Ubuntu includes Déjà Dup, an integrated backup tool, but some people prefer Back In Time instead. Back In Time has several advantages over Déjà Dup, including a less-opaque backup format, integrated backup file browser, and more configurability.

Déjà Dup still has a few advantages, notably its optional encryption and simpler interface, but Back In Time gives Déjà Dup a run for its money.


Back In Time is available in Ubuntu’s Software Center. Unlike Déjà Dup, Back In Time also has a GUI that integrates with KDE. If you’re using Ubuntu’s default Unity desktop, install the GNOME version.

Back In Time is also available in Fedora, Mandriva, and other Linux systems’ repositories.

Backing Up Files

Back In Time installs two shortcuts – “Back In Time” and “Back In Time (root).” The root version runs with root permissions, which are required to access and back up certain system files. If you’re just backing up your personal files, select the “Back In Time” shortcut.

You’ll see the Settings window after you launch Back In Time. This window is more complex than Déjà Dup’s, but it also offers greater configurability. For example, Back In Time lets you create different profiles with separate backup settings, a feature Déjà Dup lacks.

You’ll have to specify a location for your backup snapshots in the “Where to save snapshots” box on the General tab and a list of files or folders you want to back up on the Include tab. The other options in the Settings window are optional.

Unlike Déjà Dup, Back In Time allows you to configure when your backups are automatically removed. Déjà Dup only removes older backups when the storage space fills up, while Back In Time offers much finer-grained control on the Auto-remove tab.

Once you’re done configuring your backups, click the OK button and use the “Take snapshot” button to take your first snapshot. Back In Time uses rsync as its backend, which offers incremental backups – future backups will only copy changes and will complete quickly.

Restoring Files

Unlike Déjà Dup, which uses a Duplicity-based, opaque backup format, Back In Time uses rsync directly. Your backup snapshots are stored as files and folders on your hard disk, allowing you to browse them directly. You could perform a backup to a removable hard drive, plug it directly into Windows, and access your files without converting or extracting anything. Unfortunately, this does mean that Back In Time doesn’t offer the same encrypted backup feature Déjà Dup does.

Back In Time offers a graphical snapshot browser that makes it easy to browse your backup snapshots and restore individual files, while Déjà Dup offers no such browser. Déjà Dup’s Nautilus integration allows you to restore individual files from a file browser window, but only if you know the folder they were originally contained in. There’s no way to browse a snapshot without restoring the entire thing to another folder.

Back In Time is a more powerful, configurable tool with a less opaque backup format. Déjà Dup still wins when it comes to encrypted backups and the simplest possible interface, though.

Do you use Déjà Dup, Back In Time, or another solution to back up your Linux system? Leave a comment and let us know.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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