Config file backup with GIT

5 minute read

At work I’ve stumbled across the problem to save configuration files of some Linux servers I am administrating. Since I am a developer I am familiar to GIT and thus I wanted to use the benefits of GIT to solve this problem.

There are several solutions to use GIT for a config file backup. The most obvious one would be to use a git repository directly in /etc (like etckeeper does), but there are some disadvantages with this method:

  • the whole /etc will be stored and not only the relevant ones
  • not all configuration files are in /etc (e.g. some services have their configs in /opt)
  • you could bring wrong versions of the config files via git pull from the upstream repo into the live /etc

I’ve decided to use another approach: I wrote a script which copies all specified files/folders from a separate config file to a temporary folders which contains the git repository. This approach solves the shortcomings from above:

  • only specified files will be backed up
  • we can use any file from the file system
  • git pull cannot destroy productive config files

For this approach you simply need one script and a config file called config_files.txt which contains a list of all files to be backed up. The script does a cleanup of the temporary folder and copies all relevant config files:


find . -maxdepth 1 -mindepth 1 ! -regex "./\(config_files.txt\|.git\|\)" | xargs rm –r
cat config_files.txt | xargs -I {} cp -- parents -R {} .

Having this script, you can set up a backup of your config files with a few commands:

  1. create the temporary folder:

     / $ mkdir –p /backup/conf        
  2. create the git repository inside the temporary folder

     / $ cd /backup/conf
     /backup/conf $ git init
     /backup/conf $ git remote add origin <path to git repo>
  3. add the file config_files.txt to the temporary folder containing a list of files/folders to backup. E.g.

  4. execute the copy script inside the backup folder

     /backup/conf $
  5. check if config files have been changed since your last commit

     /backup/conf $ git status
     On branch master
     Initial commit
     Untracked files:
     (use "git add <file>..." to include in what will be committed)
     nothing added to commit but untracked files present (use "git add" to track)
  6. commit/push the new backup

     /backup/conf $ git commit
     /backup/conf $ git push
Manuel Laggner

Manuel Laggner

technic freak, linux user, developer (Java/ABAP) and the founder of the tool tinyMediaManager.

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