How To Use BackupPC to Create a Backup Server on an Ubuntu 12.04 VPS

Published on September 23, 2013
How To Use BackupPC to Create a Backup Server on an Ubuntu 12.04 VPS

Status: Deprecated

This article covers a version of Ubuntu that is no longer supported. If you are currently operate a server running Ubuntu 12.04, we highly recommend upgrading or migrating to a supported version of Ubuntu:

Reason: Ubuntu 12.04 reached end of life (EOL) on April 28, 2017 and no longer receives security patches or updates. This guide is no longer maintained.

See Instead: This guide might still be useful as a reference, but may not work on other Ubuntu releases. If available, we strongly recommend using a guide written for the version of Ubuntu you are using. You can use the search functionality at the top of the page to find a more recent version.


BackupPC is a backup solution that can be configured to back up remote Linux and Windows systems. It can use a variety of different protocols and has a flexible scheduler to coordinate full and incremental backups.

In this guide, we will install BackupPC on an Ubuntu 12.04 VPS and use it to back up a second Ubuntu 12.04 VPS.

Install BackupPC

BackupPC is available in Ubuntu’s default repositories. The software “pulls” the data from client machines, so the actual program needs to be installed on the machine that will function as the backup server.

Open a terminal and enter the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install backuppc

During the installation, you will be asked what kind of mail server configuration is needed. We can select the “Local only” option, because we will not be configuring internet-aware mail:

                ???????? Postfix Configuration ?????????
                ? General type of mail configuration:  ? 
                ?                                      ? 
                ?       No configuration               ? 
                ?       Internet Site                  ? 
                ?       Internet with smarthost        ? 
                ?       Satellite system               ? 
                ?       Local only                     ? 
                ?                                      ? 
                ?                                      ? 
                ?       <Ok>           <Cancel>        ? 
                ?                                      ? 

On the next page, we can leave the Sytem mail name as “localhost”:

 ??????????????????????????? Postfix Configuration ???????????????????????????
 ? The "mail name" is the domain name used to "qualify" _ALL_ mail           ? 
 ? addresses without a domain name. This includes mail to and from <root>:   ? 
 ? please do not make your machine send out mail from root@example.org       ? 
 ? unless root@example.org has told you to.                                  ? 
 ?                                                                           ? 
 ? This name will also be used by other programs. It should be the single,   ? 
 ? fully qualified domain name (FQDN).                                       ? 
 ?                                                                           ? 
 ? Thus, if a mail address on the local host is foo@example.org, the         ? 
 ? correct value for this option would be example.org.                       ? 
 ?                                                                           ? 
 ? System mail name:                                                         ? 
 ?                                                                           ? 
 ? localhost________________________________________________________________ ? 
 ?                                                                           ? 
 ?                    <Ok>                        <Cancel>                   ? 

Select “apache2” to configure Apache for use with BackupPC:

  ?????????????????????????? Configuring backuppc ???????????????????????????
  ? BackupPC supports any web server with CGI enabled, but this automatic   ? 
  ? configuration process only supports Apache.                             ? 
  ?                                                                         ? 
  ? Which web server would you like to reconfigure automatically:           ? 
  ?                                                                         ? 
  ?    [*] apache2                                                          ? 
  ?                                                                         ? 
  ?                                                                         ? 
  ?                                 <Ok>                                    ? 
  ?                                                                         ? 

On the next page, type “Enter” to continue with the installation.

Changing the Password

BackupPC uses a system user called “backuppc” to perform its tasks.

In addition, it configures an Apache user, also called “backuppc”, with a randomly generated password, which was given briefly during installation. We can change this password to something more meaningful by typing:

sudo htpasswd /etc/backuppc/htpasswd backuppc

You will be asked to give and confirm a new password.

Configure SSH Access to Client Computers

There are a few different ways that servers and clients can communicate to authenticate and transfer data. In this guide, we will be using the rsync protocol over SSH.

To make this work, we’ll need to create an SSH key pair for our system BackupPC user (called “backuppc”, as mentioned above), and then transfer the key to the client machines.

First, log into the BackupPC user with the following command:

sudo su - backuppc

You will probably be presented with only a minimal prompt, represented by the dollar sign ($).

Generate an SSH key pair by typing:


You will be asked a number of questions. Just type “Enter” through all of the prompts to accept the default values.

Transferring the SSH Public Key

You now have a private and public key on your backup server. You need to transfer the public key to the root user on each client machine you wish to access.

You can do that by typing:

<pre> ssh-copy-id root@<span class=“highlight”>client_ip_address</span> </pre>

Type “yes” to accept the new server’s identity, and then enter the root password of the remote machine. The key should then be transfered.

Check that your key was transfered correctly by typing:

<pre> ssh root@<span class=“highlight”>client_ip_address</span> </pre>

You should be able to log in without having to type a password.

Get back to the BackupPC server by typing:


Back out of the “backuppc” account by typing “exit” again:


Access the Web Interface

The rest of the guide will be configured through BackupPC’s web interface.

Open a browser and navigate to:

<pre> <span class=“highlight”>backuppc_server_ip_address</span>/backuppc </pre>

You will be prompted for a username and password. The username is “backuppc” and the password is what you set with the htpasswd command earlier.

<img style=“border:2px solid black; display:block;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto” src=“https://assets.digitalocean.com/articles/backuppc/main_page.png” alt =“BackupPC main page” />

Set Up Client Configuration

On the left-hand side, click on the “Edit Hosts” link.

<img style=“border:2px solid black; display:block;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto” src=“https://assets.digitalocean.com/articles/backuppc/edit_hosts.png” alt =“BackupPC edit hosts” />

Click the “Delete” button next to “localhost”, since we are only backing up remote machines.

Next, click “Add”. Fill in the client machine’s IP address. For user, add “backuppc”, since we have given that user SSH access to the host.

<img style=“border:2px solid black; display:block;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto” src=“https://assets.digitalocean.com/articles/backuppc/remote_host.png” alt =“BackupPC remote host” />

Click “Save” at the top of the page.

Configure Transfer Settings

Click on the “Xfer” tab on the top of the page. Under “XferMethod”, select “rsync”. Under “RsyncShareName”, select the path you would like to back up.

You can leave it at “/” to back up the entire computer. You can also click “Add” to add additional areas to back up if you choose not to target the entire computer.

<img style=“border:2px solid black; display:block;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto” src=“https://assets.digitalocean.com/articles/backuppc/rsync_settings.png” alt =“BackupPC rsync settings” />

If you are backing up the entire computer, you’ll need to add an “excludes” rule.

In the “BackupFilesExclude” segment, type “*” to match all shares. Then insert the values “/proc” and “/sys” to exclude these directories from back up.

<img style=“border:2px solid black; display:block;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto” src=“https://assets.digitalocean.com/articles/backuppc/rsync_excludes.png” alt =“BackupPC rsync excludes” />

Note: Failure to set up the appropriate exclude rule for the “proc” and “sys” folders can result in a backup that does not finish.

Again, click “Save” at the top of the page to enable your configuration changes.

Configure Backup Schedule

The default backup schedule is:

  • Full backup

    • Every 7 days
    • Keep only newest copy
  • Incremental backup

    • Every day
    • Keep the six most recent backups

If you would like to change the interval, click on the “Schedule” tab on the top bar.

<img style=“border:2px solid black; display:block;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto” src=“https://assets.digitalocean.com/articles/backuppc/backup_schedule.png” alt =“BackupPC backup schedule” />

Note: You will notice that full backups have a value of “6.97” in “FullPeriod”, and likewise, incremental backups have a value of “0.97” in the “IncrPeriod” field. These are values corresponding to 7 and 1 day respectively, since it accounts for the time to complete the backup as well.

You can modify the number of backups that the system maintains. You can also specify times when no backup should be performed by setting up “blackouts” where no backup can begin.

In this guide, we will stick with the default values.

Remember to click “Save” if you make any changes.

Run a Manual Backup

To run your first full backup manually, select you client from the “Hosts” drop-down menu in the upper-left corner.

You will be taken to a client summary page. Click “Start Full Backup” under the “User Actions” section.

<img style=“border:2px solid black; display:block;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto” src=“https://assets.digitalocean.com/articles/backuppc/full_backup_button.png” alt =“BackupPC start full backup button” />

You will confirm the action on the next page.

<img style=“border:2px solid black; display:block;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto” src=“https://assets.digitalocean.com/articles/backuppc/backup_confirmation.png” alt =“BackupPC backup confirmation” />

Your backup should complete shortly, depending on the size of the droplets.

The files will be stored at:

<pre> /var/lib/backuppc/pc/<span class=“highlight”>ip_address_of_client</span>/<span class=“highlight”>#_of_backup</span> </pre>

This value will be printed in the “Backup Summary” portion of the Host summary.

<img style=“border:2px solid black; display:block;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto” src=“https://assets.digitalocean.com/articles/backuppc/backup_summary.png” alt =“BackupPC backup summary” />

If you click on the “Browse backups” button in the upper-left corner, you can get an overview of the filesystem, as backed up by BackupPC.

<img style=“border:2px solid black; display:block;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto” src=“https://assets.digitalocean.com/articles/backuppc/browse_backups.png” alt =“BackupPC browse backups” />

Using this tool, you can browse the filesystem and select the files you’d like to restore.


BackupPC is a powerful, user-friendly way to automatically backup files from several servers to a central location. Backups are essential for any kind of production environment. Just as important is making sure that file restoration operations function correctly.

There are many backup tools available for Linux and Unix-like operating systems. Choose the solution that fits your needs the best. BackupPC is a great tool that should work well in many developers’ environments.

<div class=“author”>By Justin Ellingwood</div>

Thanks for learning with the DigitalOcean Community. Check out our offerings for compute, storage, networking, and managed databases.

Learn more about us

About the authors

Still looking for an answer?

Ask a questionSearch for more help

Was this helpful?

This textbox defaults to using Markdown to format your answer.

You can type !ref in this text area to quickly search our full set of tutorials, documentation & marketplace offerings and insert the link!

After following this article but installing on Ubuntu 18.04 I get a file downloaded when accessing http://dropletIP/backuppc.

I can login without issues, after login, a file is downloaded. Any ideas?

I got this error ; error: File::RsyncP module doesn’t exist

So I had to install libfile-rsyncp-perl which is a - Perl based implementation of an Rsync client using apt-get and now everything works.

To all of those struggling with the “Unable to read 4 bytes” error, here’s how I fixed it.

I was using a custom port for ssh rather than the default 22. I had set up the ssh keys and the user backuppc was able to login to the remote server. The tutorial doesn’t show how to set it up for an alternative port. Here’s how to do it.

sudo su - backuppc

You can copy across the key using:

ssh-copy-id "username@remote_ip -p portnumber" 

and then check backuppc can login in with:

ssh -p portnumber remote_ip -l username

I was still getting “Unable to read 4 bytes” errors though

I fixed it by adding “-p portnumber” to RsyncClientCmd and RsyncClientRestoreCmd under the Xfer tab on the edit hosts page of the web interface as follows:

$sshPath -q -x -p portnumber -l username $host $rsyncPath $argList+
$sshPath -q -x -p portnumber -l username $host $rsyncPath $argList+

Without this I believe it is trying to connect on port 22. It is working now for myself.

Question: How can allow myuser instead of root in client server to access backup files for example /var/www/ directory?

I do not use root for ssh.

Thanks for tutorial!

Thanks, looks interesting! What format does the backup come in? Is it e.g. in the form of a virtual machine that can run in VitualBox? And/or how is a droplet re-created from a backup?


I installed BackupPC on a Debian Jessie virtual machine. Did the genkeys and assigned them to my source systems. Setup the server to backup / with exclusions on all 3 servers. When I do a manual backup on any of them I get this error message:

Contents of file /var/lib/backuppc/pc/ns1.maplepi.lan/LOG.012016, modified 2016-01-05 12:52:40

2016-01-05 12:49:25 full backup started for directory / 2016-01-05 12:49:27 Got fatal error during xfer (Unable to read 4 bytes) 2016-01-05 12:49:32 Backup aborted (Unable to read 4 bytes) 2016-01-05 12:52:34 full backup started for directory / 2016-01-05 12:52:35 Got fatal error during xfer (Unable to read 4 bytes) 2016-01-05 12:52:40 Backup aborted (Unable to read 4 bytes)

Any suggestions?


Atleast on a clean server Debian8, the CGI-scripts are not running, so the web-interface is not working out of the box.

Is it possible to install backuppc on ngix?

How do I restore a backup done with BackupPC to a Digital Ocean droplet?

Hi, it works greate with one server; but now, i’ve added an other server to backup, it’s just an other droplet, but i need to backup a different location. It gives me these error :

  1. Got fatal error during xfer (Unable to read 4 bytes);
  2. Backup aborted (Unable to read 4 bytes); what could couse that ?, moreover i don’t understand where to specify a different location to backup, it seams that it try to always backup folder defined in RsyncShareName in general “Edit Config” url “/backuppc/index.cgi?action=editConfig”, and than the one specified in host config. thank you

Try DigitalOcean for free

Click below to sign up and get $200 of credit to try our products over 60 days!

Sign up

Join the Tech Talk
Success! Thank you! Please check your email for further details.

Please complete your information!

Featured on Community

Get our biweekly newsletter

Sign up for Infrastructure as a Newsletter.

Hollie's Hub for Good

Working on improving health and education, reducing inequality, and spurring economic growth? We'd like to help.

Become a contributor

Get paid to write technical tutorials and select a tech-focused charity to receive a matching donation.

Welcome to the developer cloud

DigitalOcean makes it simple to launch in the cloud and scale up as you grow — whether you're running one virtual machine or ten thousand.

Learn more
DigitalOcean Cloud Control Panel