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Rsync: Preserve / Copy Hard Links ( Backup Rsnapshot Directory Tree )

I'm using rsnapshot filesystem snapshot utility to make incremental snapshots of local and remote filesystems for 10 production servers running on RHEL 5.x system. The rsnapshot commands makes extensive use of hard links, so if the file doesn't change, the next snapshot is simply a hard link to the exact same file. How do I use the rsync command to copy my the entire snapshot directory /raid6/rsnapshot/ (around 4TB) to a remote server for mirroring purpose?

The rsync command can preserve hard links and make the exact copy of /raid6/rsnapshot/ directory to a remote server using the following syntax. This is useful for making offsite backups or copy existing backups to a usb hard disk:

rsync -az -H --delete --numeric-ids /path/to/source server2:/path/to/dest/


rsync -az -H --delete --numeric-ids /path/to/source


rsync -az -H --delete --progress --numeric-ids /path/to/source


  1. -a : Archive mode (i.e. recurse into directories, and preserve symlinks, file permissions, file modification times, file group, file owner, device files & special files)
  2. -z : Compress file data during the transfer
  3. -H : Preserve hard links (i.e. copy hard links as hard links)
  4. --delete : Delete extraneous files from the receiving side (ones that aren’t on the sending side), but only for the directories that are being synchronized i.e. keep exact replica of your /raid6/rsnapshot directory.
  5. --numeric-ids : Transfer numeric group and user IDs rather than using user and group names and mapping them at both ends.
  6. --progress : Show progress during transfer.

In short type the following command as root user:
# rsync -az -H --delete --numeric-ids /raid6/rsanpshot backupserver2:/backups/
Smaller size directories can be dumped to usb 2.0/3.0 or eSata external hard drives using the same syntax. First, mount usb hard drive:
# mount /dev/sdXY /mnt/usbdisk
Use the rsync as follows:
# rsync -az -H --delete --numeric-ids /raid6/rsanpshot /mnt/usbdisk/

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Nimusiima April 18, 2012, 3:33 pm

    I see. I think I would also opt for time machine, but I cnnaot get it to work on NFS. As I don’t want to push Time Machine into doing things it’s not supposed, I think it will be better to make my own aolution. Putting in cleanup of old snapshots shouldn’t be to hard either I think.

  • Paul February 5, 2014, 6:01 pm

    Thank you very much for your article, it helped me a lot. I have a question because of your rsync options. When I compare the two directory trees with rsync -rvnc –delete local remote, I get several “Skipping non-regular file: ….” errors, should I add also the –links option to rsync?

    • me July 18, 2014, 11:39 pm

      I ‘m thinking you might want to look at the ‘-D’ option.

      Here is a reference:

      You might also want to look at excluding directories. /proc/ for example.


      • Paul August 18, 2014, 2:55 pm

        thank you for your reply, as far as I understand from the referenced article -D is in included in -a (-rlptgoD) so it is already used, /proc/ is not included in the backup.

  • me July 18, 2014, 11:31 pm

    This helped me.

    Thank you :)

  • Jon Wilson January 27, 2015, 11:18 am

    I’m copying my rsync backups from a single drive to a new RAID array, and this was exactly what I needed. Thanks for the information!

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