possible - and all of these do support snapshots?
    – rugk
    Oct 13, 2016 at 22:15
  • 1
    Honestly I haven't actually used HotCopy, but I was just including it for completeness. Of the other three I mentioned zfs, lvm, and btfrs all support snapshots. LVM snapshots unfortunately are pretty slow. btfrs is not really stable and can lose your data if setup wrong. ZFS is a PITA to use as the root filesystem right now. So of them are idea. ZFS is probably is the best as far as data safety, and performance. LVM is probably the easiest to use out of the box.
    – Zoredache
    Oct 13, 2016 at 22:21
  • I'll leave this question open for some days to let some other ideas float in. If there are no better answers I'll accept your own. (Ping me if I should forget... :) )
    – rugk
    Oct 13, 2016 at 22:26



Setup guide - https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Rsnapshot

rsnapshot is a filesystem snapshot utility based on rsync. rsnapshot makes it easy to make periodic snapshots of local machines, and remote machines over ssh. The code makes extensive use of hard links whenever possible, to greatly reduce the disk space required.

Based on what you configure, it can backup hourly, daily, weekly and monthly. Only files that are changed are kept, otherwise a hard link is created - minimizing space used.

  • Okay, it uses hardlinks, but does it also use them for files one does not modify? I mean does it avoid duplicating files?
    – rugk
    Oct 13, 2016 at 22:09
  • It avoids duplicates on the backup destination like time machine. Like time machine, this is a backup. A complete copy of the source files exist in the destination.
    – Zoredache
    Oct 13, 2016 at 22:16
  • Okay, but this is not exactly what I was looking for, sorry. Anyway thanks for your answer.
    – rugk
    Oct 13, 2016 at 22:24

You already have one answer (Rsnapshot), as you already have mentioned there are other tools, but you didn't mention Déjà Dup.

Seems to me like a viable choice:


  • Support for local, remote, or cloud backup locations, such as Amazon S3 or Rackspace Cloud Files
  • Securely encrypts and compresses your data
  • Incrementally backs up, letting you restore from any particular backup
  • Schedules regular backups

(My emphasis)

  • But local backups still duplicates the files, does not it?
    – rugk
    Oct 13, 2016 at 22:06

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