Data backups, images, and more with Qt4-fsarchiver

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© Lead Image © Volodymyr Vasylkiv, 123RF.com

© Lead Image © Volodymyr Vasylkiv, 123RF.com

Article from Issue 190/2016
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Qt4-fsarchiver lets you back up files, complete partitions, and create disk images with a single mouse click.

Linux supports a variety of filesystems, includes security software for encryption, and can handle a variety of compression methods and formats. The Linux environment thus offers perfect conditions for handling system and data backups in heterogeneous environments. The graphical Qt4-fsarchiver tool removes virtually all limitations.

Qt4-fsarchiver is a graphical version of the very useful fsarchiver tool, which the project developers describe as a "… tool that allows you to save the contents of a file-system to a compressed archive file. The file-system can be restored on a partition which has a different size and it can be restored on a different file-system."

Qt4-fsarchiver is included in the repositories of Mandriva derivatives Mageia, OpenMandriva, ALT Linux, and Rosa Linux. On Ubuntu, you need to add the appropriate PPA [1] to the package sources before easily installing the software using the package manager. For Linux Mint, Debian "wheezy," and Debian "jessie" [2], as well as openSUSE and Fedora [3], you'll find precompiled packages on SourceForge. If you are looking for a special treat, try the Qt4-fsarchiver Live DVD, which weighs in at approximately 960MB. The Live DVD is based on Ubuntu 14.04.2 LTS and includes UEFI support.

After completing the installation you will find an icon for Qt4-fsarchiver in the main menu below Tools, System Tools, or Utilities depending on the distribution. The program requires root privileges, the system prompts you for the administrator password each time you launch it. Please keep in mind that the program relies on the fsarchiver command-line application, which must also be installed. When installing via the package manager, fsarchiver often automatically ends up on your hard disk. However, if you retrieve the software from a third-party source, you typically need to install the command-line tool manually on your disk.

Program Interface

Qt4-fsarchiver comes with a not entirely intuitive interface that just looks complex to use. It is thus important to be familiar with the most important functions of the program, although detailed knowledge of mass media partitioning can prove to be helpful. Qt4-fsarchiver first pops up a message window at startup pointing you to the Readme file. However, it actually specifies an incorrect directory; the file is in fact located below /usr/share/doc/qt4-fsarchiver/doc/. Take a look at the content; it offers both some installation instructions and tips on using the program.

After the dialog closes, the application window opens. Besides a menubar at the top and a button bar on the left below it, you will find an area with a variety of settings, and two list windows on the right show you all the identified partitions and file structures in a tree view. The partition list also shows you the filesystems on the partitions. However, Qt4-fsarchiver only fully supports Btrfs, NTFS, and ext2/3/4; the outdated FAT(32) and VFAT are only partially supported. USB flash drives are therefore only useful as a source or target if you format them with one of the supported filesystems. ISO9660 and ZFS remain completely sidelined. Qt4-fsarchiver supports the established XFS filesystem, however, so the program can also be useful in the server environment.

At the bottom in the program window is a tray with time entries showing how many files and directories you added to the backup and how many are already backed up. A progress bar completes the visual display of the backup operation (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The Qt4-fsarchiver application window looks somewhat confusing at first glance.

Qt4-fsarchiver offers many settings and options for the backup run in the program window. Additionally, you can go to Settings | Basic settings to complete a basic configuration if you do not change any of the default options for a backup run. In a neatly arranged dialog, you can define how the software backup behaves for backups and restores and specify different options for backing up on computers in the network. After completing the changes, save them by pressing the Save Settings button (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The basic settings are used if you do not define your own options for individual backups.

Backup Run

The graphical interface implements almost the entire instruction set of the fsarchiver command-line program; this means that you initially need to make some settings on the left in the program window. When backing up a partition, you can first define whether you want to encrypt the backup. Check the Encrypt backup key option to do so and enter the desired key with a length of 6 to 64 characters to the right in the input box.

During the backup, large partitions with extensive databases can be split into several parts, for example, to match the size of individual sections to the capacity of a USB stick or a CD/DVD. To back up the first block of a bootable partition, also check the option Save PBR.

On multicore systems, you can significantly speed up the backup run by telling the program to use multiple processor cores. To the right of the option, type the appropriate Number of processor cores to be used for fsarchiver. Then, define the Qt4-fsarchiver backup compression format you want to use. The corresponding drop-down menu lists a variety of compression methods – with different compression rates – that can make the backup significantly smaller depending on the data types.

Next, you can define a name for the backup in the box at the bottom. Following this, you still need to select the drive to be backed up in the list of Existing partitions on the right. Finally, choose the target directory to which Qt4-fsarchiver will write the backup in the directory tree below.

To start the backup run, click Save partition center left in the application window. Qt4-fsarchiver now shows you a small window with a summary of the task (Figure 3) and after clicking the Back partition button, stores the compressed backup at the specified location. During the backup, additional information is displayed at the bottom of the main program window. After the backup is complete, Qt4-fsarchiver presents statistics on the number of backed up directories, files, and links in another message window. The software also stores a small text file with this data in the target directory.

Figure 3: Qt4-fsarchiver summarizes all settings prior to the backup in a separate window.

No operating system will boot without the master boot record or its successor for large disks with a capacity of more than 2TB, the GUID partition table (GPT). Thus, it's advisable to create a separate backup for the MBR or GPT. The appropriate backup and restore functions can be found in the Actions menu below Save MBR/GPT and Restore MBR/GPT. During the backup, you specify the backup directory in a dialog and – if the computer has multiple storage media – the hard drive or SSD whose MBR or GPT you want to back up. With a single click on Save MBR/GPT, you can store a copy of the relevant sectors at the desired location. Similarly, you can restore a previously saved MBR or a GPT in the same dialog.

Qt4-fsarchiver also offers a quick backup and restore function for individual directories, which can also recursively backup or restore. The corresponding settings dialog is opened by selecting Actions | Save directory; you then only need to specify the source and target. The program compresses the backup by default; you can also choose from several compression formats and optionally encrypt the backup. Click on Directory save to start the backup run (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Using this dialog, you can back up individual directories in Qt4-fsarchiver.

Backup via LAN

On networks, Qt4-fsarchiver also lets you create complete backups on other computers on the LAN. To do so, you need to install a Samba client on the system to be backed up, because either a Windows PC or a Linux system with a directory shared via CIFS VFS is used as the backup target. In any case, you must share a suitable directory for storing the backup on the target.

Next, select Actions | Save partition over a network to call the routine for backing up to a remote host. The software now automatically checks the shares on the network and presents a short dialog for authenticating against the target machine. Then Qt4-fsarchiver mounts the share and presents the same dialog as when creating local partition backups.

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