When you run a full backup in backuppc and you use rsync as the transfer method, does it actually transfer the full backup source? Or does it only transfer the changes? The docs seem to imply that it would transfer the full thing and only an incremental would transfer the changes.

If this is the case, could I simply use incrementals only, and never do a full backup? The way the backups are stored (using hard links to make each incremental appear full), I would think that this would be the best method. Incrementals will only transfer the changes, yet each backup will appear full.


  • Incremental backups rely on there being one full backup to start with.
    – user3914
    Feb 20, 2011 at 23:47

2 Answers 2


After the first full backup, file transfers appear to be similar to those required for an incremental backup. More directory information is transfered. Incremental backups only pick up new and modified files since the last full backup. You need period full backups to track file and directory deletions. The transfer overheads are similar after the first full backup.

I just setup backuppc myself. Rsync has the nice feature that if both systems already have a file, it doesn't need to be transferred. There is a long period at the start of the backup where the information to determine which files need to be transferred is determined. The first full backup will transfer the whole file system. From my review of the documentation 1% of the files are transferred and compared to ensure pool is OK.

Rsync uses modification time to determine if the file has changed. It may use other criteria as well. Backuppc uses the same criteria.

Full backups build a full directory tree so file deletions are fully tracked. After the first full backup the transfer volumes are significantly lower. The backup speed seems similar to that of an Incremental backup.

Incremental backups don't record the information required to determine if a file has been deleted. They appear to have a relatively sparse directory tree sufficient to hold the new and modified files.

EDIT: I triggered a full backup on a system with only an incremental backup of most files. It ran very quickly and linked most files as same, rather than copying them. This is what I expected. Network load was significantly less than for the initial transfer.

  • Thanks. This is what I would have expected, but the documentation made me think otherwise.
    – mhost
    Feb 22, 2011 at 17:11

According the logs, the full backup duration is very superior. The incrementals backups are fastest. I believe that BackupPC really copy all files and don't consider last full backup.

BackupPC Log

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