HowTo: Ubuntu as a Time Machine Volume

HowTo: Ubuntu as a Time Machine Volume


Have you ever wished you could use Apple’s Time Machine service over a network? Since I’ve got almost 2TB of storage on my Linux (Ubuntu 9.10) server, I certainly did – but unfortunately Apple only lets you use physically attached USB or Firewire drives, or their own network-attached “Time Capsule”.

Well, it turns out theres a solution for us Linux folk, and while it’s not exactly simple to implement it’s certainly worth the effort. Time Machine just works. Plus I have the added bonus of knowing all my files are backed up to some remote server (which in my case is hidden away from view should some nasty person decide they wanted to modify my front door and help themselves to my shiny new iMac.)

The solution I used is detailed here at – (As is the graphic I’ve borrowed!). There’s a fair number of CLI commands to wade through, but even if you dont fully understand you should be safe just following the instructions. The article has been updated several times following comments from various folk. If the basic steps dont work for you, read through the caveats and other user’s comments for help.

The guide was written before Snow Leopard came out, but I can confirm that everything works fine. You will need to manually create the “.sparsebundle” file as described in the “Problems with creating the backup disk image” section. Note that despite what you see in the Console App, Snow Leopard requires you to use the file naming convention described in the article – which means finding the MAC address of your primary ethernet adapter. Your disk image file should look something like this:


Despite what some folk say in the comments, running AFP on Ubuntu doesn’t compare with the speed of SMB (Samba) – which is a shame, as I prefer AFP. However, it’s a requirement for Time Machine – so dont be surprised if that initial sync (in my case 290Gb) takes several hours. Once done, everything will be reasonably snappy, and you wont even notice TM doing it’s thing :o)

It should only take you about half an hour to have everything setup and ironed out. Have fun in the CLI :o)