Dar Documentation

Dar Presentation

General Presentation

Dar is a command-line software aimed to backup and archiving large live filesystems. It is a filesystem independent and cross platform tool. But, Dar is not a boot loader, nor it is an operating system. It does not create nor format partitions, but it can restore a full filesystem into a larger or a shorter partition, from one partition to several ones, (or the opposite from several to one partition), from a filesystem type to another filesystem type (ext2/3/4 to reiserFS for example).

Saves all data and metadata
Suitable for Live filesystem backup
Thanks to its ability to detect file change during backup it can retry the backup of a particular file, but has also some mechanism that let the user define some actions for before and after saving a given type of file, before or after entering a given directory, and so on. Such action can be a simple user script or a more complex executable, there is no constraint.
Embedded Compression
Of course backup can be compressed with a large variety of protocols (gzip, bzip2, lzma/xz, lzo, zstd, lz4, and more to come), but the compression is done per file, leading to a great backup file robustness at the cost of unoticeable degradation of the compression ratio. But doing let you tell dar which file to compres and which one not trying to, saving a lot of CPU cycles.
Embedded Encryption
Strong encryption is available with several well known and reputed algorithms (blowfish, aes, twofish, serpent, camellia... but also by mean of public/private keys integrating GPG encrytion and signing), securing your data is not only a matter of ciphering algorithm, it is also a matter of protection against code book/dictionnary attack. For that purpose, when encryption is activated, data is floating inside the archive at a random position, thanks to two elastic buffers one added at the beginning of the archive, the other at the end. Last a KDF function with salt and parametrable iteration count increase the strength of the human provided key lead the encryption to use a different key even when the human provide the same password/passphrase for two different backups.
Cloud compatible backup tool
in addition to embedded encrytion, dar can directly use SSH/SFTP or FTP to write and read your backup to a remote storage (Cloud, NAS,...), without requiring any local storage. You can also leverage the possibily to split a backup in files of given size (called slices) to store your backup on removable storage (tapes, disks,...) even low end Blue-Ray, DVD-RW, CD-RW, ... or floppies (!) if you still have them... In that context it may be interesting to also leverage the easy integration of dar with Parchive to not only detect corruption and prevent restoring a corrupted system unnoticed, but also to repair your backup.
Many backup flavors available
Dar can perform full backup1, incremental backup2, differential backup3 and decremental backup4. It also records files that have been removed since the last backup was made, leading the restoration of a system to get the exact same state it was at the time of the differential/incremental/decremental backup (removing files that ought to be removed, adding files that ought to be added and modifing files as expected).
Binary Delta
For differential and incremental backups, you can also leverage the binary delta which leads dar to create patch of large files when they change instead of saving them all at once even if a few bytes changed (mailboxes, and so on.). A filtering mechanism let you decide which file can be saved as patch when they change and which one will always be saved as a whole when they change.
Easy automation
User commands and scripts can be run from dar at each new slice boundary, but also before and after saving some specified type of files and directories. It also provides a documented API and Python binding.
Good quality software
Dar was born in 2002 and thanks to its modular source code and highly abstracted datastructures, the many features that were added since then, never lead the developper to touch already existing features for that. Modularity and abstraction are the two pilars of the dar/libdar quality.

Dar is easy to use

While dar/libdar provide a lot of features we will not mention here, you can use dar without having the knowledge of all of them. In its most simple form, dar can be used only with few options, here follows some example of use, that should not need additional explanations:

Backing up all the /usr directory:

dar --create my_backup --fs-root / --go-into usr
Restoration (restoring /usr in a alternate directory):

dar --extract my_backup --fs-root /some/where/else
Testing backup sanity:

dar --test my_backup
Comparing a backup content with the existing filesystem:

dar --diff my_backup --fs-root /

Dar is well documented

A big effort has been made on documentation, but does not mean you have to read it all to be able to use dar, as this one is very easy to use:

Dar's documentation is big because it also includes all that may be useful to know how to use libdar, which is intended for developers of external application relying on this library. For those even more curious there is also the documentation about dar's internals: libdar's structure, archive format, which can ease the understanding of the magic that makes all this working and gives a better understanding of dar/libdar code, which is written in C++. But, no, you do not need to read all this to just use dar! ;-)

Follows an abstracted list of features if you want to know more about dar/libdar from high level point of view

Known Projects relying on dar or libdar

Projects in alphabetical order:

If a project you like is missing, you are welcome to contact dar's author for it to be referred here (contact coordinates can be found in the AUTHOR file of the source package).


1 Full backup: A full backup is a backup of a full filesystem or of a subset of files where, for each file, the archive contains all the inode information (ownership, permission, dates, etc.) file's data and eventually file's Extended Attributes.

2 Differential backup: A differential backup is based on a full backup. It contains only the data and Extended Attributes of files that changed since the full backup was made. It also contains the list of files that have been removed since the full backup was made. For files that did not change, it contains only the inode information. The advantage is that the backup process is much faster, the space required is also much lower. The drawback is that you need to restore the full backup first, then the differential backup to get the last saved state of your system. But if you want the last version of a file that changed recently you only need the last differential backup.

3 Incremental backup: An incremental backup is essentially the same thing as a differential backup. Some make a difference, I do not. The only point I see is that the incremental backup is not based on a full backup but on a differential backup or on another incremental one.

4 Decremental backup: A decremental backup is a backup method in which the most recent backup is a full backup, while the oldest backup are a difference compared to that full backup. The advantage of such type of backup is the you can restore easily your system in the last state it had using only the last backup. And, if you want to restore it in the state it had some time before, then you can restore the last backup (full backup), then the previous archive (a decremental backup) and so on. As you most usually want to restore the system in its last available state, this makes restoration much more easy compared to doing incremental backups. However, this suffer from a important drawback, which is that you need to transform the last backup into a decremental backup when comes the time to make another backup. Then you have to remove the former full backup and replace it by its decremental version.