How do I backup my Raspberry Pi?

  • I have been writing programs for my Raspberry Pi (running Raspbian) for a few weeks now and would like to make sure I protect the work I have done.

    How can I backup the files I have created?

    Can I simply plug the SD card into my Windows (XP or 7) PC and copy it either to the hard drive or another SD card?

    Is your pc running linux?

    I have PC's running both Ubuntu and Windows (XP & 7), but I would expect most people to be interested in the Windows answer. I will edit the question to make that clear.

    rsync from Raspi to your pc?

    For code, you may also want to consider using distributed version control software like `git` or `hg`, that way you not only have copies of your code in multiple places, but also have the complete history of how that code has changed.

    I've used ext2 filesystems on Windows with no trouble at all (ran Visual Studio off it) using Ext2IFS. I don't know about the state of ext3/ext4 support (haven't tried ext2fsd).

    Xbian has the (command-line but also GUI) ability to create a backup. This one is accessible via a network share. Very easy :)

    @MarkBooth "May want to consider" is putting it rather lightly, isn't it now?

    @MarkBooth I don't see why a DVCS is needed over a VCS if we are just considering being able to retrieve code later. Heck, it's even easier since you use revision numbers not commit hashes to identify a particular state. Learning a CVCS like Subversion isn't much of a time investment (as I recall... though it was a very, very long time ago). Yes, switching to Git was a bit unnerving at the time, but I have never ever looked back.

    Comments are not a good place for this kind of discussion @StevenLu, we should take this to [chat].

    Have you looked at Win32DiskImager? It is short and sweet. Makes an ..img file that is an exact clone of the original.

  • Correct answer

    8 years ago

    If you want to preserve all of the data, you will probably have to create a disk image. Furthermore, Windows cannot recognize typical Linux filesystems, so you probably won't even be able to see your files, when you plug in your SD card.

    Creating a disk image will preserve not only files but also the filesystem structure and when you decide to flash your new SD card, you will be able to just plug it in and it will work.


    On Linux, you can use the standard dd tool:

    dd if=/dev/sdx of=/path/to/image bs=1M

    Where /dev/sdx is your SD card.


    On Mac, you can also use the standard dd tool with a slightly different syntax:

    dd if=/dev/rdiskx of=/path/to/image bs=1m

    Where /dev/rdiskx is your SD card.

    (using rdisk is preferable as its the raw device - quicker)

    To find out which disk your device is type diskutil list at a command prompt - also, you may need to be root; to do this type sudo -s and enter your password when prompted.


    Option 1

    On Windows, you can use the reverse process that you used when flashing the SD card.

    You can use Win32 Disk Imager, which is the preferred tool for flashing a SD card of the Foundation. Just enter the filename (the location and name of the backup image file to be saved), select the device (the SD card) and press read:

    Win32 Disk Imager

    Of course, you can also use RawWrite, dd for Windows or similar tools, the process is quite similar.

    Option 2

    If you don't want to back up your entire system, but only specific files, I suggest you connect to your Raspberry Pi via SFTP and copy the files to your local computer (You can use the WinScp client). If you have SSH enabled, SFTP usually requires no special configuration on the Raspberry Pi side.

    Another option is to copy the files to a remote system using rsync.

    You can also install special drivers so your Windows can read ext filesystems (and will thus be able to read the whole SD card), such as ext2fsd but it is probably not worth the effort.

    Since the image will be of the same size as your SD card, you may want to compress it. This can be achieved simply by using your favorite compression tool, such as gzip, 7zip, WinZip, WinRar ...

    +1 in general, although `rsync` via `ssh` would probably be easier. Also, for source code - as Mark Booth already stated - you should absolutely use a DVCS

    If my SD card became corrupted, how would I install this image to a new SD card?

    Your link to Win32 Disk Imager comes up with no downloads available. I assume it's the same as ?

    @Yamikuronue Yes. The page in the answer has a link to the sourceforge page you specified.

    oh my, I can't distinguish if "read" in that picture means "read the image file" or "read the PARTITION AND WRITE IT INTO the image file".... same for "write"... That gui needs to be sanitized. Something like "Image -> Device" and "Device -> Image" (or a better alternative)

    When I use WinDiskImager, I get an image that is the size of the storage partition - the boot partition appears to be missing. Have you tried writing the image onto a new SD card? I don't have a second one with which to test at the moment.

    It would be useful to include compression with dd this way the image is not the same size as the original. gzip works great with dd.

    @me-- I get the same issue - I only see a RAW partition of the SD card that is only 1.2 GB despite the SD card being 8 GB. I had to assign it a drive letter and the images are only 1.2 GB, i.e. not the full disk.

    @Flipper to restore an image just reverse the arguments. On Mac OSX you may need to unmount the SD disk using disk utility first.

    Win32DiskImager seems to only be able to deal with partitions Windows recognizes. I've had little to no luck with it cloning Noobs/Raspbian SD cards. Found this freeware program: It works like a charm to do a byte-by-byte clone of the SD card in Windows (I used it with Win7 64-bit), regardless of partitioning scheme and contents.

    In the output section of, do you type [back up name].img

    to copy the image to the fresh sdcard on OSX, I had to unmount the card using the OSX disk utility program.

    Great tip, thanks. Any pointers in creating an image file from say a 16GB SD card that is only using a tiny portion? For example, my Pi has been 'expanded' to use the fill size (16GB) but the original Raspian image would fit on a 4GB card. I'd like to be able to burn the image onto a smaller SD card ideally.

    Don't forget to shrink the image before writing it to the SD card. Practically no SD cards are of the same size! See

    I also had to unmount the sd card using diskutility on MacOS, but I still couldn't write to the disk (permission denied). I removed and re-inserted it, and then was able to unmount it and write to it via dd.

    I prefer `ddrescue` over `dd`, as it guarantees successful copy by retrying sectors if needed. I've written about my preferred process & steps here:

    How do I backup all the partitions of a Rpi (boot and root) to a single image file so that later when I use Win32DiskImager or balenaEtcher, both partitions are restored? Currently when using Win32DiskImager requires to select the partition (boot or root) and won't do both in a single image.

    What if the sdcard has multiple partitions?

  • If you are running Linux then you can use the dd command to make a full backup of the image:

    dd if=/dev/sdx of=/path/to/image

    or for compression:

    dd if=/dev/sdx | gzip > /path/to/image.gz

    Where sdx is your SD card.

    To restore the backup, you reverse the commands:

    dd if=/path/to/image of=/dev/sdx

    or when compressed:

    gzip -dc /path/to/image.gz | dd of=/dev/sdx

    I highly recommend using gzip - I have backed up some desktop partitions today and a 20Gb partition was saved in 8.9Gb.

    bzip2 should compress even better, and is available on all Linux systems. On newer Linux systems xz should compress even better.The decompressors for these are bunzip2 and unxz respectively.

    @Arne The difference need not be extremly large. Any basic LZ* method is capable of removing all the emptiness in the image, both at unused space and at unused block length, which is the crucial part.

    @tohecz You are right, however if your image is rather large, that extra bit might be nice. My backup image went down from 4GB compressed to 3GB compressed, by using bzip2 instead of gzip.

    @Arne I wouldn't expect such a difference! Still, that seems to be far below _my_ concerns. (Btw, it's cool when you reply to a comment almost 1 year old, and you get a response in 2 minutes `:)` )

    On my Mac, I got "operation not supported" until I unmounted with: diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk1

    Do not make the mistake (like I just did) of leaving the `bs=1M` or some similar parameter out. The default block size of 512 bytes will *kill* the copy performance.

    @Arne I tried using bzip2 now, and maybe it would be appropriate if I was backing up from my Class 4 SD card, but on this Class 10 UHS 1 SanDisk 8GB card (which was $12 last week) it is maxing out an Ivy Bridge CPU thread and limiting read speed from the card to 6MB/s (dd with Ctrl+T reports 4.2MB/s). This is not ideal because I can use gzip with this card and read off of it at a much quicker pace (dd reporting 18MB/s). Granted, if most of the disk is free space, then reading during those empty stretches will speed up. But I'll have to see what the difference is in the resulting file size.

    It also produced a bigger file size than the gzipped backup image. Granted various software has been installed since, but it will definitely not produce a dramatic improvement in filesize. For bzip2 to offer a 33% improvement over gzip is probably highly optimistic.

    It doesn't work if i have a image from 8gb SD card and want to install it in 4GB carD? What is the workaround? I am getting kdb error when the new sd card boots up.

    @zengr if there is actually data on the excess 4gb then you can't copy it over this way. If not then you should be able to simply truncate the image.

    Warning if using `dd` to replicate SD cards, make sure both cards have the same size in bytes and in sectors, especially if they are of different brands or types (standard, micro). Restoring to a smaller card causes the partition table to extend past the size of the card, causing many problems or an unusable card.

    Please note that using `dd` to maintain backups is NOT a smart idea no matter how you do it. See for some better ones.

  • On the Mac you don't want to be using /dev/diskn. You should use /dev/rdiskn instead, where n is the number the OS uses to identify your SD card. This decreases the time required to copy by a huge amount.

    So for the optimal backup process on a Mac, I would recommend doing the following:

    Run diskutil list, and find the disk corresponding to your Raspberry Pi's SD card:

    $ diskutil list
       #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
       0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *500.1 GB   disk0
       1:                        EFI                         209.7 MB   disk0s1
       2:                  Apple_HFS Macintosh HD            499.2 GB   disk0s2
       3:                 Apple_Boot Recovery HD             650.0 MB   disk0s3
       #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
       0:     FDisk_partition_scheme                        *7.9 GB     disk1
       1:             Windows_FAT_32                         58.7 MB    disk1s1
       2:                      Linux                         7.9 GB     disk1s2

    Clearly /dev/disk1 is my 8GB SD card, the Linux partition name is also a bit of a clue.

    However, instead of using /dev/disk1 with dd, you should use /dev/rdisk1, like so:

    sudo dd if=/dev/rdisk1 of=/path/to/backup.img bs=1m

    And to restore it, just swap the if (input file), and of (output file) parameters:

    sudo dd if=/path/to/backup.img of=/dev/rdisk1 bs=1m

    Or, with gzip, to save a substantial amount of space:

    sudo dd if=/dev/rdisk1 bs=1m | gzip > /path/to/backup.gz

    And, to copy the image back onto the SD:

    gzip -dc /path/to/backup.gz | sudo dd of=/dev/rdisk1 bs=1m

    For more information, see this wiki page.

    I find this to be the most efficient answer and voted for it, thanks @Alex Coplan.

    However, I was looking for a fool-proof GUI tool for MacOS (as Windows users have) and without the dd risks and I found "SD Clone" from Two Canoes (which I trust as I am a user of WinClone). It's pretty new -2016- and expensive (100$ with a 2 week trial) but seems to be geared towards RasPi so I'll give it a try right now and let you know in a new comment.

    When coping back, unmount your SD Card if you get the following message: "Resource busy"

  • Besides those block-level backups, there are two common approaches to deal with the sources: to archive it continuously (1), or to use the revision control system (2).

    We are going to use the command-line (any local terminal or SSH connection to a Raspberry Pi machine), right?

    1. Archive

    cd ~/projects
    tar czvf your-raspberry-project-top-level-dir-v1.0.tgz \
    scp your-raspberry-project-top-level-dir-v1.0.tgz \
             [email protected]:/home/user/backups/

    2. RCS (Git for instance)

    cd ~/projects/your-raspberry-project-top-level-dir
    make clean                          # Or clean it manually using rm (rm ./*.o ./*.pyc)
    git init                            # Create new repo here
    git add .                           # Add source files to the staging index
    git status                          # Verify if it's OK
    git commit -a -m "Initial import"   # Fix application's source changes
    git add remote
    git push -u origin master           # Sends the sources to your github repo
    git pull && git push && git status  # Now origin/master is your tracking branch

    It might also be worth noting that people can set up bare repos on other machines on their network and push from their Raspberry Pi to there, rather than having to set up a github account, ssh keys etc and push to there.

    That's a good start for the real answer. Code needs to be managed under version control if one wants to be able to maintain it. Version control allows to track changes, understand history of changes, manage different branches (e.g. stable vs dev) and merge between them. But it is not backup per se. However, one simply need to backup the repository (e.g. the .git folder for Git). Check Linux/Unix forums, wikis, stackexchanges, etc. for ways to backup folders under Linux. Note: I don't consider github as backup. And you don't want to publish everything to github!

  • You can run this command from your Linux PC with lots of space:

    ssh [email protected] gzip -c /dev/mmcblk0 > img.gz

    As a prerequisite you'll need to have generated .ssh keys and copied the over to /root/.ssh/authorized_keys.

    It's possible to have issues with the file system since it's a live backup, but if your Raspberry Pi isn't real busy it will usually be OK.

    It's probably faster to do the compression on the PC like this:

    ssh [email protected] dd if=/dev/mmcblk0 | gzip -c > img.gz

    or with sudo 'ssh [email protected] sudo dd if=/dev/mmcblk0 | gzip -c > raspberry.img.gz'

    and as a reference for passwordless login,

    I also found useful to add block size and, as it was available, use pv to check progress. `ssh [email protected] dd if=/dev/mmcblk0 bs=1M | pv | gzip -c > img.gz`

    This is a great answer if you don't want to unmount your SD card, and also works for macOS. Here's the command-line I'm using: ssh [email protected] sudo dd if=/dev/mmcblk0 | xz -9 -e --threads=4 > sd.img.xz. Doesn't require generating SSH keys doing it this way. Ctrl-T can be pressed to see the progress.

    Why is **gzip** preferable over **dd** command?

  • If you are using Windows:

    1. Download Win32 Disk Imager.

    2. Create the file path you wish to use to save your image. (I use C:\RasPi_Bkp)

    3. Run Win32 Disk Imager

    4. Browse to your backup file path spot, and type a file name.

    5. Click save

    6. Make sure the device shown in the drop down to the right of your file path is the one you want to back up.

    Win32 Disk imager in Action

    1. Click "Read"

    2. Wait.

    Thanks - just the job. (Oddly, when I plug my SD card into my main PC, Windows 7 goes to BSOD! Fortunately its fine on another machine.)

    For anyone that has trouble with Win32 Disk Imager as I have, try Rufus.

  • If your programs are all in the pi userid, there's really no reason to back up the entire filesystem, as is being suggested. what I do is to just back up the single id. I run the command:

    tar -czf pi.tgz *

    from pi's home directory, which creates the file pi.tgz, containing all the files and directories contained there (excluding hidden files). I then scp this file to another linux computer, but you could ftp it or e-mail it somewhere for safe-keeping... anything that got it onto another computer.

    This creates a much smaller file for your back-up.

    Concerned about all the additional packages you've installed along the way? Create a script that will perform those installs for you again should you need to recreate your SD card, and keep it in pi's home directory somewhere. (I have a ~/bin directory for such things). Have all the commands you need to do the installs to bring you back to the position you want to be in. It documents your changes, and allows you to quickly build up a new SD card. It would contain commands in the form of:

    apt-get --assume-yes install apache2 mysqld mysql php5 php-pear

    Start it out with

    apt-get update
    apt-get --assume-yes upgrade

    so that your system also is brought up to the current level before you start adding your packages.

    Since this will be in your pi.tgz file, you'll have it when you need it.

    Note that for the Raspbmc spin-off, the apt-get *upgrade* is apparently known to cause issues. It did for me, and apparently it's a known issue .

    This can be done remotely too, i.e.: ssh [email protected] "sudo tar -cvp ~/*" | xz -9 -e --threads=4 > raspbian.home.tar.xz

  • I run Raspbian and use dd and cron to do automated backups of my SD card to my external USB drive.

    It is a really simple solution. It runs once a week at 2 am on a Monday morning and makes an image of the SD card.

    I wrote a script which shuts down services such as lighttpd and cron, to minimise the risk of the SD card being written to in the middle of the backup, it then calls dd, before starting to the services again when the backup has finished.

    I've put the script and some instructions on my blog,

    This might be a reasonable solution if you can't unplug the card. However, `dd`ing an `sd?` device with mounted partitions doesn't sound quite safe.

    Your probably right, but I haven't had a problem.

  • For Debian you could use dd and tar. This would make a complete copy of your SD card and would require external (to SD card) storage, probably mounted USB or network drive.

    dd if=/dev/sdd of=yourbackupfilenamehere.dd
    tar zcvf yourbackupfilenamehere.dd.tar.gz

    With /dev/sdd being the location of your SD card, and of being the output file name.

    This has the limitation of needing somewhere to write the image to though (that is also large enough to take the image(s). Presumably it also means a large data io through the usb hub - would take a while?

    True, but it's kind of required in the question: "I want a full image of the SD card."

    Why do you make a `.tar.gz` file of the dd-file? Wouldn't it be better to just run `gzip` or `bzip2` on the dd-file directly?

    What does **/dev/sdd** mean? I have `/dev/mmcblk0p1` and `/dev/mmcblk0p2` listed...

  • Fortunately the Raspberry Pi can create a backup of itself which is independent of the primary OS used to access the Raspberry (Windows, Linux, Mac). dd, tar and rsync are different tools to create backups on Linux. All these types of backups can be created by the running Pi provided it's stopping all busy tasks as mysql, smb, dlna, owncloud, seafile, apache et al before creating the backup. There is a different question where the approach is explained in more detail and a possible solution is explained here

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM