borg create

borg [common options] create [options] NAME [PATH...]
positional arguments
  NAME specify the archive name
  PATH paths to archive
  -n, --dry-run do not create a backup archive
  -s, --stats print statistics for the created archive
  --list output verbose list of items (files, dirs, …)
  --filter STATUSCHARS only display items with the given status characters (see description)
  --json output stats as JSON. Implies --stats.
  --no-cache-sync experimental: do not synchronize the cache. Implies not using the files cache.
  --stdin-name NAME use NAME in archive for stdin data (default: ‘stdin’)
  --stdin-user USER set user USER in archive for stdin data (default: do not store user/uid)
  --stdin-group GROUP set group GROUP in archive for stdin data (default: do not store group/gid)
  --stdin-mode M set mode to M in archive for stdin data (default: 0660)
  --content-from-command interpret PATH as command and store its stdout. See also section Reading from stdin below.
  --paths-from-stdin read DELIM-separated list of paths to back up from stdin. All control is external: it will back up all files given - no more, no less.
  --paths-from-command interpret PATH as command and treat its output as --paths-from-stdin
  --paths-delimiter DELIM set path delimiter for --paths-from-stdin and --paths-from-command (default: \n)

Common options

Include/Exclude options
  -e PATTERN, --exclude PATTERN exclude paths matching PATTERN
  --exclude-from EXCLUDEFILE read exclude patterns from EXCLUDEFILE, one per line
  --pattern PATTERN include/exclude paths matching PATTERN
  --patterns-from PATTERNFILE read include/exclude patterns from PATTERNFILE, one per line
  --exclude-caches exclude directories that contain a CACHEDIR.TAG file (
  --exclude-if-present NAME exclude directories that are tagged by containing a filesystem object with the given NAME
  --keep-exclude-tags if tag objects are specified with --exclude-if-present, don’t omit the tag objects themselves from the backup archive
  --exclude-nodump exclude files flagged NODUMP
Filesystem options
  -x, --one-file-system stay in the same file system and do not store mount points of other file systems - this might behave different from your expectations, see the description below.
  --numeric-ids only store numeric user and group identifiers
  --atime do store atime into archive
  --noctime do not store ctime into archive
  --nobirthtime do not store birthtime (creation date) into archive
  --noflags do not read and store flags (e.g. NODUMP, IMMUTABLE) into archive
  --noacls do not read and store ACLs into archive
  --noxattrs do not read and store xattrs into archive
  --sparse detect sparse holes in input (supported only by fixed chunker)
  --files-cache MODE operate files cache in MODE. default: ctime,size,inode
  --read-special open and read block and char device files as well as FIFOs as if they were regular files. Also follows symlinks pointing to these kinds of files.
Archive options
  --comment COMMENT add a comment text to the archive
  --timestamp TIMESTAMP manually specify the archive creation date/time (yyyy-mm-ddThh:mm:ss[(+|-)HH:MM] format, (+|-)HH:MM is the UTC offset, default: local time zone). Alternatively, give a reference file/directory.
  -c SECONDS, --checkpoint-interval SECONDS write checkpoint every SECONDS seconds (Default: 1800)
  --checkpoint-volume BYTES write checkpoint every BYTES bytes (Default: 0, meaning no volume based checkpointing)
  --chunker-params PARAMS specify the chunker parameters (ALGO, CHUNK_MIN_EXP, CHUNK_MAX_EXP, HASH_MASK_BITS, HASH_WINDOW_SIZE). default: buzhash,19,23,21,4095
  -C COMPRESSION, --compression COMPRESSION select compression algorithm, see the output of the “borg help compression” command for details.


This command creates a backup archive containing all files found while recursively traversing all paths specified. Paths are added to the archive as they are given, that means if relative paths are desired, the command has to be run from the correct directory.

When giving ‘-’ as path, borg will read data from standard input and create a file ‘stdin’ in the created archive from that data. In some cases it’s more appropriate to use --content-from-command, however. See section Reading from stdin below for details.

The archive will consume almost no disk space for files or parts of files that have already been stored in other archives.

The archive name needs to be unique. It must not end in ‘.checkpoint’ or ‘.checkpoint.N’ (with N being a number), because these names are used for checkpoints and treated in special ways.

In the archive name, you may use the following placeholders: {now}, {utcnow}, {fqdn}, {hostname}, {user} and some others.

Backup speed is increased by not reprocessing files that are already part of existing archives and weren’t modified. The detection of unmodified files is done by comparing multiple file metadata values with previous values kept in the files cache.

This comparison can operate in different modes as given by --files-cache:

  • ctime,size,inode (default)
  • mtime,size,inode (default behaviour of borg versions older than 1.1.0rc4)
  • ctime,size (ignore the inode number)
  • mtime,size (ignore the inode number)
  • rechunk,ctime (all files are considered modified - rechunk, cache ctime)
  • rechunk,mtime (all files are considered modified - rechunk, cache mtime)
  • disabled (disable the files cache, all files considered modified - rechunk)

inode number: better safety, but often unstable on network filesystems

Normally, detecting file modifications will take inode information into consideration to improve the reliability of file change detection. This is problematic for files located on sshfs and similar network file systems which do not provide stable inode numbers, such files will always be considered modified. You can use modes without inode in this case to improve performance, but reliability of change detection might be reduced.

ctime vs. mtime: safety vs. speed

  • ctime is a rather safe way to detect changes to a file (metadata and contents) as it can not be set from userspace. But, a metadata-only change will already update the ctime, so there might be some unnecessary chunking/hashing even without content changes. Some filesystems do not support ctime (change time). E.g. doing a chown or chmod to a file will change its ctime.
  • mtime usually works and only updates if file contents were changed. But mtime can be arbitrarily set from userspace, e.g. to set mtime back to the same value it had before a content change happened. This can be used maliciously as well as well-meant, but in both cases mtime based cache modes can be problematic.

The mount points of filesystems or filesystem snapshots should be the same for every creation of a new archive to ensure fast operation. This is because the file cache that is used to determine changed files quickly uses absolute filenames. If this is not possible, consider creating a bind mount to a stable location.

The --progress option shows (from left to right) Original and (uncompressed) deduplicated size (O and U respectively), then the Number of files (N) processed so far, followed by the currently processed path.

When using --stats, you will get some statistics about how much data was added - the “This Archive” deduplicated size there is most interesting as that is how much your repository will grow. Please note that the “All archives” stats refer to the state after creation. Also, the --stats and --dry-run options are mutually exclusive because the data is not actually compressed and deduplicated during a dry run.

For more help on include/exclude patterns, see the borg help patterns command output.

For more help on placeholders, see the borg help placeholders command output.

The --exclude patterns are not like tar. In tar --exclude .bundler/gems will exclude foo/.bundler/gems. In borg it will not, you need to use --exclude ‘*/.bundler/gems’ to get the same effect.

In addition to using --exclude patterns, it is possible to use --exclude-if-present to specify the name of a filesystem object (e.g. a file or folder name) which, when contained within another folder, will prevent the containing folder from being backed up. By default, the containing folder and all of its contents will be omitted from the backup. If, however, you wish to only include the objects specified by --exclude-if-present in your backup, and not include any other contents of the containing folder, this can be enabled through using the --keep-exclude-tags option.

The -x or --one-file-system option excludes directories, that are mountpoints (and everything in them). It detects mountpoints by comparing the device number from the output of stat() of the directory and its parent directory. Specifically, it excludes directories for which stat() reports a device number different from the device number of their parent. In general: be aware that there are directories with device number different from their parent, which the kernel does not consider a mountpoint and also the other way around. Linux examples for this are bind mounts (possibly same device number, but always a mountpoint) and ALL subvolumes of a btrfs (different device number from parent but not necessarily a mountpoint). macOS examples are the apfs mounts of a typical macOS installation. Therefore, when using --one-file-system, you should double-check that the backup works as intended.

Item flags

--list outputs a list of all files, directories and other file system items it considered (no matter whether they had content changes or not). For each item, it prefixes a single-letter flag that indicates type and/or status of the item.

If you are interested only in a subset of that output, you can give e.g. --filter=AME and it will only show regular files with A, M or E status (see below).

A uppercase character represents the status of a regular file relative to the “files” cache (not relative to the repo -- this is an issue if the files cache is not used). Metadata is stored in any case and for ‘A’ and ‘M’ also new data chunks are stored. For ‘U’ all data chunks refer to already existing chunks.

  • ‘A’ = regular file, added (see also I am seeing ‘A’ (added) status for an unchanged file!? in the FAQ)
  • ‘M’ = regular file, modified
  • ‘U’ = regular file, unchanged
  • ‘C’ = regular file, it changed while we backed it up
  • ‘E’ = regular file, an error happened while accessing/reading this file

A lowercase character means a file type other than a regular file, borg usually just stores their metadata:

  • ‘d’ = directory
  • ‘b’ = block device
  • ‘c’ = char device
  • ‘h’ = regular file, hardlink (to already seen inodes)
  • ‘s’ = symlink
  • ‘f’ = fifo

Other flags used include:

  • ‘+’ = included, item would be backed up (if not in dry-run mode)
  • ‘-’ = excluded, item would not be / was not backed up
  • ‘i’ = backup data was read from standard input (stdin)
  • ‘?’ = missing status code (if you see this, please file a bug report!)

Reading from stdin

There are two methods to read from stdin. Either specify - as path and pipe directly to borg:

backup-vm --id myvm --stdout | borg create REPO::ARCHIVE -

Or use --content-from-command to have Borg manage the execution of the command and piping. If you do so, the first PATH argument is interpreted as command to execute and any further arguments are treated as arguments to the command:

borg create --content-from-command REPO::ARCHIVE -- backup-vm --id myvm --stdout

-- is used to ensure --id and --stdout are not considered arguments to borg but rather backup-vm.

The difference between the two approaches is that piping to borg creates an archive even if the command piping to borg exits with a failure. In this case, one can end up with truncated output being backed up. Using --content-from-command, in contrast, borg is guaranteed to fail without creating an archive should the command fail. The command is considered failed when it returned a non-zero exit code.

Reading from stdin yields just a stream of data without file metadata associated with it, and the files cache is not needed at all. So it is safe to disable it via --files-cache disabled and speed up backup creation a bit.

By default, the content read from stdin is stored in a file called ‘stdin’. Use --stdin-name to change the name.


# Backup ~/Documents into an archive named "my-documents"
$ borg create my-documents ~/Documents

# same, but list all files as we process them
$ borg create --list my-documents ~/Documents

# Backup ~/Documents and ~/src but exclude pyc files
$ borg create my-files                \
    ~/Documents                       \
    ~/src                             \
    --exclude '*.pyc'

# Backup home directories excluding image thumbnails (i.e. only
# /home/<one directory>/.thumbnails is excluded, not /home/*/*/.thumbnails etc.)
$ borg create my-files /home --exclude 'sh:home/*/.thumbnails'

# Backup the root filesystem into an archive named "root-YYYY-MM-DD"
# use zlib compression (good, but slow) - default is lz4 (fast, low compression ratio)
$ borg create -C zlib,6 --one-file-system root-{now:%Y-%m-%d} /

# Backup into an archive name like FQDN-root-TIMESTAMP
$ borg create '{fqdn}-root-{now}' /

# Backup a remote host locally ("pull" style) using sshfs
$ mkdir sshfs-mount
$ sshfs sshfs-mount
$ cd sshfs-mount
$ borg create{now:%Y-%m-%d} .
$ cd ..
$ fusermount -u sshfs-mount

# Make a big effort in fine granular deduplication (big chunk management
# overhead, needs a lot of RAM and disk space, see formula in internals docs):
$ borg create --chunker-params buzhash,10,23,16,4095 small /smallstuff

# Backup a raw device (must not be active/in use/mounted at that time)
$ borg create --read-special --chunker-params fixed,4194304 my-sdx /dev/sdX

# Backup a sparse disk image (must not be active/in use/mounted at that time)
$ borg create --sparse --chunker-params fixed,4194304 my-disk my-disk.raw

# No compression (none)
$ borg create --compression none arch ~

# Super fast, low compression (lz4, default)
$ borg create arch ~

# Less fast, higher compression (zlib, N = 0..9)
$ borg create --compression zlib,N arch ~

# Even slower, even higher compression (lzma, N = 0..9)
$ borg create --compression lzma,N arch ~

# Only compress compressible data with lzma,N (N = 0..9)
$ borg create --compression auto,lzma,N arch ~

# Use short hostname, user name and current time in archive name
$ borg create '{hostname}-{user}-{now}' ~
# Similar, use the same datetime format that is default as of borg 1.1
$ borg create '{hostname}-{user}-{now:%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%S}' ~
# As above, but add nanoseconds
$ borg create '{hostname}-{user}-{now:%Y-%m-%dT%H:%M:%S.%f}' ~

# Backing up relative paths by moving into the correct directory first
$ cd /home/user/Documents
# The root directory of the archive will be "projectA"
$ borg create 'daily-projectA-{now:%Y-%m-%d}' projectA

# Use external command to determine files to archive
# Use --paths-from-stdin with find to back up only files less than 1MB in size
$ find ~ -size -1000k | borg create --paths-from-stdin small-files-only
# Use --paths-from-command with find to back up files from only a given user
$ borg create --paths-from-command joes-files -- find /srv/samba/shared -user joe
# Use --paths-from-stdin with --paths-delimiter (for example, for filenames with newlines in them)
$ find ~ -size -1000k -print0 | borg create \
    --paths-from-stdin \
    --paths-delimiter "\0" \