TimeDicer - File Recovery from Whenever Valid XHTML 1.0 TransitionalTimeDicer as TimeMachine!

Date last modified: Fri Apr 28 2017 5:32 PM

About TimeDicer

TimeDicer is a free file backup and recovery solution (using rdiff-backup) for Windows (Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2008 R2, Windows 2008, Windows 2003 - for 32-bit x86 and 64-bit x64). It allows you to backup and then later recover your files to/from a separate machine, with an option for offsite mirroring. Even if you have subsequently altered or deleted files, and backed up your erroneous changes with TimeDicer, you can still recover versions that you previously backed up.

Under development since 2008 and with latest version dated 2016-04-04, TimeDicer backs up files to your own TimeDicer Server (which can be real or virtual), and is normally run as an automated daily routine for one or more computers located on the same local network (though it can be used in other configurations). TimeDicer is not in itself a system recovery tool, but if your system has been lost - and you have previously been using TimeDicer to backup your data - it will enable you to recover your data into a repaired or new system. It also works easily for recovering earlier versions of individual files.

TimeDicer carries out a push backup - that is, the backup is started by the source machine (the client) and data is pushed to the destination (the server). TimeDicer allows you to revert to different 'timeslices'. You could say it was dicing (that is, chopping or slicing) time - hence the name.

Not only does it give a backup which is a snapshot of files as they were at one time, but also earlier versions of these files, and files that were long ago deleted from your operating computer; so it adds the 4th dimension (time) to a backup archive, and does so elegantly, optimising both transfer (for speed) and storage (for space).

TimeDicer consists of:

  1. TimeDicer Client: a Windows command script (batch file) which can be run as a regular (daily) Scheduled Task to backup data from one or many Windows computers to the primary backup server. It allows backup of locked files. The latest version of TimeDicer Client is 6.0404 (dated 2016-04-04), available here (changelog here). TimeDicer Client can backup to any Linux machine which has rdiff-backup, but for best integration it is recommended to use a dedicated TimeDicer Server. Instructions for installing and configuring TimeDicer Client are found below.
  2. TimeDicer Server: based on Ubuntu Server OS, for onsite backup - simple setup instructions below. It can be a virtual machine.
  3. TimeDicer Mirror Server: an optional machine like the TimeDicer Server, but offering secondary (e.g. offsite) backup

TimeDicer Feature List

TimeDicer is based on and uses a number of open source and free projects and software, in particular rdiff-backup, thanks are given to all the brilliant people who made and make these possible. Please send any questions about TimeDicer to

TimeDicer Server Setup: Installation & Configuration

TimeDicer Client can backup to any suitably configured GNU/Linux-based machine (i.e. server) which has rdiff-backup installed - the server can be virtual or physical. However the supported configuration uses a single-purpose TimeDicer Server running Ubuntu Server 16.04LTS (64-bit or 32-bit), obtainable here, and created as described below.

It is recommended that you locate your Primary TimeDicer Server (which can be a virtual machine) on your local area network (LAN), not at an offsite or remote (internet) location. To backup to an offsite location you can later create a Mirror TimeDicer Server (see below).

Having a single-purpose TimeDicer Server, rather than using a machine which has other functions, is strongly recommended because it makes it easy to duplicate following the ‘recipe’ here. You can create a secondary ‘mirror’ server offsite, synchronize it daily with the primary server and then, if disaster strikes and the primary server is lost, you can recreate it using the instructions in this section and then mirror your data back to it from your secondary server.

Running this setup will take about 20 minutes. It is based on a machine with a single hard disk, but if required you can expand the system later onto additional disks. The instructions do not cover use of RAID; although this is compatible we consider it safer instead to mirror your TimeDicer Server regularly to a Mirror TimeDicer Server in a different location (see below).

This setup also works if creating your TimeDicer Server as a virtual machine e.g. using Virtual Box or Vmware: just make sure to select a 'bridged adapter' type for the virtual network settings so that your server has its own ip address.

  1. Install Ubuntu Server: Boot your machine from the Ubuntu Server DVD or USB. For installation choose to install Ubuntu Server, and except as specified here follow the default settings:
    1. For hostname it is recommended to use 'timedicer1' for your primary server (use 'timedicer2' for a secondary or mirror server, or timedicer3-timedicer9 for other machines that will belong to the same TimeDicer Server Pool) [a minute or two may now elapse]
    2. 'Full name for the new user' - recommended to use 'timedicer'
    3. 'Username for your account' - recommended to use 'timedicer'
    4. 'Choose a password for the new user' - specify your own, don't forget it! [a minute or two may now elapse]
    5. 'Encrypt your home directory' - select <No>
    6. 'Partition disks' - choose either 'Guided - use entire disk and set up LVM' or 'Guided - use entire disk and set up encrypted LVM'. If you select encrypted LVM you will be asked to specify a passphrase and this must be entered whenever the machine is booted, either locally or remotely; if you lose the passphrase (and don't have a suitable backup) you will no longer be able to access the data on the disk. The advange of encryption is that you can be confident that a third party cannot read the disk contents even if they have stolen it and have time on their hands (provided they never had root access to the system while it was operational).
    7. 'Amount of volume group to use for guided partitioning' - it is recommended to specify between 80% and 90% (the amount can easily be expanded later but not so easily reduced - and it is good to have some spare for snapshots)
    8. Finally, select 'Finish partitioning and write changes to disk'. [after this the base system is installed - takes say 4 minutes]
    9. 'Configure the package manager' - usually leave blank; after this packages are downloaded and configured - takes say 1 minute
    10. 'How do you want to manage upgrades on this system?' - it is recommended to 'Install security updates automatically'
    11. 'Choose software to install' - press space bar to select only: OpenSSH server [if 'standard system utilities' is already selected, leave it selected; package configuration continues - takes say 6 minutes]
    12. 'Install the GRUB boot loader to master boot record' - usually <Yes>
    13. 'Installation complete' - <Continue> for reboot
  2. First Boot of TimeDicer Server: Log in to the machine with the username and password you created above. You can find the IP address of the machine by logging in at the local console and typing hostname -I, or by examining your local router's admin web page; once you have this then you can log in to the machine remotely from Windows with putty or from Linux with ssh. A big advantage of remote login is that you can copy and paste from here.
  3. Download and run timedicer-server-setup: Substituting your own email address for the one given in the 4th line below, and entering only the text after the '$' signs, do:
    $ cd /opt
    $ sudo wget -O
    $ sudo chmod 744 ./
    $ sudo ./ -f
    You may have to answer some questions about your timezone and about postfix (outgoing email) configuration:
    • 'General type of mail configuration' - select Internet Site if you want to send emails direct from this machine or Satellite System if you want to send via an external smtp server.
    • 'System mail name' - this is the domain name part of the source email address for emails sent by your TimeDicer Server (e.g. in - use your real domain name or at least a name that appears to be a real domain name e.g. This domain name does not have to be exclusive to this machine.
    How long timedicer-server-setup takes will depend mostly on the number of updates to the Ubuntu operating system. Some information about what it does can be seen here.
  4. Check for email: the system should have sent you an email to report that it is up and running; if you don't receive this check the system log with tail /var/log/mail.log - for problems check the section below about Email Relaying.
  5. Reboot: because of the large number of changes to the system, reboot now: sudo reboot, and then log back in.
  6. Test your webserver: you should be able to reach your new TimeDicer Server's web page from any other computer located on your lan, by using a browser and pointing it at the TimeDicer Server's ip address e.g.
  7. Secure your webserver: there is a second web interface at port 8080 e.g. - used by rdiffweb (see below). You should log in here as the administrator with username 'admin' and change the default password from 'admin123'.

Making a Backup: Using TimeDicer Client

You create backups from your Windows machine(s) by running the TimeDicer Client. The latest version is 6.0404 (dated 2016-04-04), and it can be downloaded here (changelog here, man page here):

  1. Download the file (link above), extract the contents to a temporary location, then run install.bat with administrative privileges (e.g. right-click on install.bat and choose 'Run as Administrator'). Enter the ip address of your TimeDicer Server when requested.
  2. Use Puttygen which is started by the install routine (or you can find in the TimeDicer folder) to generate a new public/private key pair. Under 'Parameters' you should have 'SSH-2 RSA' selected and 'Number of bits in a generated key' set to 2048. Click 'Generate' and move your mouse around a bit as advised. Save the private key as privatekey.ppk at %APPDATA%\TimeDicer (despite the warning message, don't set a 'Key passphrase'), and install the public key into your TimeDicer Server by visiting its website: to do this, select and copy all the text from Puttygen's 'Public key' box (beginning 'ssh-rsa') and paste it in to the webpage - and follow the instructions on the Server website.
  3. On your TimeDicer Server's website you also specify a password, this is not required to make a backup but it will be needed later when you use rdiffweb to recover files.
  4. Check and if necessary modify your configuration file %APPDATA%\TimeDicer\timedicer.txt, which has been created and is opened automatically by the install routine, as required. This could be as simple as these lines:
    SET server=
    SET excludelist=%APPDATA%\TimeDicer\exclude-filelist.txt
    This tells TimeDicer Client that the TimeDicer Server is at, to exclude files based on the names listed in exclude-filelist.txt, and to backup your userbase (%USERPROFILE%, which contains your Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Music etc) to an archive on the Server called 'userbase'.
  5. Now is a good time to consider what you really want to backup! Your first backup might take a long time to complete and you want to avoid backing up unnecessary data. Have a look at the usage of your hard disk with a program like WinDirStat. TimeDicer Client should be configured according to the instructions that you can can see here. Set the line(s) in your TimeDicer configuration file, and in your excludelist file, accordingly.
  6. Run TimeDicer Client from your start menu by right-clicking on TimeDicer.cmd and choosing 'Run as Administrator' (right-click not required for Windows XP).
  7. When it has completed, have a look at the log file (unless you specified something different, it is saved at %APPDATA%\TimeDicer\timedicer-log.html - you can open it from your browser e.g. File/Open), and also visit your TimeDicer Server's rdiffweb webpage and login as user for this machine (see Recovering Files with TimeDicer); here you can see and recover backed up files from the server.
  8. If errors have occurred the log file will be automatically displayed and you can also take a look at the output in the TimeDicer command prompt window which will pause at the end of the run (only if there is an error - to prevent pausing use /x switch). If you can't solve the problem, post a message at the bottom of this page.
  9. Once you are happy with your backup, add it to Task Scheduler to run (say) daily; use /x switch to prevent TimeDicer from pausing on error (log file will still be automatically displayed). Unless you have switched off VSS (see below), or are using Windows XP, make sure to set it to 'Run with highest privileges'.
  10. Note that to run TimeDicer using Volume Shadow Services (which is the best and default behaviour) it will require administrative privileges. If these are not available to you, disable VSS by adding the command 'SET vss=n' to your configuration file, or using command line switch /i n.
  11. If at a later time you want to remove TimeDicer from your client machine, just delete the 2 folders that it uses - one is %ProgramFiles%\TimeDicer or %ProgramFiles(x86)%\TimeDicer, and the other is %APPDATA%\TimeDicer.

You can also make backups from your Linux, Mac or FreeBSD computers to TimeDicer Server by running rdiff-backup. If you need help with this, send an email.

Recovering Files with TimeDicer

There are two ways to view or recover files, including earlier versions:

  1. rdiffweb - for everyday purposes this is the recommended way to recover files because it works easily through a web interface. You login in to rdiffweb at http://timedicer_server_ip:8080, supplying the username and the password that was set when this user was set up via your TimeDicer Server's web page. The first time that you login to rdiffweb as this user, you may need to update the Backup Locations by clicking on 'Preferences', then on 'Find and Update Backup Locations', and then on 'rdiffweb'.
    rdiffweb example
  2. rdiff-backup command line (--restore option) - this is the more powerful but less user-friendly way to recover files. Study the rdiff-backup manual.

Updating TimeDicer Server

It’s a good idea to update TimeDicer Server regularly because new features might be added or bugs fixed. The easy way to do this is to rerun the setup script without any parameters:

sudo /opt/

Just press enter to skip all questions except the first and third:

Setup Mirror TimeDicer Server

Having a second or mirror TimeDicer Server is optional but strongly recommended. Your Primary TimeDicer Server needs to be on your local LAN, so that your source machines can reach it easily, fast, and with a stable connection; but this means it probably has the same physical vulnerability as the source machines. Having a remote off-site mirror protects against a catastrophe (earthquake or whatever) that might affect both the source machines and your Primary TimeDicer Server. The mirror is essentially a copy of the Primary TimeDicer Server, updated regularly.

Why, you might wonder, does the Primary Timedicer Server have to be on the LAN? The overriding reason is that rdiff-backup, which is used by TimeDicer Client to communicate with the primary server, requires a stable network - if the connection breaks during a backup session, the data on the server can be damaged. Although rdiff-backup should correct this on the next run, repeated instability might result in irrecoverable damage to the backup archives. By contrast, rsync - used (by timedicer-mirror) to synchronize data between the Primary and Mirror TimeDicer Servers - copes well with the breaks in a session which can occur when sending data over the internet.

To create a mirror TimeDicer Server, you follow the same procedure as above, except call it 'timedicer2' instead of 'timedicer1'. It could be important in future that the name of this mirror server ends with a digit that is not '1' (see the section below about operating a TimeDicer Server Pool) and it is logical for your second server to use '2'.

The mirroring of the setup and data from your Primary TimeDicer Server is handled by the timedicer-mirror program (located in your Primary's /opt folder). Before running this for the first time, you need to add the public key of the root user of your primary machine to the list of authorised users on your mirror (secondary) machine. To do this, log in to your primary machine with putty, show the root public key sudo cat /root/.ssh/ (this was created by the timedicer setup program), and use your mouse to select/highlight the full text of the key, which copies it to your clipboard. Now log in to your mirror machine with putty and do sudo nano /root/.ssh/authorized_keys; with nano open, just right-click in this window to paste the public key into here, then CTRL+X and answer 'y' to save the change.

The basic operation is to run, on your primary server, /opt/ to mirror its contents to the secondary machine. An additional feature is that if it is supplied with the mac address of the secondary server, the program can 'wake' it up and then put it to 'sleep' after completion (if your mirror server is behind a different router this this router may require port-forwarding configuration because it is unlikely to admit broadcast packets, please contact me if you have problems with this).

For the initial tests and the first full run of timedicer-mirror it's probably best to locate the secondary machine on the same local lan as the primary - it is easier for testing and much faster. First run it with options -ot, which tests all connections without transferring data, then try it with -f option which does everything except mirroring /home (and is still pretty fast), and when this is working fine, run with -ao which does a full backup and provides verbose live feedback - this might take a long time (many hours even).

With this first full backup complete, subsequent runs will be much quicker and so the secondary machine could now be placed at a remote location and the backup done over the internet. (It is quite secure because it uses ssh.) Typically it is run at night when plenty of bandwidth is available. Once it is running smoothly add it, without -ao options, to /etc/crontab to run each night.

The timedicer-mirror program mirrors directories /opt and /home from the primary to the mirror. It also copies rdiffweb user details to the rdiffweb database on the mirror, and creates copies of /etc/crontab and /etc/rc.local and saves them in /opt with '.1' (or another digit depending on the primary machine's BaseID) appended to the names on both the primary and mirror machines, and it creates users and groups on the mirror to match those on the primary, except for the root user (UID=0) and the primary user (UID=1000) which are not altered. Warning: because of the major changes which it makes to the destination machine, you should not run timedicer-mirror to a machine which has any other purpose than being a mirror for your primary or is part of your TimeDicer Server Pool (see below).

Mutual Mirroring within a TimeDicer Server Pool

If you are responsible for more than one location and need offsite backups for both or all of them, you can use a TimeDicer Server Pool to provide mutual mirroring/backup of data. It works the same way as a Mirror Server but you must observe the following guidelines:

  1. Each TimeDicer Server in the pool must have a BaseID which is a number 1-9, and this must be unique within the pool. Normally this is determined by the digit at the end of the hostname (e.g. a machine named timedicer2 has BaseID 2), but this can be overridden by the file /opt/baseid which (if it exists) should contain a single digit. Failing either of these, the BaseID for a machine is 1. The BaseID for a machine can only be changed before you have created any local TimeDicer users (i.e. it can already be a Mirror Server but it cannot already be a Primary Server). [Local TimeDicer users will have uids and gids in the range BaseIDx1000+1 to BaseIDx1000+999.]
  2. Each TimeDicer user needs to have a username that is unique across the TimeDicer Server Pool. The script /opt/ is available if you need to rename a user to avoid duplication of names between Servers; and you can set the username for the TimeDicer Client program with 'SET USER=' in its configuration file (see man page here). (Note: the primary user on each machine [uid 1000], which is normally used for logging into the command line interface and should not be used for running TimeDicer Client, does not need a name that is unique across the pool and indeed it is recommended that for this primary user you always use 'timedicer'.)
  3. Run timedicer-mirror from each machine in the pool to another. The process will ensure that data for TimeDicer users local to the source machine is updated on the destination, while data for TimeDicer users local to the destination machine, or for TimeDicer users local to other machines in the TimeDicer Server Pool, is preserved on the destination machine.

Managing And Adding Space On TimeDicer Server

There can be two types of space shortage. When you set up your TimeDicer Server, you probably didn't specify that all the space in the Volume Group (VG), i.e. drive partition, should be used by your 'root' or 'home' Logical Volume (LV), so it may have available space inside VG that just needs to be added to the LV (note that if you are backing up to a Secondary TimeDicer Server you should leave at least 4GiB spare inside the VG but outside the LV for snapshots). In this case you just need to manage the space (1st para below). Alternatively you may be running low on physical space in which case you will need to add some (2nd para below).

Security & Privacy

  1. In principle each user's backup on your TimeDicer Server cannot be accessed by other users, so that one person's backed-up documents cannot be read by another person (as configured by timedicer-server-setup). But:
    • rdiffweb provides a way round this if one user knows the rdiffweb username and password of a different user.
    • The administrator can gain such access using sudo, and it is also easy for her to log in as any of the restricted users (by adding her public key to their authorized_keys files).
    So TimeDicer Server is not a suitable solution if users cannot trust the TimeDicer Server administrator. However:
    • It is possible to backup securely from the TimeDicer Server to an untrusted location by using encfs; at the cost of more than doubling the space consumed on the Primary TimeDicer Server you could copy the contents of /home to an encfs-protected mountpoint and then you could copy (using rsync) the underlying encrypted directory to the insecure destination.
    • A slightly different approach though still using encfs can be seen here.
    • Using the ecryptfs system for backups (bundled with Ubuntu) might protect against someone with physical access to the data but without administrative user rights, but not against a malicious administrator.
  2. TimeDicer Client communicates with TimeDicer Server using ssh with a private/public key pair and this is extremely secure, provided you keep the private key safe. Rdiffweb however does not use secure communication and so the possibility of man-in-the-middle interception while recovering data using the rdiffweb interface cannot be excluded. You could remove this security risk by recovering data using the command line program rdiff-backup.exe.
  3. Lastly, please note that neither TimeDicer Client nor TimeDicer Server 'phone home', so no information about your installation (not even that it exists) is passed back to me at TimeDicer or indeed to any outside party. (However logs may exist of any downloads that you make from the TimeDicer website, including any updates obtained using timedicer-server-setup.)

Additional Notes

  1. Verifying backups: The utility timedicer-verify is provided in the TimeDicer Server's /opt directory, see the help information here. You can also use in the same location - run with -h to see help.
  2. What username should I have? When you 'Add New TimeDicer User' from the TimeDicer Server's homepage, the Server creates a Linux user, and normally you should (as advised on the homepage) set the username to the Windows machine's own 'username'-'domain', which in Windows parlance is %USERNAME%-%USERDOMAIN%, in lower case and with any spaces stripped out; for instance jimjones-widgetoffice. You can download a little batch file from the homepage to give you this so you don't have to work it out. If you choose to set something different you should also set 'user' appropriately in the TimeDicer configuration file.
  3. Backing up from more than one local partition: TimeDicer takes a snapshot of only one local partition, usually C:. This means that if you specify a range of datasets covering more than one local partition (e.g. C: and E:), then only one of them will be backed up from a snapshot and the other(s) will be backed up directly from an active drive, with possible file-locking issues. If you need to backup from snapshots of more than one local drive, do separate runs of TimeDicer using /n to specify the different source and archive each time.
  4. Foreign Language Characters: If you are backing up files with unusual characters (letters) in the filenames, it is necessary that Windows fully supports these characters from the command line. If they can't be viewed correctly from the command line then they can't be backed up correctly by TimeDicer. The solution is to add the relevant language for 'non-Unicode programs' (e.g. Chinese) under the Administrative tab in Region and Language setting of Control Panel (look first in 'Clock, Language, and Region').
  5. Where are backups stored? Each 'archive' is stored in a physical directory called a 'repository' at /home/'username'-'domain' - in the example case above this would be /home/jimjones-widgetoffice. If you specify a 'basearchive' in your configuration file then this introduces an additional directory level (or levels) to the repository storage - for instance if basearchive is set to 'archives' then the archives will be found at /home/jimjones-widgetoffice/archives/. The repository holds a copy 'in the clear' of the most-recently backed-up source data, and in addition in each repository there is a sub-directory 'rdiff-backup-data' which holds, in complex and compressed form, all the data about previous versions of files, included deleted files and directories. But you should never normally need to look here and if you change anything in it you might break your archive.
  6. Permissions / ACLs: There are unconfirmed reports that rdiff-backup 1.2.8, the engine upon which TimeDicer is based, is unable successfully to backup, or at least to restore, Windows ACLs (Access Control Lists). You are therefore advised to use the option setting --no-acls (set automatically for new Timedicer installations). This means that advanced file permissions will not be recoverable from a backup. For most users this will not be a problem for data files.
  7. Restoring ACLs: After recovering to say %APPDATA% or Desktop the ACLs may be screwed up, for instance you may not be able to save files to the recovered location. You can restore the default inherited permissions using icacls from an administrator command prompt. For example (if you recovered to %APPDATA%\Thunderbird):
    icacls %APPDATA%\Thunderbird /reset /t /c /q
    This example restores permissions for all files and directories below %APPDATA%\Thunderbird to the default inherited permissions.
  8. Changing a username / Deleting a user: If you reconfigure a source machine (for instance, system upgrade) you may have a different %USERNAME%-%USERDOMAIN% than previously. To continue using the same backup identity you could add a line beginning 'SET user=' to the configuration file, but as an alternative you can change the name on the TimeDicer Server using the timedicer-rename-user script thus:
    sudo /opt/ oldusername newusername
    . If you are using a TimeDicer Mirror Server you must run the same script there. This script can also be used with -x option to delete a user account (and all its archives).
  9. EFS: Files on EFS encrypted file system (available in Professional versions of Windows) cannot be backed up using VSS. The workaround is to disable use of VSS by TimeDicer. The same is probably true (untested) of data on drives which use Microsoft's BitLocker.
  10. Upgrading Ubuntu 14.04 to 16.04: If you are upgrading an older TimeDicer Server running Ubuntu 14.04LTS to 16.04LTS, the following apply:
    1. Upgrade with sudo do-release-upgrade, and when asked accept all new installer settings (Y/I) rather than retaining old settings
    2. Run sudo /opt/ (see above, don't use -f option) once, choosing 'y' to at least the following questions:
      1. download and extract key scripts
      2. remove php5-common (if asked)
      3. (re)install and configure lvm2 (etc)


My Other Sites

My Programs

Here is a selection of some (other) programs I have written, most of which run from the command line (CLI), are freely available and can be obtained by clicking on the links. Dependencies are shown and while in most cases written for a conventional Linux server, they should run even on a Raspberry Pi, and many can run under Windows using Cygwin. Email me if you have problems or questions, or if you think I could help with a programming requirement.

Backup Utilities

Debian/Ubuntu kernel and LVM Utilities

Dellmont / Three / Giffgaff / Vodafone - VoIP and Mobile Phone Account Utilities

Miscellaneous Programs


Mark J 05 Apr 2011, 19:12
Super cool improvement upon rdiff-backup.
One request. Could you produce a how-to on manually installing this on a general distro?
I have an Arch linux system all ready setup with rdiff and would like to just add or "convert" it to timedicer. I've looked through your install script and honestly my bash skills are a little wanting.
Thanks for your ingenuity and skills!
Dominic 05 Apr 2011, 20:29
I'm happy to work with you on this but I am not familiar with Arch. I see a few issues that would need to be solved to create a 'retro-fit TimeDicer' script to work on other Linux OSes, the main one being that apt-get is used quite a bit in the setup script to install stuff (including but not only rdiff-backup). If you can provide equivalent commands for ArchLinux then we can get it sorted I think?
Mark J 05 Apr 2011, 23:49
OK. I can spend some time on this off and on between jobs and home.
The Arch equivalent command would be pacman -S --noconfirm <package name>.
The packages your install script grabs are all in the Arch repositories although under different names.
wol, apache, php, rdiff-backup, and sshfs that I can see.
But the differences in layout might be a tough can of worms. I'm pretty sure the web root is elsewhere for instance, and Arch uses BSD style init scripts instead of sysvinit. It looks like this would clobber a machine that already had Apache and a site setup on it rather than just placing the new files in a webroot subfolder for instance.
But I have a test box I can play with and see what breaks (and maybe even learn more Linux in the process :)
We can take this to my sporadically checked email if you like.
Dominic 06 Apr 2011, 14:07
I hear what you say about possible problems if there are existing installations such as Apache. But the supported configuration is for TimeDicer Server (TS) to be a clean machine. (Note that you don't have to have spare hardware because it can be virtual.)

If you use an existing machine as TimeDicer Server you have the problem of how to backup that machine - whereas a standalone TS can backup *all* your existing machines, then you have an offsite mirror to backup TS and so all your data on all your machines is safe.

I think it is important that setup of TS is pretty easy and standard. Say your existing primary TS fails, you just create a new one, run timedicer-mirror to mirror contents from your mirror TS to the new primary and you now have your running primary TS again. If the TS configuraton is bespoke (because the machine is doing other stuff) you would need a different (bespoke) approach to recover a bust TS.

So, we could look at modifying the config script to work for a clean install of Arch, or alternatively I could look at putting some instructions on this page as to how anyone could retrofit TS onto an existing machine (any Linux distro), but these would describe the required steps (e.g. install rdiff-backup, install rdiffweb), not how to do them.
Brian Hudson 29 Jun 2011, 15:03
Hi there.

This is a very nice utility. I've been able to incorporate into a nightly backup process for server servers, and it is working well.

In the log file, I notice that VSHADOW.EXE provides several writers and components, such as the IIS Metabase Writer, with the \IISMETABASE component. Can these components be used as sources in config file? For example, could I specific \IISMETABASE (or even \Registry) as a source and have rdiff-backup copy the contents to my backup server?

Dominic 29 Jun 2011, 17:02
Thanks Brian and I am pleased to hear that TimeDicer is helping you.

Your idea is interesting but I can't see a way to do it. TimeDicer uses the vshadow utility which creates a snapshot from a given source (in this case, a drive) and maps this to a share, typically \\?\GLOBALROOT\Device\HarddiskVolumeShadowCopy1.

I can't see how to achieve this for data from the other VSS writers you have identified. Let me know if you find out more.
Jim My 15 Jul 2011, 22:03
Hi there!
first of all thank you for all this, great job!

Amazed that I found your page so "late", as I have been looking for similar backup solutions for quite a while and never came across yours.

The link you mention,
"Ubuntu 10.04LTS Server (64-bit or 32-bit), obtainable here."

leads to a 404.
Would the one searched via google "Ubuntu 10.04LTS Server" be OK, or could we use the newer version?

Also, is there a way to use your software without any SSH?
On one hand traffic is local and does not need SSH.
On the other, mirroring via remote location, it goes through a VPN tunnel so again, SSH is not needed.

It would be nice to be able to exclude that by choice, as I think that SSH through a shaky connection adds to the lack of reliability of those connections.

However a VPN tunnel is rock solid.

I had the same issues with rsync & rdiff-backup.

I also do strongly recommend to include date stamps to you changelog, it will give visaitors a sense of when what was daone, if it is up to date at all etc.

Also, is the source available? Does your program "phone home"?
I found that a few do, and that is quite disturbing, as it would give the writer of the software an opportunity to get into your system.

Again, thanks for all your efforts!
From West LA, CA
Dominic 26 Jul 2011, 18:33
Thanks for your message Jim My, and I hope TimeDicer can help meet your needs.

The link to Ubuntu Server works fine, maybe there was a temporary problem with their website? I recommend you stick with 10.04LTS because the instructions here are tailored for that version. If you use a later version it may be fine but some steps may be different.

I'm not convinced of the value of connecting without ssh, I have never heard before of it contributing to connection problems. I very strongly recommend that you only run backups from TimeDicer Client to TimeDicer Server over a reliable local connection, not over internet (even VPN), but this is because rdiff-backup has limited recovery capability if the connection gets broken. rsync is good at recovering from broken connections and so this is used for mirroring the Primary TimeDicer Server to an offsite mirror server.

Allowing users not to use ssh would open up potential security problems, although I accept that over a VPN it may not have much practical value (except against internal snooping). But you could look into it yourself if you like, TimeDicer Client uses plink to connect to the Server and you could modify the code lines (2 in all I think, one to test the connection [which can be skipped], and one to run the backup).

Regarding the changelog, the dates are there really in the version numbers: [year mod 100].[2-digit month][2-digit day]

The source is all available here, and no the software does not 'phone home'.

Morten Christensen 16 Aug 2011, 11:40
Trying to setup your timedicer-server on my own virtual Ubuntu 10.04 running on Xen Cloud Platform. MTA is Postfix.

When running timedicer-server-setup it ends with an error: line 253: mail: command not found

Then I installed mailutils and run server-setup again. No error and I got an email with setup-results.

Dominic 16 Aug 2011, 12:05
Hi Morten, this is a strange error. Did you follow the setup instructions on this page (selecting 'Mail Server' when asked 'choose software to install')? You should not need mailutils but evidently your mail system was not previously fully installed because the mail command is quite a standard part of a mail system I think. Anyway I'm glad you got it sorted! Hope TimeDicer works for you..
Morten Christensen 16 Aug 2011, 13:39
Hi Dominic. I am impressed with your solition and your effort.

In most of the places, where I plan to use Timedicer, they cannot / don't want to have a local server. You very strongly recommend only to run backups from TimeDicer Client to a server over a reliable local connection, not over internet.

Is the rdiff-backup's limited recovery capability (if the connection gets broken), on the current data or only on the old data-sets ?

Let's say, the most valuable data, a family have, is their digital photos of children growing up. There is very little change in those photos, only new ones coming in, so they can live with uncertanty about rolling back to old versions.
Dominic 16 Aug 2011, 14:44
Hi Morten, I think the main risk from a failed connection during rdiff-backup session is to the history (deleted files, or previous versions of files). It is less likely that current files will be damaged because these are stored 'in the clear' on the server; this part of the archive is simple, the complex part is the previous files and versions which are stored in compressed archives.

If there is a failed rdiff-backup session and as result the archive is not marked as 'clean' then on the next session rdiff-backup should automatically 'regress' the archive to its previous clean state. This does usually work, but if there is a breakdown while this regression is happening you might then get irrecoverable damage, but still you can probably retrieve manually all or nearly all of the latest versions of current files.

I have to say that you are not the first to request a non-local primary backup, and there is no problem with doing it technically, but a local primary backup (e.g. on VM) with a secondary offsite backup is more robust I think.
Morten Christensen 20 Aug 2011, 21:25
I have got TimeDicer running, and have startet to configurate it.

On my windows 7 laptop I have a directory
that I do not want to backup.

How do you put a directory in exclude-filelist.txt ?

Dominic 21 Aug 2011, 06:16
Just add it as a line to exclude-filelist.txt, but if you are finding that this doesn't work, try again leaving out the drive specification i.e.


If only the latter works, let me know and I will fix it so the former works too.
Morten Christensen 21 Aug 2011, 10:56
exclude-filelists.txt can only handle directories without drive-specification.

Might be a problem with network-drives or systems with data on a D:-partitions from the factory.
Dominic 21 Aug 2011, 11:13
Thanks Morten I will look into it. The problem won't occur with other drives I think, only for the drive that is 'snapshot'ed with VSS - nearly always C:.

The workaround for now is, in exclude-filelist.txt, not to use the drive letter for directories in C: drive.
Dominic 25 Aug 2011, 13:58
The bug discussed above (exclude-filelists.txt) is fixed in v1.0824
Morten Christensen 28 Aug 2011, 11:17
I have the same bug with preceeding drive-letters in exclude-filelist when using 1.0825.
Morten Christensen 28 Aug 2011, 11:21
I am installing the client on a Windows 2003 Home Server.

Do you have any ideas about, how to install Timedicer as a service, so it can run at night witout any user logged in on the server?
Morten Christensen 28 Aug 2011, 11:26
When running timedicer (or rdiff-backup) over the internet, i would like to use another port instead of port 22.
I know how to change port in plink.exe, when I write by own bat-files, but cannot find a way to pass a port-number through Timedicers advanced cmd-file.
Is it possible to change port in Timedicer ?
Dominic 29 Aug 2011, 11:06
I have tried to address both the ongoing issue with using drive letter in exclude-filelist.txt (sorry), and the alternative port issue, in 1.0829.

I think it should be possible to set TimeDicer as a Scheduled Task for a user and it would still run when user is not logged on? But I haven't tried this.
Dominic 29 Aug 2011, 11:09
sorry I mean 1.0828 in my previous posting. There is a new configuration file option:
SET port=
which sets the port (default 22).
Dominic 30 Aug 2011, 16:45
TimeDicer Server now automatically creates a matching rdiffWeb user when a new user is created via its homepage.

Existing Servers can be updated by following the instructions at 'Updating Server' above; to avoid email message about deprecated code when you add a user, choose to reinstall rdiffWeb.
Morten Christensen 08 Oct 2011, 12:13
I have a user called "username-longcomputername".
We find that a bit lang, and want to change it to just "longcomputername".
On the client we can do:
Set user=longcomputername

But on the server we cannot add a new TimeDicer User. It ends with:
there is already a user with this name. Aborting...

Is it impossible to reuse the last part of a username ?
Dominic 08 Oct 2011, 18:14
It should be fine to use last part of a username. Have you tried to run TimeDicer using this new user? Probably the user was created successfully on the Server, just for some reason the success message was never shown.
Morten Christensen 09 Oct 2011, 20:44
No new directory under /home an no new .ssh. No new line in /etc/passwd.
Dominic 09 Oct 2011, 20:54
sorry this turned out to be a bug, now fixed I hope. Please download the fix by running timedicer-server-setup and selecting to download new key scripts (you can abort timdicer-server-setup after this first command has completed).
krbvroc1 31 Dec 2011, 01:48
I'm trying this out on Win7 and am having two problems:

1) I added as a task to Task Scheduler with Action
of "C:\Program Files (x86)\TimeDicer\TimeDicer.cmd"

When the script finishes the Task Scheduler is unware. When I look at the Task Manager, cmd.exe is still running. I know TimeDicer is finished because it finished writing its output log.

2) I specified a Backup path of
%USERPROFILE%\My Documents,Documents
and rdiff-backup fails. If I change that to
C:\Users\myusername\Documents,Documents it works.
Yet using %USERPROFILE%\Desktop works fine.
krbvroc1 31 Dec 2011, 02:11
I just figured out the first issue. Apparently I need to pass the '/x' exit, rather than pause option with invoking TimeDicer.cmd. That might warrant an explanation on this site under the install instructions.

"Once you are happy with your backup you should add it as a task to Task Scheduler to run (say) daily. [When invoking from the Task Scheduler, use the /x option]"
Dominic 31 Dec 2011, 12:31
Thanks krbvroc1 for your suggestion to people to use the /x switch, I've adopted it.

Regarding your second problem, the reason is that Windows 7 has a 'Documents' folder not 'My Documents'. So this should work for you:
krbvroc1 31 Dec 2011, 18:36
Isn't rdiff-backup written in python? Is it possible to install python and run rdiff-backup from it under Windows? And add the VSS calls (maybe via os.system calls). Perhaps even os.system call to the windows rdiff-backup exec if needed.

I think that environment would be much more comfortable (for me at least) than fragile .cmd scripts. Have you considered that?

My first backup last night showed a few lines of
'The process cannot access the file because it is being used by another process.
The process cannot access the file because it is being used by another process.'
in the logs.

However, one of the directories to be backed up was not even attempted. It appears in the summary of the html log, but there is no mention of it in the rest of the log and it did not run. However, the lastchanges*.txt file was updated as if it worked. Very scary.

Other changes that I think are essential are
o The ability of the backup process to first run a --remove-older-than 30D
o The ability to email the rdiff output when finished rather than remembering to check a log file on several machines.
Dominic 01 Jan 2012, 10:23
Hi krbvroc1,

Regarding working in python, that is beyond me, it sounds like a good new project if you want to try it?!

Regarding the messages you saw, these all relate to the problem of rdiff-backup.exe hanging on to the log file after it has finished. Please try the new version of TimeDicer.cmd (2.0101) which may resolve this problem.

Your other suggestions can I think be handled by you calling TimeDicer.cmd from another batch script which can perform what you want.
krbvroc1 01 Jan 2012, 18:16
I also noticed another problem. One of my backup targets was G:\folder. Looking at the process that was run and trying to decipher the 'bat' file code that gets generated and passed to vshadow, it is creating a VSS snapshot of drive C:, not G:

I also notice that even though I added the /x command so that the TimeDicer.cmd exits, it must still pause or something if there is some sort of error. This causes a cmd.exe to be left running and the task scheduler to never say it is finished and no future attempts to backup will occur.
Dominic 01 Jan 2012, 23:13
Regarding your first problem, the current version of TimeDicer (2.0102) only takes a snapshot of one local drive, usually drive C:. You can overcome this by doing multiple runs of TimeDicer using different configuration files; when the configuration file contains only sources on drive G:, TimeDicer will take a snapshot of drive G:.

For the second problem, the latest version 2.0102 should address this, please let me know if you still experience it.
krbvroc1 01 Jan 2012, 23:24
First, thanks for your help. I appreciate the time you took to look into these issues.

However, considering the limitations and quirks, as well as trying to decipher Windows batch file programming, I'll think I'll move on to writing my own using python.

It should be fairly simple and way fewer lines of code to accomplish what the Windows batch file is trying to do. And doing it in something like python will make it readable and more easily maintainable.

When I have something available, I could drop you an email if you would be interested in trying/testing it out. Since it will use vshadow and rdiff-backup, if should be compatible with your backend server setup.
Dominic 02 Jan 2012, 10:54
Thanks, when you get it going please let me know, I am sure the rdiff-backup mailing list would be interested too.
Dominic 02 Jan 2012, 17:18
Happy New Year to all TimeDicer users. For the new year we have a new version - 2! There are no sparkly new features but a flurry of recent bugfixes.

The html client log is now working pretty well. The client program no longer pauses by default, only if it has hit an error (pausing can as before be overridden with /x switch).

Email me if you are aware of any bugs or have any feature requests.
Greg 19 Apr 2012, 12:43
Firstly, thanks for all the hard work you've put into TimeDicer.

I have a problem with EFS (encrypted files) not getting backed up, they are just ignored. I was hoping they would be backed up in their encrypted state. I'd guess that the issue is with rdiff-backup. Any idea how I can get this working?

Dominic 25 Apr 2012, 12:21
Greg, I think this is related to the way VSS works. Are you using Windows 7?

A workaround may be to disable VSS by adding this line in your configuration file:

SET vss=n
Angel S 26 Apr 2012, 21:56
Dear Dominic,

I'm using Linux for the first time in order to get your application up and running in a test environment. First of all I'd like to thank you for the great job you've done both building TimeDicer and writing this step-by-step installation and configuration manager.

I'm kind of stuck in the middle of the server setup process. I've just reached step three - downloading and running the timedicer-server-setup, but when I get to the


part, I get the following message:

timedicer-server-setup: Permission denied

Cannot write to 'timedicer-server-setup' (Permission denied)

I realize that I'm on the absolute beginner level as far as Linux is concerned and I'd like to apologize for wasting your time on that issue... yet, your help will be highly appreciated!

Best regards,

Angel S 26 Apr 2012, 21:57
Installation and configuration manual is what I actually meant :)
Dominic 27 Apr 2012, 05:32
Hi Angel, sorry for your problem. Please try the following instead which should prevent the 'permission denied' error:

sudo wget
sudo chmod 744 timedicer-server-setup

The 'sudo' command means that the actual command following is run not as the normal user but as 'root' (you may have to enter your password) - root has full permissions to go anywhere, do anything, unlike the normal user which is restricted. So by using 'sudo' the command should now work.

I have updated the web page too with this advice. Let me know how you get on.
Angel S 27 Apr 2012, 09:50
Thanks again, Dominic!

The fix worked for me. Now I got a bit further. When I get to the "Download and extract key scripts from" part I receive the following message:

/opt/timedicer-server-setup: line 183: syntax error near unexpected token 'fi'
/opt/timedicer-server-setup: line 183: 'fi'

Best regards,

Dominic 27 Apr 2012, 10:06
Sorry about that, I think the bug is now fixed, please do again starting from:

sudo wget

(If you provide your email address and tick the option to 'notify me about new comments on this page' you will hear immediately when a comment is added, you can always unsubscribe later...)

Angel S 27 Apr 2012, 11:41
I'm still getting the same message :(
Jeremy 17 May 2012, 09:32
Hi there,
Trying to install on Ubuntu Server 12.04 get the following error:

sed: can't read /usr/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/rdiffWeb/ No such file or directory
An error occurred modifying /usr/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/rdiffWeb/, aborting...
Install CherryPy and rdiffWeb [FAIL]

I can see this is coming from rdiffWeb which I also tried manually downloading and installing with the same error.

Any advice?
Dominic 17 May 2012, 13:15
Jeremy's problem is fixed in the latest release I think.
Mark ( 25 Jun 2012, 10:40
Hi Dominic,

Thanks for your very well implemented TimeDicer wrapper and setup, and particularly the documentation you've provided. I've been wanting a decent backup solution and after a long search was concluding that rdiff-backup was the best option for me, and with TimeDicer it is even better.

FYI I have set TimeDicer up on a Windows 7 x64 client for backup to my Excito B3 Linux server (Debian Squeeze). This was fairly straightforward, but required some manual tweaks. There's only one problem (non-critical), and not with TimeDicer.

With both rdiff-backup and TimeDicer I have a problem with the first full backup failing after around 45-50G and no info as to why. It is not the same file. It isn't to do with access problems.

Doing manual rdiff-backup - I tried increasing -vX levels in rdiff-backup, but this wasn't greatly helpful:
- if the level is too high (e.g. -v9) the backup aborts after a few seconds!
- just right (-v7) and the backup completes but is way slower!
- too low (-v6) and it fails around 45G-50G, but will complete if repeated.

Caveat: These conclusions are based on only a few runs, so not necessarily 100% true.

So far, if I just redo the backup command it completes ok, "topping up" the failed backup with the remaining files (up to 160G).

1) I wonder if you or anyone else has experience with very large backups using rdiff-backup, and any reasons why it should choke in this way after a certain amount, but then be able to complete even though the remaining backup is even bigger!?

2) Also, is there any reason NOT to just repeat the backup command after a failure like this?

3) Do you have a mailing list or any way to be kept informed of updates?

4) Setting up for B3 Linux, I encountered some problems. One was failure of "Setup user 'admin' private/public key". Am I right to think this is only needed for mirror to another server? (I completed the process manually, but would like to know what this is for in case I have not yet got it setup correctly).

FYI: Your Windows setup script failed to start PuTTY at any time. I think there might have been some other minor glitches, but the information it provided made it easy to complete the process anyway (e.g. by starting PuTTY manually).

For example, I had some trouble getting ssh to work without prompting for a password (as usual!), and this issue was not caught by timedicer.cmd. Instead it alternated between telling me it couldn't connect to the server, or issuing endless "Wrong passphrase" messages which was rather confusing.

I hacked timedicer.cmd to see what was going on and then used plink.exe manually to debug this area. The issue was that I hadn't set up the public key properly on the server, which I find is often tricky, solved by copying the public key from the PuTTYgen dialog instead of copying the from one of the saved key files. (I think when you do the latter the newlines that break the key over several lines mess things up.)

I'd like to suggest a security tip regarding the public keys: in the authorised_keys file (on the server) it is possible to restrict use of each key to an IP address range, and to a particular command. Worth considering!

I would really appreciate your response to my questions. Let me know if you would like a new web host because as amongst other things I operate a hosting service, and would be delighted to host TimeDicer et al.

Thanks again,

Mark ( 26 Jun 2012, 20:55
Hi Dominic,

I wonder about an option to turn off use of ssh as I think this probably slows down large backups significantly, and on a local network the risk of a man in the middle attack is very low.

What do you think?

Dominic 27 Jun 2012, 09:58
@Mark: ssh compression is turned off anyway, I am not sure how much more time would be saved by using telnet, and it would require more configuration on the server.
Dominic 03 Jul 2012, 18:03
Instructions and scripts are updated for Ubuntu 12.04LTS which is now the standard configuration. Earlier versions of Ubuntu at least back to 10.04LTS should still work fine.
SImon H 10 Jul 2012, 11:03
Hi - I was wondering whether you have implemented the rdiff-backup --remove-older-than feature? I have tried running the switch from the backup server as root on the users userbase but no increments older than x are found, even when x = 1 minute...
BTW - Thanks for a really good implementation of rdiff-backup for windows users!
Dominic 17 Jul 2012, 08:50
@Simon H: re --remove-older-than

I haven't implemented this feature but you should be able to run it successfully from the command prompt (e.g. putty) on the server. You would need to specify the base archive correctly, perhaps this was your problem?

If you need to 'regress' your archive, that is remove the most recent, rather than the oldest, backups, then I have a script to do this. It can be helpful if a recent backup has bloated your archive because it inadvertently included some big files you don't want (and which you have subsequently excluded from backup through the excludelist).
Matthias 20 Nov 2012, 11:19
Hi Dominic,

your project looks very promising to me, and it's
great you provide this kind of 'out-of-the-box-solution'.

But nevertheless I'd like to use your TimeDicer-
client to backup to rdiff-backup on an existing server.

I think I don't need the web frontend for a start
(no user access - managed by admin only ;),
so what do I need to configure on the server to use
rdiff-backup with your TimeDicer-Client?

I probably need the accounts and homes it uses,
and I probably need to put the public key into the .ssh subdirectory of the user on the server side?

I didn't try it yet, but am I missing someting,
or do you think I can start this way?

Best regards and thanks for TimeDicer - in advance
Robert Rosenwald 10 Nov 2013, 04:33
I only just saw your request that I post a problem to this page. Sorry for emailing you directly earlier.

Thank you so much for TimeDicer. I know that once I get it working it will do exactly what I need.

I believe I have followed your instructions meticulously and everything has gone like clockwork until I try to do a backup using timedicer.cmd. What I get is the following:

TimeDicer v3.1102

Session Sat 11/09/2013 13:52
using configuration 'C:\Users\Robert\AppData\Roaming\TimeDicer\timedicer.txt'
FATAL ERROR: Network error: Connection refused
Cannot make connection to robert-robert-home-pc@
TimeDicer failed with error 9 - cannot connect to Server
Log at C:\Users\Robert\AppData\Roaming\TimeDicer\timedicer-log....
Press any key to continue . . .

I have used Putty to login to my timedicer server using the public key which exists as authorized_keys in the .ssh/ directory and it works perfectly, but when I try to run the cmd file whether as a user or administrator I get the error above.

I have also tested using the default timedicer.txt file and one where I commented out all but the SET server=

Any suggestion where I should next look would be much appreciated.


Robert Rosenwald

Poisoned Pen Press--Discover Mystery
6962 E. 1st Ave. #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Dominic 10 Nov 2013, 07:35
@Robert: I have sent you a reply by email...
Robert Rosenwald 13 Nov 2013, 16:37

I can't thank you enough for all the help you've provided in making this backup solution available and helping me to get it working. I'm a complete Linux newbie and your instructions were perfect. It appears to me that the few problems I had were entirely due to my inability to read carefully enough.

For a small office solution to the problem of reliable, restorable, safe, and easy-to-access backups Timedicer is superb. And equally appealing was the ability to take an older machine which was no longer in service, put in a new hard drive, and have Timedicer Server running quickly.

Thank you.

Robert Rosenwald
Poisoned Pen Press
Kris 20 May 2014, 16:26
Dominic, thank you for putting together such a convenient backup package! I have several large archives (+100GB, up to 100,000 files) and they sync without issue.

I do think I've run into a problem with long file paths (more than 255 characters). I consistently get the following exception with certain files:

Exception '[Error 3] The system cannot find the path specified: 'W:/a/long/path/name/*.*'' raised of class '':
File "rdiff_backup\robust.pyc", line 32, in check_common_error
File "rdiff_backup\rpath.pyc", line 998, in listdir

They backup fine after reducing the path length to 255 characters or less, but that is not always an option.
Dominic 20 May 2014, 17:21
@Kris, I'm not sure if you will see this response as you didn't provide an email address nor subscribe to see changes to this page. Anyway, you are not the first person to hit this problem which is caused by limitations in Windows.

If you don't need backup of the folders that are beyond the 255 character limit, you could try adding them to your exclude list, though I don't know if this would work.

A rather horrible workaround is to move that portion of the source which is beyond the 255 character limit to a different location where the pathname would be shorter. I appreciate this may not be possible in your case...

Also it has been suggested that Long Path Tool can help (find it with google), I haven't tried it and I am not sure if you have to pay to use it. If you do give it a go I would be very interested to know if it works.
Kris 22 May 2014, 13:32
Dominic: thank you for those suggestions. In the end, I was able to shorten those long paths to well under 255 characters. If there is ever a case where a path can't be shortened, I might wrap the Timedicer command in a batch file, do a subst x: and backup to a separate archive.

There were no problems manipulating the folders through windows explorer (win7 x64, enterprise edition), so I didn't need the long path tool.

Thanks again.
Dominic 23 May 2014, 12:35
@Kris: I'm glad you got it sorted and that TimeDicer is still working well for you.

Using subst could be a neat workaround, but you might have to put 'set VSS=n' in your configuration file i.e. don't backup from a snapshot. I suspect snapshots will not be possible from a virtual drive letter as allocated by subst.
Morris 13 Jul 2014, 21:43
Kris 13 Aug 2014, 14:28
Hi Dominic,

I've run into a problem with the script:

Checking destination /home total disk space - 3928G
Checking destination /home/backup space used - 0G
1160G used on source /home, 3928G total (incl unused) on destination /home - 2768G implicit surplus - ok
/opt/ line 526: 3.95055e+09/1048576: syntax error: invalid arithmetic operator (error token is ".95055e+09/1048576")

This first error is due to $REMOTESPACEAVAILABLE containing a number in scientific notation (3.5e+09). Both machines have 4TB of space and the mirror is 99% empty. Bash doesn't support floating point arithmetic (let alone scientific notation). I was able to solve this by using a printf in the awk command instead of a print:



Checking destination /home total disk space - 3928G
Checking destination /home/backup space used - 0G
1160G used on source /home, 3928G total (incl unused) on destination /home - 2768G implicit surplus - ok
3767G available on destination, 10G default headroom needed - skipping space check

So far so good, but then this happens:

Preparing destination /home/backup
Making LVM snapshot of source /dev/XX/root at /dev/XX/rootbackup Logical volume "backup" already exists in volume group "XX"

couldn't create logical volume /dev/XX/rootbackup, aborting...

Thanks for any suggestions you may have!
Dominic 14 Aug 2014, 07:14
@Kris: answered by email
Luke F 09 Sep 2014, 20:16
Thanks for this fantastic effort. I've been trying to find a commercially free piece of software that handles deltas like this and isn't clunky or hard to configure and especially supports VSS. The only thing I've noticed so far is if one is installing in 14.04.1 LTS, one must uncomment the authorized keys line in /etc/ssh/sshd_config and make sure ~/.ssh/ and ~/.ssh/authorized_keys are set to 600 not 770 which apparently is now the default for . folders in the users home dir under 14. If I can get my implementation approved here, I'll be sending a donation your way ASAP. :)

Oliver 06 Nov 2014, 13:43
I've just started using this, backing up all windows users to a dedicated timekeeper user on a general use machine rather than the suggested timekeeper server configuration.

I restricted the timekeeper client key with command="rdiff-backup --server" in the authorized_keys file. This works fine, but I needed to comment out the hometmpexists code section. I don't use ubuntu, so I don't understand the /home/tmp thing; but I wondered whether it was better to configure the server side with the correct tmp location rather than probing from the client?
Dominic 06 Nov 2014, 14:51
@Oliver: thanks for pointing that out, I have updated TimeDicer.cmd so that setting option 'SET skip-rdiff-backup-test=y' in TimeDicer.txt should also skip the initial check for ssh access including the presence of /home/tmp; and so TimeDicer.cmd should work in your situation without any further coding modification. Maybe you could check for me?

/home/tmp would only exist on older TimeDicer Servers, but isn't required. For 4.1106 and above, the first test (which the above setting will skip) verifies ssh write access to the client's home folder on the server; a failure at this stage narrows down the cause (i.e. nothing to do with rdiff-backup).
Oliver 07 Nov 2014, 19:13
Yep, skip-rdiff-backup-test=y seems to work with the new release. Thanks.

Would it be better to check that basearchive is writeable by the client? Then you're covered too if basearchive is an absolute path not under $HOME.
Dominic 08 Nov 2014, 05:40
@Oliver: Thanks for the confirmation - and good idea re basearchive, I've implemented that in 4.1108.
Ahmed Shamsan 28 Jan 2015, 21:21
thank you for this fantastic tool. i've a problem here.
my timedicer server OS failed, so i had to re-install the OS.
i manage to keep all old backups. then i fixed the login for clients users by deleting the users and adding them again.
the problem is that all backup shows successful but with 0 bytes and says "No Previous Revisions".
i'm sure there is data changes but still receive this.
this shows for both windows and Linux clients.
thank you for your time.
Dominic 29 Jan 2015, 18:14
@Ahmed: answered by email
Roch 17 Apr 2015, 17:49
thank you very much for this elegant backup tool. I get an error "Cannot perform a cyclic copy" when try to backup whole C: drive. I believe I must have misconfigured something. I have SET options=--no-acls -v5 C:,_Failai/TimeDicer/C Any help would be highly appreciated, thanks!
Dominic 17 Apr 2015, 19:44
Hi Roch, (next time you might want to supply your email address and/or check 'Notify my about new comments' so that you know when there is a reply to your message)

I think the problem is that you have specified a path with slashes for the repository, but the repository or destination must be a single directory name. You can use the configuration option 'SET basearchive=" or /b command-line switch to set directory levels above the repository - the directories specified for basearchive must already exist on the TimeDicer Server. Hope this helps.
Roch 18 Apr 2015, 13:25
Dominic: Oh, I did not mention that it did a backup once, but failed at checking for differences with that error found in log, TimeDicer just reported that there were no changes. Though, it seems it did work with another drive pretty well. Current configuration is: SET basearchive=_Failai/TimeDicer/ C:\,C F:\,F and yeah, it appears I made a goofy mistake by not putting a '\' after 'C:' and 'F:'. Thank you very much, Dominic!
Morten Christensen 04 Aug 2015, 21:10
Hi Dominic
I hope you can continue to find time to maintain your fine solution.
rdiffweb has got a new maintainer w_ww.patrikdufresne.c_om/en/rdiffweb/ and a version 7.0

I have not found a way to see the version-number on the Timedicer Server. Is it runnning 7.0 or do you plan to include it ?
Dominic 05 Aug 2015, 16:05
Hi Morten, I'm glad you are still finding TimeDicer useful! At the moment it uses rdiffWeb 0.6.3. I will be provisioning a new machine for TimeDicer in the next week or so I may try rdiffWeb 0.7 (and Ubuntu 15.04) with that. If it is successful I will update the published version/instructions. Regards, Dominic
Yuriko 28 Sep 2015, 03:49
On Ubuntu 14.04 with kernel higher than 3.13.0-59 it appears that kswapd0 sometimes starts using 100% of cpu during rdiff-backup script and it produce out of memory errors.
Ilya 11 Dec 2015, 09:48
I have a broken filenames encoding while copying files from windows 7 client to linux server.
These files are names in russian.

Any ideas?
Morten Christensen 22 Dec 2015, 21:08
Hi Dominic
Did you make any progress with rdiffWeb ver 0.7?

I have just had to restore a backup. RdiffWeb could not handle it because of wrong caracter-set (danish caracters i filenames). To try to solve that it would be good to work with the latest version of rdiffWeb.
Dominic 23 Dec 2015, 11:20
@Ilya @Morten answered by email. Now testing Patrik's rdiffweb 0.8.2dev1 which supports foreign language encoding set on per-repository basis, and has message support for French and Russian.
Yves Bellefeuille 29 Mar 2016, 23:29
I get the following error in debug mode:

TimeDicer failed with error 20 - error at second invocation of vshadow - try running with /d option

Using the /d option doesn't help.

The following error also appears:

Backing up f: (as W:) using TimeDicer v5.0910: TimeDicer.cmd /d.

VSHADOW.EXE 3.0 - Volume Shadow Copy sample client.

(Option: Generate SETVAR script 'C:\Users\omitted\AppData\Local\Temp\timedicer-2218529529-vss-setvar.cmd')
(Option: Execute binary/script after shadow creation 'C:\Users\omitted\AppData\Local\Temp\timedicer-2218529529-action.bat')

ERROR: invalid parameter 'f:'

Note the reference to drive F, which doesn't exist. I'm trying to back up drive C.

The server is running rdiff-backup rather than TimeDicer. TimeDicer.txt contains the following options:

SET server=
SET excludelist=C:\Users\omitted\AppData\Roaming\TimeDicer\exclude-filelist.txt
SET options=--no-acls -v3 --no-eas --remote-schema 'c:\program files\putty\plink' -ssh -C -l omitted -i 'c:\program files\putty\ssh_key.ppk' %%s rdiff-backup --server"
omitted, C:\
SET user=omitted
SET key="c:\program files\putty\ssh-key.ppk"
SET basearchive=/data/backups/rdiff-backup/omitted/daily

I'm using TimeDicer 5.0910 on Windows 7 Professional 32 bits. The server is running CentOS 5.11.

Any suggestions? Thanks.
Morten Christensen 17 Apr 2016, 11:57
Hi Dominic

I have to rebuild my timedicer-server after a hdd-crash.

I install on a Ubuntu 14.04 VM. After install I connot log in to rdiffweb 0.8.3 on ip:8080. All login's end with Warning: Invalid username or password.

I have used the sudo-user to install Timedicer-server, and attemp to do first login with this user. I canadd a backup-user on port 80, but this user can't either login to rdiffweb on port 8080.
Morten Christensen 17 Apr 2016, 12:12
Found an answer on www .patrikdufresne. com/en/rdiffweb/doc/
On First start, you should access rdiffweb using default crendentials: * username : admin * password : admin123
Dominic 17 Apr 2016, 16:11
Hello Morten,

yes the admin username/password is mentioned above (but it is different from what used to be).

There is/may be a bug that when you add users through the TimeDicer webpage the matching rdiff login is not set up correctly and has to be done manually. I may need Patrik's help to solve this - the old rdiffweb script that used to do this no longer works I think.
Grant 21 Apr 2016, 21:41
This looks really good so far.

One feature I'd love to see added though - syncing between two primary servers. It would be awesome to have two servers that can handle local backups at each location, and then sync to each other.

Dominic 21 Apr 2016, 22:50
@Grant: I've never tried your suggestion, but in principle I don't see why it shouldn't work. You would run timedicer-mirror from each machine back to the other. It would be important that the usernames (used when running a TimeDicer backup) are different on each machine, or they would overwrite one another.
Dominic 22 Apr 2016, 07:52
@Grant: I've now done some work on this. It probably isn't possible if you have already set up a 2nd timedicer machine because there will be overlapping uids/gids between the two machines. But if you set up a new one using the new timedicer programs (as of 22 Apr 2016) and make sure your second machine has a hostname ending in a digit that isn't 1 (e.g. timedicer2) then its uids/gids for timedicer users *created through the web interface* will be 2001+ (or 3001+ if the name is say fred3), overlaps with uids/gids on the first machine should not happen, and you can use timedicer-mirror with the (new) -b switch. (If you don't want a hostname ending in a digit, you can define the base digit in /opt/baseid.)
Grant 22 Apr 2016, 12:21
Awesome. I am setting up from scratch so I will definitely test it out.

I also tried updating rdiffweb to the latest dev version (it has pretty graphs and a way for people to add their own SSH keys inside rdiffweb itself). It seems to mostly work except the old rdiff-web-config script is broken so it can't create users.

I wrote a python script the new user cronjob can call to add rdiffweb users - I would be happy to email it to you if you want it.
Jerad 22 May 2016, 08:40
Hi Dominic,
Thanks for the great effort with TimeDicer!
I have been using rdiff-backup for a while now can't believe I hadn't come across TimeDicer earlier. Much more safer as I've had the network drop out while backing up a couple times.

Your instructions are perfect, I installed Ubuntu Server in Virtualbox and can access the webpage without a problem.
However installing the windows client, I run install.bat as administrator, it waits for any key to be pressed and as soon as I press something, it quits. I check the program files x86 and the %appdata% directories and nothing was installed. Tried on windows 2012 r2 x64 and win 7 x64.

I took at look at the install.bat in notepad and noticed at line 47, GOTO :EOF, I removed that line and it installs fine, asks for the ip and opens puttygen. Haven't actually tested further but I guess would work fine.

Thought I'd let you know so you can check it out better! I don't really understand the code all that well haha
Dominic 22 May 2016, 14:58
Hello @Jerad, someone else also just experienced this bug with install.bat, in their case it was because the unzipped directory path contained brackets, did yours?
Jerad 22 May 2016, 15:09
hmm nope, on both systems it downloaded to the C:\Users\user\Downloads folder, then done extract to timedicer\ with WinRAR and ran it from there.
Full path: C:\Users\user\Downloads\timedicer

So far everything has worked besides that, its currently doing the first backup to the VM server!
Dominic 22 May 2016, 15:19
@Jerad, you were quite right about that line 47 in install.bat, I had put it there when debugging the previous problem and forgot to remove it oops. Fixed in the latest install.bat v6.0522.
Roman 10 Jan 2017, 11:36
Hi Dominic,
this is really a very promising backup solution. Two questions: Can it delete old backups automatically? Does it correctly handle unfinished backups? Thanks Roman
Dominic 10 Jan 2017, 12:51
Hi @Roman, it correctly handles an unfinished backup by reverting the repository to the previous consistent state before carrying out the next backup.

It does not automatically delete old backups - why would you want to, they don't usually take up much space! But you can do so manually by using rdiff-backup --remove-older-than from the command line.

One thing it doesn't do (at present) is to automatically clean up the client log file, which over time can become very large and thus very slow opening. The solution is to rename or delete it periodically.
Roman 10 Jan 2017, 16:29
Hi Dominic, thanx for the reply. I consider automatic old backup deletion an essential part of every backup program, that aims to be fool-proof. In case of limited backup storage space it can be essential to handle situations when running out of disk space. Limiting backup history to certain period of time seems an efficient way. Using rdiff-backup --remove-older-than from the command line seems to be a viable solution. So does deleting the log file. To be perfect, I would suggest adding an option like Keep at least XX GB free on the destination, deleting old backups automagically as needed. By the way - is it possible to set quotas for each user on the backup disk? Thanx
Dominic 10 Jan 2017, 16:48

For the server, it would be quite possible to have a script that automagically deletes old backups but I prefer to control this manually. TimeDicer is efficient about storage: for source data that doesn't change, new backups use virtually no space.

The TimeDicer Server warns you by email if space is running low (default settings are a daily test <30% available).

The log file is kept on the client and it is unlikely to get large in absolute terms, just in terms of speed of loading in a browser. I have a script which renames log files when they get over 4MB size.

You could get quotas on the server by installing quota, maybe other ways too.
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TimeDicer concept, implementation and documentation by Dominic Raferd