Snapshot is very effective method for saving changed and deleted data. As an example my GitHub local catalog is about 677 MB in size. This is the size of the oldest snapshot. There are 17 snapshots of my GitHub local catalog and all of them are only 994 MB in size including the oldest snapshot.

All 17 snapshots are about 150,000 files and catalogs. Most of them are hardlinks only. If all snapshots was expanded there should be about 16 times more data stored on my NAS. Only changed or deleted files are stored. Files which are not changed or deleted are hardlinked only.

Snapshot administration - delete and keep snapshots

Deleting snapshots is a destructive operation and should be performed with care. It is important to have a plan about which snapshots to keep and which snapshots to delete. RsyncOSX utilizes a simple plan for delete and keep snapshots. The is based upon three parts:

  • the current week
  • the current month
  • previous months (and years)

In current and previous months the user has to select which day of week to keep. Default day is Sunday. See plan for more info about plans.

The user can also select by hand, which snapshots to keep and delete.

Utilizing Snapshots

The snapshot feature enables saving changed and deleted files ahead of a new synchronizing task. The snapshot saves the current state of all files in a separate directory ahead of any changes or deletions. Changed and deleted files can then be restored utilizing the copy single files features. The full restore will copy the last snapshot from remote storage to either the source directory or a temporary restore directory.

  • snapshots works on either local attached disks and remote hosts
  • standard rsync synchronize tasks cannot be converted to snapshots, creating snapshots starts with a full sync in the first snapshot catalog (~/snapshots/data/1)
  • the snapshot feature utilizes the --link-dest parameter to rsync
    • use either version 3.1.2 or 3.1.3 of rsync if the snapshot feature will be used
    • version 3.1.2 of rsync fixed a bug regarding the --link-dest parameter
    • version 3.1.3 of rsync was released 28 January 2018

How does the snapshots work?

Every snapshot is in sync with local catalog at the time of creating the snapshot. Previous versions of files can be restored from snapshots. The snapshot is by utilizing the --link-dest parameter to rsync. The rsync parameters for snapshots are:

--link-dest=~/snapshots/n-1 /Volumes/.../user/data/ user@remote.server:~/snapshots/n


  • n is the number of snapshots
  • and /Volumes/.../data/ is the source catalog
  • and the remote catalogs is ~/snapshots/

If remote catalog is a local volume full path must be added. The source catalog is never touched, only read by rsync. RsyncOSX creates the snapshots within the remote catalog. The ~ is expanded to the user home catalog on remote server. Utilizing snapshot on local attached disks require full path for remote catalog.

  • ~/snapshots/1 - snapshot 1
    • a full sync when snapshot is created
  • ~/snapshots/2 - snapshot 2
    • the next snapshots saves the changed files and makes hard links for files not changed
  • ~/snapshots/n - snapshot n
    • n is the latest snapshot

When the old snapshots are deleted, the filesystem takes care of saving the real files which are hard linked.

Create a snapshot task

To create a snapshot task select snapshots as type in Add tab.

Important: do not copy and paste command for execution within
a terminal window. RsyncOSX saves the number n to the
configuration. The number n is the next snapshot number.
The number n is used when computing the parameter for rsync
and is picked up from the configuration.


A full restore of the latest snapshot by utilizing the full restore. It is recommended to restore to a temporary catalog. By utilizing the copy files functionality single files or catalogs can be restored from any snapshot. Logs are marked with snapshot number.

Written on April 11, 2018