How to set up backups



First, install Borg, at least version 1.1. borgmatic does not install Borg automatically so as to avoid conflicts with existing Borg installations.

Then, install pipx as the root user (with sudo) to make installing borgmatic easy without impacting other Python applications on your system. If you have trouble installing pipx with pip, then you can install a system package instead. E.g. on Ubuntu or Debian, run:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install pipx

Root install

If you want to run borgmatic on a schedule with privileged access to your files, then you should install borgmatic as the root user by running the following commands:

sudo pipx ensurepath
sudo pipx install borgmatic

Check whether this worked with:

sudo su -
borgmatic --version

If borgmatic is properly installed, that should output your borgmatic version. And if you'd also like sudo borgmatic to work, keep reading!

Non-root install

If you only want to run borgmatic as a non-root user (without privileged file access) or you want to make sudo borgmatic work so borgmatic runs as root, then install borgmatic as a non-root user by running the following commands as that user:

pipx ensurepath
pipx install borgmatic

This should work even if you've also installed borgmatic as the root user.

Check whether this worked with:

borgmatic --version

If borgmatic is properly installed, that should output your borgmatic version. You can also try sudo borgmatic --version if you intend to run borgmatic with sudo. If that doesn't work, you may need to update your sudoers secure_path option.

Other ways to install

Besides the approaches described above, there are several other options for installing borgmatic:

Hosting providers

Need somewhere to store your encrypted off-site backups? The following hosting providers include specific support for Borg/borgmaticโ€”and fund borgmatic development and hosting when you use these referral links to sign up:

Additionally, has a compatible storage offering, but does not fund borgmatic development or hosting.


After you install borgmatic, generate a sample configuration file:

sudo borgmatic config generate

Prior to version 1.7.15 Generate a configuration file with this command instead:

sudo generate-borgmatic-config

If neither command is found, then borgmatic may be installed in a location that's not in your system PATH (see above). Try looking in ~/.local/bin/.

The command generates a sample configuration file at /etc/borgmatic/config.yaml by default. If you'd like to use another path, use the --destination flag, for instance: --destination ~/.config/borgmatic/config.yaml.

You should edit the configuration file to suit your needs, as the generated values are only representative. All options are optional except where indicated, so feel free to ignore anything you don't need. Be sure to use spaces rather than tabs for indentation; YAML does not allow tabs.

Prior to version 1.8.0 The configuration file was organized into distinct sections, each with a section name like location: or storage:. So in older versions of borgmatic, take care that if you uncomment a particular option, also uncomment its containing section nameโ€”or else borgmatic won't recognize the option.

You can 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. Also check out how to upgrade your configuration.


If you encrypt your Borg repository with a passphrase or 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 programmatically 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 configure your backups to go to multiple different repositories, see the documentation on how to make backups redundant.


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

sudo borgmatic config validate

Prior to version 1.7.15 Validate a configuration file with this command instead:

sudo validate-borgmatic-config

You'll need to specify your configuration file with --config if it's not in a default location.

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.

Repository creation

Before you can create backups with borgmatic, you first need to create 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 with Borg 1.x:

sudo borgmatic init --encryption repokey

New in borgmatic version 1.7.0 Or, with Borg 2.x:

sudo borgmatic rcreate --encryption repokey-aes-ocb

(Note that repokey-chacha20-poly1305 may be faster than repokey-aes-ocb on certain platforms like ARM64.)

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 creation.

Note that borgmatic skips repository creation 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 created 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:

sudo borgmatic create --verbosity 1 --list --stats

(No borgmatic --list flag? Try --files instead, leave it out, or upgrade borgmatic!)

The --verbosity flag makes borgmatic show the steps it's performing. The --list flag lists each file that's new or changed since the last backup. And --stats shows summary information about the created archive. All of these flags are optional.

As the command runs, you should eyeball the output to see if it matches your expectations based on your configuration.

If you'd like to specify an alternate configuration file path, use the --config flag.

See borgmatic --help and borgmatic create --help for more information.

Default actions

If you omit create and other actions, borgmatic runs through a set of default actions: prune any old backups as per the configured retention policy, compact segments to free up space (with Borg 1.2+, borgmatic 1.5.23+), create a backup, and check backups for consistency problems due to things like file damage. For instance:

sudo borgmatic --verbosity 1 --list --stats

Skipping actions

New in version 1.8.5 You can configure borgmatic to skip running certain actions (default or otherwise). For instance, to always skip the compact action when using Borg's append-only mode, set the skip_actions option:

    - compact


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

If borgmatic is installed at a different location than /root/.local/bin/borgmatic, edit the cron file with the correct path. You can also 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, you can still configure borgmatic to run automatically.

(If you installed borgmatic from Other ways to install, you may already have borgmatic systemd service and timer files. If so, you may be able to skip some of the steps below.)

First, 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 --now borgmatic.timer

Review the security settings in the service file and update them as needed. If ProtectSystem=strict is enabled and local repositories are used, then the repository path must be added to the ReadWritePaths list.

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

launchd in macOS

If you run borgmatic in macOS with launchd, you may encounter permissions issues when reading files to backup. If that happens to you, you may be interested in an unofficial work-around for Full Disk Access.


Shell completion

borgmatic includes a shell completion script (currently only for Bash and Fish) to support tab-completing borgmatic command-line actions and flags. Depending on how you installed borgmatic, this may be enabled by default.


If completions aren't enabled, start by installing the bash-completion Linux package or the bash-completion@2 macOS Homebrew formula. Then, install the shell completion script globally:

sudo su -c "borgmatic --bash-completion > $(pkg-config --variable=completionsdir bash-completion)/borgmatic"

If you don't have pkg-config installed, you can try the following path instead:

sudo su -c "borgmatic --bash-completion > /usr/share/bash-completion/completions/borgmatic"

Or, if you'd like to install the script for only the current user:

mkdir --parents ~/.local/share/bash-completion/completions
borgmatic --bash-completion > ~/.local/share/bash-completion/completions/borgmatic

Finally, restart your shell (exit and open a new shell) so the completions take effect.


To add completions for fish, install the completions file globally:

borgmatic --fish-completion | sudo tee /usr/share/fish/vendor_completions.d/
source /usr/share/fish/vendor_completions.d/

Colored output

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


"found character that cannot start any token" error

If you run borgmatic and see an error looking something like this, it probably means you've used tabs instead of spaces:

test.yaml: Error parsing configuration file
An error occurred while parsing a configuration file at config.yaml:
while scanning for the next token
found character that cannot start any token
  in "config.yaml", line 230, column 1

YAML does not allow tabs. So to fix this, replace any tabs in your configuration file with the requisite number of spaces.

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.

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