BackupPC: Backup of Laptops and Lab-PCs


For D-PHYS-owned laptops, laptops holding a relevant amount of ETH data, and for lab PCs, we offer a backup service specifically targeted at computers with intermittent network access.

Backup Policy

There are three types of computers whose data we accept for backup:

  • ETH-owned lab computers which are not always online or otherwise not suitable for Netbackup (e.g. macOS, Windows Vista): Usually only scientific data is backed up, exceptions are possible in special cases.
  • ETH-owned laptops and desktops which are not always online or otherwise not suitable for Netbackup (e.g.macOS, Windows Vista): Only the home directory of the user or users are backed up.
  • private laptops: We only back up directories exclusively used for ETH data. We recommend the name "ETH-Data" for this directory.

Further restrictions

  • BackupPC is primarily meant to restore selected files, and does usually not allow a full system restore. Please use other backup technologies if you need that feature (disk images, TimeMachine, etc).
  • The computer to be backed up needs either a static IP or a unique hostname set and sent with the DHCP request. In the last case we recommend to include research group, room number and user name to achieve this, e.g. "isg-hpt-d17-beckert". Any single word name will not suffice since backup will stop working in most cases if another computer sends the same name.
  • Will not work without cabled connection. WLAN/WiFi NOT SUPPORTED!
  • See our list of excluded folders to know which folders are not backed up.

Backup times

BackupPC uses no fixed schedule. It tries to make at least one backup every 24 hours. When it will try that depends mostly on when the computer to backup is online. The exact rules are as follows:

  • It looks every 15 minutes if a machine is online.
  • If it is online, it checks the date of the last backup of that machine.
  • If the newest backup is older than 24 hours, it will try to make a backup.
  • It will postpone the backup to the next available time slot, if too many other backups are running currently on the server.
  • If a machine was permanently online for more than a week in a row, backups will be made only during the night.


This backup service uses the free backup software BackupPC. BackupPC is a file oriented backup system and uses SSH together with rsync or tar to make or restore backups, but it can also use SMB to access Windows computers. There's usually no third party software needed on the client computer.

Preparing your computer for BackupPC

To be able to use this backup service, you need to configure your computer appropriately.

Register your computer for the D-PHYS BackupPC service

If your computer complies to the conditions above and you have already done the operating system specific preparations described above, register the computer for D-PHYS BackupPC service.

Access, Restore, and Manage your Backups

To fetch or restore a file from backup, or to immediately schedule or stop a backup, you can log into the backup system with your D-PHYS account. Open the web interface corresponding to the server where your machine is backed up.

Documentation of the web interface can be found here.