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I'm looking for a list which paths/files are safe to exclude for a full system/home backup.

Considering that I have a list of installed packages.

  • /home/*/.thumbnails
  • /home/*/.cache
  • /home/*/.mozilla/firefox/*.default/Cache
  • /home/*/.mozilla/firefox/*.default/OfflineCache
  • /home/*/.local/share/Trash
  • /home/*/.gvfs/

  • /tmp/

  • /var/tmp/
  • not real folders but can cause severe problems when 'restoring'
    • /dev
    • /proc
    • /sys

What about...

  • /var/ in general?
  • /var/backups/ - can get quite large
  • /var/log/ - does not require much space and can help for later comparison
  • /lost+found/
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This is an (very) related answer worth looking at (assuming this isn't closed as a duplicate) : askubuntu.com/questions/5596/how-to-clean-caches-in-my-homedir/… –  Scaine Mar 3 '11 at 21:44
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2 Answers 2

up vote 18 down vote accepted

When I rsync my system to a backup partition, I exclude these:

--exclude=/dev/* \
--exclude=/home/*/.gvfs \
--exclude=/home/*/.mozilla/firefox/*/Cache \
--exclude=/home/*/.cache/chromium \
--exclude=/home/*/.thumbnails \
--exclude=/media/* \
--exclude=/mnt/* \
--exclude=/proc/* \
--exclude=/sys/* \
--exclude=/tmp/* \
--exclude=/home/*/.local/share/Trash \
--exclude=/etc/fstab \
--exclude=/var/run/* \
--exclude=/var/lock/* \
--exclude=/lib/modules/*/volatile/.mounted \
--exclude=/var/cache/apt/archives/* \

This way I am able to boot into the backup partition the same way I can boot to the original one.

So to sum up, I would suggest

  • not excluding /{dev,proc,media,...} themselves, just their contents

  • excluding /var/{run,lock}, and especially the big /var/cache/apt/archives/

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You want to exclude ALL of /dev. –  psusi Mar 1 '11 at 3:33
@psusi - Yes, you are right. I'm editing my post. Thanks. –  arrange Mar 3 '11 at 21:20
I would recommend using the -x option with rsync for backups. That way, it will not cross filesystem boundaries, which will exclude things like /dev /proc /sys /mnt and /media. You still have to exclude /home/*/.gvfs. –  Azendale Jul 7 '11 at 16:04
@Azendale: might be. On the other hand, when you use something like --exclude=/proc/*, it will keep the directory /proc on the backup (which is needed if you want to boot the mirror), but not the contents of it. –  arrange Jul 8 '11 at 16:35
or Opera users , I would add --exclude=/home/*/.opera/cache as well :) –  Grzegorz Wierzowiecki Aug 13 '13 at 18:26
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I'll recomend to exclude all /usr (except fort /usr/local/) and have a backup of dpkg --get-selections

In my opinion a Full backup isn't really usefull. I rather prefer backup data and preferences and then restore packages from the official repositories.

But is my preference...

/usr contains mainly static binary content from distribution packages. Reinstalling a package will restore /usr contents. Also /bin and /sbin contains binaries from distribution packages.

/usr/local contains manually installed packages (out of distribuition packages). so this is worth to backup.

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Very interesting approach. It will yield a significantly smaller backup, but require way more trouble (time, internet bandwidth) when restoring. A compromise that may be worth in some use cases. Questions: how about /lib, the same applies? And how do you restore such package selection? –  MestreLion Apr 4 '13 at 11:44
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