Home Backup tools Systemback – Restore Ubuntu Desktop and Server To Previous State

Systemback – Restore Ubuntu Desktop and Server To Previous State

By sk
Published: Last Updated on 39.7k views

Systemback is a free utility that can be used to backup and restore Ubuntu-like systems. It is somewhat similar to MS Windows's "System restore" option. Using Systemback, we can easily create backup of a Ubuntu desktop or server system, and restore them to the previous state whenever we want. It creates one or more restore points date and time-wise, and displays the most recent restore points at the top. Not only restore points, we can also create the complete backup of your live system including user configuration files and data as ISO, and save them in an external hard disk.

In a nutshell, using Systemback, we can,

  • Backup the system with or without user configuration files and data;
  • Restore system to any previous working state;
  • Copy files/folders from one partition to another;
  • Create the live Ubuntu system as ISO, and boot your system using it in-case of any problems;
  • Upgrade our system to next available version etc.

In this tutorial, let us see how to install and use Systemback utility in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS desktop and server editions.

Install Systemback in Ubuntu

I have tested this utility in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS desktop and server editions. However, It will work on previous Ubuntu versions such as Ubuntu 15.10, 15.04, and 14.04 LTS versions, and other Ubuntu derivatives like Linux Mint, Elementary etc.

First, add Systemback PPA using command:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nemh/systemback

Update the software sources using command:

$ sudo apt-get update

Finally, install Systemback using command:

$ sudo apt-get install systemback

On Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and newer versions, you can install Systemback using the following commands:

$ sudo add-apt-repository "deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/nemh/systemback/ubuntu xenial main"
$ sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv-keys 382003C2C8B7B4AB813E915B14E4942973C62A1B
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install systemback

Systemback Usage in Ubuntu desktop

Once installed, Launch Systemback either from Menu or Unity launcher.

The default interface should look like below.


As you see in the above screenshot, there are five sections namely,

  1. Restored points - List of available restore points
  2. Highly restore points
  3. Point operations - Create, hightlight, rename or delete restore points
  4. Storage directory - The location of saved restore points
  5. Function menu - This menu contains the main options such as System copy, restore, install, live system create, system repair, system upgrade, exclude, include, Schedule, and Settings etc.

Creating system restore points

At first launch, there is no restore points. So, let us create our first restore point. You can create any number of restore points either manually or automatically.

To do so, click Create New button under Point operations section.


Create Restore Point Using Systemback

Now, Systemback will start to create the first restore point.


Once restore point creation completed, It will be displayed in the main interface under Restore points section.


The newly created restore points will be stored under /home directory by default. You can change this location from Storage directory section. Make sure you have enough free space in the storage directory (i.e /home directory).

Restore Ubuntu Desktop To Previous State Using Systemback

To restore your Ubuntu system, select the restore point of your choice and click System restore option found under Function menu.


In the next window, select whether you want to do full system restore or just the System files restore. Also, you can choose whether you want to restore user(s) configuration files.

I wanted to to do full restore, so I selected the first option.


Finally, click Start.


That's it. Your system will be restored to the selected restore point.

Create live system as ISO

This is another useful option. You can create the entire the system as live bootable ISO and write the ISO to DVD or USB drive.

Click Live system create button.


Choose the location where you want to store the ISO file. Finally, click Create New button.


Also, you can include the user data files in the ISO by selecting the checkbox that reads Include the user data files.

System repair

This option helps you to fix any errors in the GRUB and fstab files.


System upgrade

Want to upgrade your Ubuntu system to the most recent version? That's also possible. Just click on the System upgrade option.

Systemback will upgrade your system automatically.



Using this section, you can exclude some files and folders from restore points.



This option allows us to include the files and folders in restore points.



This another important and useful option. We can create restore points at regular interval.



The settings option has other settings such as override auto-detected language, disable incremental restore points, create live ISO images automatically, disable scheduler daemon for particular users, enable compress for squashfs filesystems etc.


Systemback backup has plenty of useful options. Just go through every section and choose the options of your choice.

Systemback Usage in Ubuntu server

Systemback is not only for Desktops, but also works very well in Ubuntu Servers too. Systemback doesn't need GUI desktop environment. You can use it both on GUI and CLI environments.

To launch Systmback in CLI mode (i.e Servers without Graphical desktop), run the following command:

$ sudo systemback-cli

You will see the following screen.


Since it is the first time, there is no available restore points. So, let us create a new restore point.

To do so, type "g".

Now, Systemback utility will create the restore point of your Ubuntu server.


Once the restore point created, Systemback utility will display it in the main window under Available restore point(s) section.


As you see in the above screenshot, I have created only one Restore point ( 1 ─ 2016-07-26,13.35.40 )
of my Ubuntu server. The second restore point name will be 2-2016-xx-xx-xx.

To restore the Ubuntu server to its previous state, just select the restore point number (i.e 1 in our case).

In the next screen you will see the following three options.


To delete the restore point, type "1". To restore the system, type "2". To go back to the previous screen, type "3".

Let us restore the system. To do so, enter number "2".

In the next window, you can select the available restore method. There are two methods:

  1. Full restore
  2. System files restore

Also, you can select whether the user configuration files should be restored or not.

I want to do "full system restore", so I entered number "1".


Next you need to choose whether you want to keep the current fstab file and whether you want to reinstall Grub bootloader file or not.


Finally press "Y" to start the "Full Restore".


That's it. Now, Your Ubuntu server will be restored to the previous state.

After the full system restoration is completed, Press 'ENTER' key to reboot the computer, or 'Q' to quit.


As I mentioned already, the restore points will be available in the /home directory. Copy them to a USB external drive and keep them in a safe location. You can use them to restore your Ubuntu system if something went wrong.

Related read:


It is recommended to create two or three working restore points in your Production Desktop or Server. It will always help you in-case something went wrong while installing or configuring something in your Ubuntu systems. You can easily restore your Ubuntu system to the previous working state in couple minutes. As I mentioned already, make sure you have enough free space in your hard drive where you keep the restore points.

Reference links:

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Manivannan December 1, 2016 - 11:14 pm

Can we backup this restore point to external disk or usb drive? so in case of hard disk crash, we can restore to this?

thorsten reichelt December 15, 2016 - 4:26 pm

what is the quickest way to restore the ubuntu server in case the drive system drive died? install ubuntu, systemback and then restore from restore points or is there a quicker way? thank you

Harry September 28, 2018 - 9:33 pm

After googling for a while this is something looks interesting. I’m planning to take backups of my Dedicated Server which currently running on Ubuntu 16.04.
But according to Systemback’s official pages, Systemback does not matinted anymore and it’s not even utilized for Ubuntu 16.04.
So, are you sure this works perfectly fine Ubuntu 16.04?

sk September 29, 2018 - 11:18 am

As of writing this guide, it worked perfectly as described. It’s shame an useful utility like Systemback is discontinued.

Robert MacLean January 6, 2019 - 11:21 pm

I just tried to install this on Ubuntu 18.04 with no success – it said it could not be done securely so would not install (although it did download the file okay)

sublimez February 18, 2019 - 1:40 am

To anyone reading this I used part of this webpage and part of another to get working perfectly on Ubuntu 18.04.02 Server LTS.
sudo add-apt-repository “deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/nemh/systemback/ubuntu xenial main”
sudo apt-key adv –keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com –recv-keys 382003C2C8B7B4AB813E915B14E4942973C62A1B
sudo apt update
sudo apt install systemback
sudo systemback-cli (this is to load from a terminal, systemback is the command to launch in guy)

sk February 18, 2019 - 12:31 pm

Thank you.

Travus July 5, 2019 - 3:25 am

I take a iso image I made with systemback and make it pxe boot but the newer version of ubuntu 18.04.2 it binds to two ip address vs just one when using an older version of ubuntu,


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