Apparently BackInTime, which uses rsync, doesn't just restore permissions when restoring files but also saves them separately to the data. Is it possible to restore permissions of specific directories / files only? I don't want to restore any files but only restore the permissions files had earlier.

Is this possible somehow?
If not the best way would probably creating a list changes of permissions by comparing files to the backup and doing it manually (related question).

I'm using Debian 9.1 with KDE.

2 Answers 2


GNU chmod can take a reference file:

use RFILE's mode instead of MODE values

If the folder structure of your back remains the same, you could do something like:

cd /path/to/backup
find . -exec chmod --reference={} --changes /source/of/{} \;

/source/of is the path from which the backup was done.

Now you can use find's tests to only operate on the desired files/directories.

Since you say it uses rsync, I think the directory structure should be retained, and it should be possible for you to mount the remote system locally using SSHFS, etc., so in principle this should work.


We can get the list of files with the changed permissions by rsync -ani

rsync -ani newFile new/ | awk {'print $2'}

then we can pass the output to chmod and use the output for reference file from backup to original file where the permissions have been changed:

rsync -ani newFile new/ | awk {'print $2'} | xargs -I@ chmod --reference=new/@ @

I tried to reproduce the instance by creating a file and did rsync to new directory, then changed the permissions of original file:

[pijain@kuliza370 testing]$ ll
total 0
drwxrwxr-x. 2 pijain pijain 21 Aug 29 16:56 new
-rwxrwxrwx. 1 pijain pijain  0 Aug 29 16:56 newFile(origial file with 777)
[pijain@kuliza370 testing]$ ll new
total 0
-rw-rw-r--. 1 pijain pijain 0 Aug 29 16:56 newFile(backup with 644)

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