Although Linux systems are very reliable, they’re still prone to the usual hardware breakdowns, not to mention fire, flood and theft. You will need a reliable backup system in place – and there are quite a few to choose from. In this section I describe some of the more popular approaches to backing up your data and settings, and how they apply to your own system.
Most backup systems in Mint focus on the user’s personal Home folder, called after whatever you set your username to be. There’s a good reason for that; Mint assumes that every file you create, open or work on will go somewhere in that folder. That also applies to your personal settings for programs like LibreOffice; they’re stored in /Home/<username> too, often in a ‘hidden directory’ whose name starts with a full stop – e.g. ‘.libreoffice’. Hidden directories aren’t very hidden; you can make them appear in the File Manager by pressing Ctrl-H, or selecting ‘Show Hidden Files’ from the View menu.
A ‘Backup Tool’ program is pre-installed into all versions of Mint. You’ll find it in the Mint menu, in the Administration folder. You’ll need to enter your password to run it. The Backup Tool is about as simple as it gets: it comes with four buttons:
- Backup files – copies all the files in one folder (i.e. directory) to another folder. If the folders you want to copy to and from aren’t listed, you can browse for them by clicking ‘Other…’.
- Restore files – does the same thing in reverse.
- Backup software selection – creates a list of your installed programs. Because most Mint applications are free, there’s no real need to back them up; if a program file gets lost or corrupted you can just re-install it from the web. So this utility doesn’t actually save your programs; it simply makes a list of them so you can keep track of what you’ve got.
- Restore software selection – this goes back through the list you created in the previous step and checks if any of the programs on it are missing. If there are, it downloads them from the web and re-installs them. This can be handy if you’re moving from one PC to another, for instance, and want to start off with the same programs you had on the previous one.
There are too many other backup systems for Mint to describe in detail – a web search for ‘Mint backup programs’ turns up at least 30 applications. Nearly all are free, and most of them can be installed via the Synaptic Package Manager – type ‘sudo synaptic’ in the Terminal. Some issues to consider if you’re selecting a program for yourself are:
- Does it back up by copying files or by making a packed ‘archive’?
- Does it work by changing the original backup set, or by adding new sets for each incremental change?
- Does it skip files that have already been backed up and haven’t changed, or back them up all over again? This can substantially increase the time it takes.
- Can it ‘synchronise’ two folders by deleting files in the second that you have deleted in the first?
- Can it back up to off-disk locations like cloud storage or network shares?
- Can it queue several backups from (and to) different locations and do them all at once, rather than having to run each one separately?
Having experimented with many backup programs, I’ve settled on Lucky Backup, written by Loukas Avgerio, which offers a huge range of options but still operates very rapidly. See luckybackup.sourceforge.net for details. I recommend it highly, but do check that it meets your requirements.