Okt 232011


Currently I’m doing regular backups from my primary harddisk to my backup-disk using rsnapshots. Due to the fact I have a lot of files generating all needed hardlinks takes quite a long time. To speed up this process it sounded to me like a good idea to switch to btrfs that provides snapshots out of the box.

I found this article HOWTO convert EXT4 partition to Btrfs in Fedora 13 without losing data very helpful for this project.

Using btrfs snapshots instead of cp -al has two major advantages. First of all creating a snapshot is much faster than using hardlinks.  and the second advantage is, that meta-information about the file will be preserved (ownership, access and modification-time and also file-attributes). When using hardlinks this information will have the state of the most recent backup-process (also for older backups). Last but not least, if you use a new version of btrfs you can also lock the snapshots down to be read-only.


  • crypted harddisk using luks and dmcrypt that is available as /dev/mapper/backup-crypt after being decrypted
  • ext4 filesystem on this harddisk (fstab)
    # /etc/fstab: static file system information.
    /dev/sdb1                     /boot           ext3    defaults,noatime        0       2
    /dev/mapper/root_crypt        /               btrfs   defaults,noatime        0       1
    /dev/mapper/media             /srv/media      ext4    defaults,noatime        0       0
    /dev/mapper/backup_crypt      /backup         ext4    defaults,noatime        0       0
  • permanently mounted on /backup
  • Setup of rsnapshot cron-job
    # This is a sample cron file for rsnapshot.
    # The values used correspond to the examples in /etc/rsnapshot.conf.
    # There you can also set the backup points and many other things.
    # To activate this cron file you have to uncomment the lines below.
    # Feel free to adapt it to your needs.
    0 */8          * * *           root    /usr/bin/rsnapshot hourly
    30 3   * * *           root    /usr/bin/rsnapshot daily
    0  3   * * 1           root    /usr/bin/rsnapshot weekly
    30 2   1 * *           root    /usr/bin/rsnapshot monthly
  • Setup of rsnapshot


  1. Deactivate rsnapshots for a while
  2. Convert the existing backup-volume to btrfs
    unmount /backup
    btrfs-convert /dev/mapper/backup_crypt

    This process can take quite a while. So you have some time to go and drink a coffee or make some sports.

  3. Change the setup of fstab
    # /etc/fstab: static file system information.
    /dev/sdb1                     /boot           ext3    defaults,noatime        0       2
    /dev/mapper/root_crypt        /               btrfs   defaults,noatime        0       1
    /dev/mapper/media             /srv/media      ext4    defaults,noatime        0       0
    /dev/mapper/backup_crypt      /backup         btrfs   defaults,noatime        0       0
  4. You need two additional scripts (rsnapshot_plug_cp_btrfs, rsnapshot_plug_rm_btrfs)

    copy these files to /backup and chmod 755 to them 🙂
  5.  These files need to replace the programs specified with cmd_cp and cmd_rm. So in future the necessary btrfs commands will be issued to handle the snapshots instead of the normal cp and rm commands
  6. Now we need to migrate the existing backups into one subvolume per backup. See the following script to see how this works:
  7. At the end you should modify your /etc/rsnapshot.conf file so it looks like this one