Backing up on Linux is easy – how do I restore?

I’ve been using deja-dup front end to duplicity to backup my Ubuntu Linux. This has worked fine. The only problems I had were trying to restore files I had not backed up (/etc….) – a Defective End User problem.

Restoring one of these files was a little challenge, with bumps in the road… here’s how I did it. I’ve listed the errors I received while using duplicity.

A high level thought – should you change the repository name every year – such as including the year?

Where am I backing up to (where do I restore from)?

Use the deja-dup application (use the Linux show applications and find backup).

Under Storage location will be location and folder.

If this is an external drive it may be mounted under /mnt/… or /media/.

High level view

duplicity collection-status file:///media/colinpaice/UbuntuBackup/home/Backup2023


Last full backup date: Sun Jan  1 17:02:48 2023
Collection Status
Connecting with backend: BackendWrapper
Archive directory: /home/colinpaice/.cache/duplicity/52b5c01605d52d0976f1434440a7c11a

Found 0 secondary backup chains.

Found primary backup chain with matching signature chain:
Chain start time: Sun Jan  1 17:02:48 2023
Chain end time: Tue Jan 10 08:19:05 2023
Number of contained backup sets: 10
Total number of contained volumes: 250
 Type of backup set:                            Time:   Number of volumes:
                Full         Sun Jan  1 17:02:48 2023               238
         Incremental         Mon Jan  2 08:25:38 2023                 1
         Incremental         Tue Jan  3 08:50:23 2023                 1
         Incremental         Wed Jan  4 08:53:01 2023                 1
         Incremental         Thu Jan  5 08:22:41 2023                 1
         Incremental         Fri Jan  6 08:36:31 2023                 4
         Incremental         Sat Jan  7 10:23:00 2023                 1
         Incremental         Sun Jan  8 12:16:58 2023                 1
         Incremental         Mon Jan  9 09:02:31 2023                 1
         Incremental         Tue Jan 10 08:19:05 2023                 1
No orphaned or incomplete backup sets found.

List files in the backup

duplicity list-current-files file:///media/colinpaice/UbuntuBackup/home/Backup2023/

I saved the list of files using

duplicity list-current-files file:///media/colinpaice/UbuntuBackup/home/Backup2023 >dup.lst
Synchronising remote metadata to local cache…
GnuPG passphrase for decryption:

This took over a minute (it has to check thousands of files names). I think it scans every “signature” file to build a list. The more signature files – the longer it takes.

Inside dup.lst it had entries like

Tue Aug 14 11:41:33 2018 etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/LG-D855_2292

This says the backed up file was from the given date in 2018.

List files available on a given date

I used

duplicity list-current-files –time 5D file:///media/colinpaice/UbuntuBackup/home/Backup2023 > aa.lst

to get a list of files available 5 days ago.

Restore the file

duplicity restore -t 3D –file-to-restore etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/LG-D855_2292 file:///media/colinpaice/UbuntuBackup/home/Backup2023 /home/colinpaice/secret/abc


  • -t ( or –time) specify a time period
  • 3D for three days ago. Other options s, m, h, D, W, M, or Y. 1M3d is 33 days ago.
  • etc/Network…. this is the file I wanted to restore. Note no leading / .
  • file:///media…/home/Backup2023 from this backup location.
  • /home/colinpaice/secret/abc and put the file here. The file/directory must not exist.

Restore a directory

Specify the folder (ending in /) and specify a target directory (/home/colinpaice/secret/abcd). It will create the directory if needed.

If you specify a name like etc/…/* it will report it was not found in archive.

duplicity restore -t 3D –file-to-restore etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/ file:///media/colinpaice/UbuntuBackup/home/Backup2023 /home/colinpaice/secret/abcd

Error messages

gpg: WARNING: unsafe permissions on homedir

This says the contents of your secret directory are publicly available. Change the permissions.

chmod 600 /home/colinpaice/.gnupg/*
chmod 700 /home/colinpaice/.gnupg/

Local and Remote metadata are synchronized, no sync needed.

This is OK. It means the metadata is the same in the local cache as in the remote store.

duplicity.dup_collections.CollectionsError: No signature chains found

You have the wrong backup repository name,

  • it needs ///
  • ls should give a filename like /media/colinpaice/UbuntuBackup/…./

Error ‘[Errno 1] Operation not permitted: b’/home/colinpaice/secret/abc” processing .

After the restore, duplicity was not able to use chown on the file to restore it to the original owner.

GPGError: GPG Failed, see log below:

===== Begin GnuPG log =====
gpg: AES256 encrypted data
gpg: gcry_kdf_derive failed: Invalid data
gpg: encrypted with 1 passphrase
gpg: decryption failed: No secret key
===== End GnuPG log =====

I got this asking for a date before backups were taken. See

duplicity collection-status file:///media/colinpaice/UbuntuBackup/home/Backup2023

I was looking for a backup in 2002 – which was not in the 2003 backup.