How to set up backups with borgmatic


To get up and running, first install Borg, at least version 1.1.

Borgmatic consumes configurations in /etc/borgmatic/ and /etc/borgmatic.d/ by default. Therefore, we show how to install borgmatic for the root user which will have access permissions for these locations by default.

Run the following commands to download and install borgmatic:

sudo pip3 install --user --upgrade borgmatic

This is a recommended user site installation. You will need to ensure that /root/.local/bin is available on your $PATH so that the borgmatic executable is available.

Note that your pip binary may have a different name than "pip3". Make sure you're using Python 3, as borgmatic does not support Python 2.

Other ways to install

Along with the above process, you have several other options for installing borgmatic:

Hosting providers

Need somewhere to store your encrypted offsite backups? The following hosting providers include specific support for Borg/borgmatic. Using these links and services helps support borgmatic development and hosting. (These are referral links, but without any tracking scripts or cookies.)


After you install borgmatic, generate a sample configuration file:

sudo generate-borgmatic-config

If that command is not found, then it may be installed in a location that's not in your system PATH. Try looking in /usr/local/bin/.

This generates a sample configuration file at /etc/borgmatic/config.yaml (by default). You should edit the file to suit your needs, as the values are representative. All options are optional except where indicated, so feel free to ignore anything you don't need.

Note that the configuration file is organized into distinct sections, each with a section name like location: or storage:. So take care that if you uncomment a particular option, also uncomment its containing section name, or else borgmatic won't recognize the option.

You can also get the same sample configuration file from the configuration reference, the authoritative set of all configuration options. This is handy if borgmatic has added new options since you originally created your configuration file.


Note that if you plan to run borgmatic on a schedule with cron, and you encrypt your Borg repository with a passphrase instead of a key file, you'll either need to set the borgmatic encryption_passphrase configuration variable or set the BORG_PASSPHRASE environment variable. See the repository encryption section of the Borg Quick Start for more info.

Alternatively, you can specify the passphrase programatically by setting either the borgmatic encryption_passcommand configuration variable or the BORG_PASSCOMMAND environment variable. See the Borg Security FAQ for more info.


If you'd like to validate that your borgmatic configuration is valid, the following command is available for that:

sudo validate-borgmatic-config

This command's exit status ($? in Bash) is zero when configuration is valid and non-zero otherwise.

Validating configuration can be useful if you generate your configuration files via configuration management, or you want to double check that your hand edits are valid.


Before you can create backups with borgmatic, you first need to initialize a Borg repository so you have a destination for your backup archives. (But skip this step if you already have a Borg repository.) To create a repository, run a command like the following:

borgmatic --init --encryption repokey

This uses the borgmatic configuration file you created above to determine which local or remote repository to create, and encrypts it with the encryption passphrase specified there if one is provided. Read about Borg encryption modes for the menu of available encryption modes.

Also, optionally check out the Borg Quick Start for more background about repository initialization.

Note that borgmatic skips repository initialization if the repository already exists. This supports use cases like ensuring a repository exists prior to performing a backup.

If the repository is on a remote host, make sure that your local user has key-based SSH access to the desired user account on the remote host.


Now that you've configured borgmatic and initialized a repository, it's a good idea to test that borgmatic is working. So to run borgmatic and start a backup, you can invoke it like this:

borgmatic --verbosity 1

By default, this will also prune any old backups as per the configured retention policy, and check backups for consistency problems due to things like file damage.

The verbosity flag makes borgmatic list the files that it's archiving, which are those that are new or changed since the last backup. Eyeball the list and see if it matches your expectations based on the configuration.


Running backups manually is good for validating your configuration, but I'm guessing that you want to run borgmatic automatically, say once a day. To do that, you can configure a separate job runner to invoke it periodically.


If you're using cron, download the sample cron file. Then, from the directory where you downloaded it:

sudo mv borgmatic /etc/cron.d/borgmatic
sudo chmod +x /etc/cron.d/borgmatic

You can modify the cron file if you'd like to run borgmatic more or less frequently.


If you're using systemd instead of cron to run jobs, download the sample systemd service file and the sample systemd timer file. Then, from the directory where you downloaded them:

sudo mv borgmatic.service borgmatic.timer /etc/systemd/system/
sudo systemctl enable borgmatic.timer
sudo systemctl start borgmatic.timer

Feel free to modify the timer file based on how frequently you'd like borgmatic to run.

Colored output

Borgmatic produces colored terminal output by default. It is disabled when a non-interactive terminal is detected (like a cron job). Otherwise, you can disable it by passing the --no-color flag, setting the environment variable PY_COLORS=False, or setting the color option to false in the output section of configuration.


libyaml compilation errors

borgmatic depends on a Python YAML library (ruamel.yaml) that will optionally use a C YAML library (libyaml) if present. But if it's not installed, then when installing or upgrading borgmatic, you may see errors about compiling the YAML library. If so, not to worry. borgmatic should install and function correctly even without the C YAML library. And borgmatic won't be any faster with the C library present, so you don't need to go out of your way to install it.