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I'm using Ubuntu Live USB to access my windows files, I'd like to perform a complete, file by file, backup of the Windows C: Drive.

Since I want everything backed up, I'm doing a copy and paste. Copy the C: Drive, Paste it to the external drive.

Unfortunately, I'm running into a problem: I get an error message stating Too many levels of symbolic links.

What does this mean, and how do I fix it?

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Why want to have a backup like that? a backup like that is less useful except the files in Users (for OS>Vista)/Documents & settings(XP) folder. I would suggest to use a disk cloning software. – Web-E Dec 28 '12 at 8:47
File by file backup is more useful to me. I can recover individual files, and the backup drive can act as a bare metal backup in case of a hard drive mechanical failure. – Anthony Dec 28 '12 at 9:26

I suggest you use rsync rather than cp to backup data as you want to do it. Rsync has a few options to deal with symlinks. A sym(bolic) link is simply a link to another file. It is a bit like a 'shortcut' in windows language.

    -l, --links                 copy symlinks as symlinks
    -L, --copy-links            transform symlink into referent file/dir
        --copy-unsafe-links     only "unsafe" symlinks are transformed
        --safe-links            ignore symlinks that point outside the tree
    -k, --copy-dirlinks         transform symlink to dir into referent dir
    -K, --keep-dirlinks         treat symlinked dir on receiver as dir
    -H, --hard-links            preserve hard links

Here is an easy example:

sudo rsync --verbose --recursive --links --perms --executability --owner --group --times /media/some-user-name/the-c-drive-you-want /media/some-user-name/the-external-drive

Use the option --dry-run for a hypothetical run that does not write anything to your external drive.

Read the man rsync for more information on the different options.

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This is my first night using Linux, so I really appreciate the detailed answer. Will this "-l, --links copy symlinks as symlinks" command leave directory structure and long file names intact? Also, what exactly is a symlink? Thank you very much – Anthony Dec 28 '12 at 9:50
the length of file names is irrelevant. directory structure remains intact, but note that the different --links... options differ in whether or not they create a symbolic link on the destination or whether they simply copy what the link referred to. just run the command 'man rsync' in your terminal and you can scroll to more information. Use the --dry-run option to try your command out. – don.joey Dec 28 '12 at 14:30
if you really want a 'bare metal backup' then I agree with @Web-E that cloning software will be more versatile and trustworthy. Remember that permissions and the type of filesystem (ntfs, fat...) also affect your data. If you want a clone of your disk, then clone it, don't 'copy' it. If you want both a copy and a clone, then clone it using a specific tool and copy it using rsync. – don.joey Dec 28 '12 at 14:35
My main priority is a file by file copy, so I'll try the rsync, thank you very much. – Anthony Dec 28 '12 at 21:21
You're welcome. Let us know if it worked and if so, please mark the question as answered. Good luck. – don.joey Dec 29 '12 at 9:43

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