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Backing up Linux computers with Windows backup programs (such as Macrium Reflect or Acronis) is possible, but not necessarily practical.

Can I use a program like Acronis or Macrium to back up an image file of a Linux Ubuntu 12.4 machine? If so, what are the pros and cons and restrictions of doing this?

In this excerpt from Answercast #79, I look at the pros and cons in using backup programs, such as Macrium Reflect or Acronis, to back up a Linux-based computer.

Backing up Linux computers

Believe it or not, the answer is yes, but it's not a very straightforward thing.

What you end up doing is with those programs' rescue media, instead of booting from Linux (or whatever happens to be installed on the machine);

  • You boot from the rescue media;

  • The rescue media, for most of these programs, will then allow you to back up.

So you would connect an external drive. After booting from the rescue media, use the version of the backup program that is automatically run to back up an image of the hard drive of your machine. The backup contents don't matter in that case. The backup program will simply backup whatever is on that hard disk, be it Windows or Linux or something else completely.

Can't access files with Linux

Now, the downside of this approach is that you cannot access the contents of that backup image in your Linux operating system.

You may be able to access it from Windows... but I'm thinking you may not, because it's probably not a file system that Windows will recognize.

So, the only thing that that backup image would be useful for would be for restoring in its entirety to that hard disk or a replacement hard disk.

So, it can be done; it is possible. There are some pros and cons to it. It's not as flexible as a traditional Windows-based solution for a Windows-based machine, but absolutely, backup imaging software like Acronis and Macrium could in fact be used to back up whatever happens to be within a partition after having booted from their rescue media CDs or DVDs.

(Transcript lightly edited for readability.)

Article C6147 - December 17, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

A Richter
December 18, 2012 1:17 PM

Why not use Clonezilla? It would be a natural on a Linux.

Gord Campbell
December 18, 2012 2:15 PM

Acronis and Macrium can access partitions formatted as EXT4?

Perhaps for raw imaging only, but I would not expect either to be able to examine the contents, for example. These programs are definitely targetted at Windows, and ext4 isn't a Windows filesystem. I'd check with the manufacturer of each if you intend to try.

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