How to deal with very large backups

Biggish data

Borg itself is great for efficiently de-duplicating data across successive backup archives, even when dealing with very large repositories. But you may find that while borgmatic's default actions of create, prune, compact, and check works well on small repositories, it's not so great on larger ones. That's because running the default pruning, compact, and consistency checks take a long time on large repositories.

Prior to version 1.7.9 The default action ordering was prune, compact, create, and check.

A la carte actions

If you find yourself wanting to customize the actions, you have some options. First, you can run borgmatic's prune, compact, create, or check actions separately. For instance, the following optional actions are available (among others):

borgmatic create
borgmatic prune
borgmatic compact
borgmatic check

You can run borgmatic with only one of these actions provided, or you can mix and match any number of them in a single borgmatic run. This supports approaches like skipping certain actions while running others. For instance, this skips prune and compact and only runs create and check:

borgmatic create check

New in version 1.7.9 borgmatic now respects your specified command-line action order, running actions in the order you specify. In previous versions, borgmatic ran your specified actions in a fixed ordering regardless of the order they appeared on the command-line.

But instead of running actions together, another option is to run backups with create on a frequent schedule (e.g. with borgmatic create called from one cron job), while only running expensive consistency checks with check on a much less frequent basis (e.g. with borgmatic check called from a separate cron job).

New in version 1.8.5 Instead of (or in addition to) specifying actions on the command-line, you can configure borgmatic to skip particular actions.

Consistency check configuration

Another option is to customize your consistency checks. By default, if you omit consistency checks from configuration, borgmatic runs full-repository checks (repository) and per-archive checks (archives) within each repository. (Although see below about check frequency.) This is equivalent to what borg check does if run without options.

But if you find that archive checks are too slow, for example, you can configure borgmatic to run repository checks only. Configure this in the consistency section of borgmatic configuration:

    - name: repository

Prior to version 1.8.0 Put this option in the consistency: section of your configuration.

Prior to version 1.6.2 The checks option was a plain list of strings without the name: part, and borgmatic ran each configured check every time checks were run. For example:

    - repository

Here are the available checks from fastest to slowest:

Note that the data check is a more thorough version of the archives check, so enabling the data check implicitly enables the archives check as well.

See Borg's check documentation for more information.

Check frequency

New in version 1.6.2 You can optionally configure checks to run on a periodic basis rather than every time borgmatic runs checks. For instance:

    - name: repository
      frequency: 2 weeks
    - name: archives
      frequency: 1 month

Prior to version 1.8.0 Put this option in the consistency: section of your configuration.

This tells borgmatic to run the repository consistency check at most once every two weeks for a given repository and the archives check at most once a month. The frequency value is a number followed by a unit of time, e.g. 3 days, 1 week, 2 months, etc. The set of possible time units is as follows (singular or plural):

The frequency defaults to always for a check configured without a frequency, which means run this check every time checks run. But if you omit consistency checks from configuration entirely, borgmatic runs full-repository checks (repository) and per-archive checks (archives) within each repository, at most once a month.

Unlike a real scheduler like cron, borgmatic only makes a best effort to run checks on the configured frequency. It compares that frequency with how long it's been since the last check for a given repository (as recorded in a file within ~/.borgmatic/checks). If it hasn't been long enough, the check is skipped. And you still have to run borgmatic check (or borgmatic without actions) in order for checks to run, even when a frequency is configured!

This also applies across configuration files that have the same repository configured. Make sure you have the same check frequency configured in each thoughβ€”or the most frequently configured check will apply.

If you want to temporarily ignore your configured frequencies, you can invoke borgmatic check --force to run checks unconditionally.

Running only checks

New in version 1.7.1 If you would like to only run consistency checks without creating backups (for instance with the check action on the command-line), you can omit the source_directories option entirely.

Prior to version 1.7.1 In older versions of borgmatic, instead specify an empty source_directories value, as it is a mandatory option there:

    source_directories: []

Disabling checks

If that's still too slow, you can disable consistency checks entirely, either for a single repository or for all repositories.

New in version 1.8.5 Disabling all consistency checks looks like this:

    - check

Prior to version 1.8.5 Use this configuration instead:

    - name: disabled

Prior to version 1.8.0 Put checks: in the consistency: section of your configuration.

Prior to version 1.6.2 checks: was a plain list of strings without the name: part. For instance:

    - disabled

If you have multiple repositories in your borgmatic configuration file, you can keep running consistency checks, but only against a subset of the repositories:

    - path/of/repository_to_check.borg

Finally, you can override your configuration file's consistency checks and run particular checks via the command-line. For instance:

borgmatic check --only data --only extract

This is useful for running slow consistency checks on an infrequent basis, separate from your regular checks. It is still subject to any configured check frequencies unless the --force flag is used.


Broken pipe with remote repository

When running borgmatic on a large remote repository, you may receive errors like the following, particularly while "borg check" is validating backups for consistency:

    Write failed: Broken pipe
    borg: Error: Connection closed by remote host

This error can be caused by an ssh timeout, which you can rectify by adding the following to the ~/.ssh/config file on the client:

    Host *
        ServerAliveInterval 120

This should make the client keep the connection alive while validating backups.

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