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Section: Maintenance Commands (8) Updated: September 15, 2002
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tob - Tape Oriented Backup  


tob [ -rc rcfile ] [ [ -f alternate_device ] [ -backups ] [ -check ] [ -find specification ] [ -full volume ] [ -fullcount volume ] [ -diff volume ] [ -diffcount volume ] [ -inc volume ] [ -inccount volume ] [ -restore volume [ specification ] [ directory ]] [ -verbose ] [ -verify volume ]  


tob is a simple yet configurable shell-script which, given a set of `volume definitions', runs tar(1) or afio(1) based backups.

tob is a general driver for the making and maintaining of backups. It makes full backups, differential backups (of the files which were changed since the last full backup), incremental backups (of the files which were changed since all previous backups), lets you determine the size of the backup before actually making it, and maintains listings of made backups.

tob can create backups on either tape devices or your computer's filesystem. Backups stored in your filesystem are automatically deleted once they reach a certain age.  


-rc resourcefile
This argument selects an alternative resource file instead of the standard tob.rc which is read from the directory /etc/tob. When present, this argument must be the first on the command line.
-f alternative_device
This argument selects an alternative device file for the backup or restore operation. When present, this argument must be the first, or second after -rc on the command line.
This flag will cause tob to show which backups were made and when. This information is retrieved from backup listings in the /var/lib/tob directory. Sample output of this command is:

 VOLUME: test TYPE: Full         DATE: Mar 7  10:09

 VOLUME: test TYPE: differential DATE: Mar 7  11:18

 VOLUME: unix TYPE: Full         DATE: Feb 23 18:39
This argument will cause tob to check its environment settings, to scan the resource file, and to report errors. When no errors are found, tob will report which volumes are defined. This argument may be useful when installing and testing tob.
-find specification
This causes tob to scan its listing files and to report any files which match specification. The specification argument is a grep(1) expression, and may contain regular expression commands. The -find command is useful to determine in which backup a given file resides. E.g., the command

   tob -find '.*in' 
lists all files ending with "in". The files can then be restored from the reported backup. The command

   tob -find .
will list all files of all volumes.
-full volume
These arguments start a full backup of volume. The volume is defined by its files in /etc/tob/volumes. The backup device, backup program etc. are defined in the resource file.
-fullcount volume
These arguments cause tob to report the size (in bytes) of a full backup of volume. The backup is not actually made; only its size is determined.
-diff volume
This causes tob to start a differential backup of volume. A differential backup is only possible when a previous full backup exists.
-diffcount volume
These arguments cause tob to report the number of bytes which would be backed up during a differential backup. This command may be useful to determine whether a differential backup should be made yet.
-inc volume
This flag causes tob to start an incremental backup. This type is only possible when a full backup exists and involves all files which are changed since all the backups of the volume.
-inccount volume
These arguments cause tob to report the number of bytes which would be backed up during an incremental backup.
-restore [volume] [specification]
These flags cause tob to restore all files which match the specification. The directory argument is optional; when present, tob restores the files under the mentioned directory. By default the files are restored under the current working directory. The specification may contain wildcards; e.g., /etc/def* will restore any files which start with "/etc/def". Wildcards may have to be quoted to prevent shell expansion, as in:

  tob -restore '/etc/def*'
You can, e.g., restore all files which end in "myfile" with the expression *myfile; no matter from which directory the files were backed up.

Please note that some archivers prefer to get specifications without the leading slash, e.g. 'etc/apache/*'. Arj is one example.

This command will list the contents of the backup device. Use tob -verbose | grep expression to list only files on the backup device which match expression.
-verify volume
This command lets tob verify the last full backup. This options is only available for backups made with afio(1). The differences found by afio(1) are reported on the standard output.


The tob script depends on the variables specified in this resource file during its actions. The format of the resource file is variable=value, defining names for various variables which are used by tob. Comments can be present in the resource file, when preceded by a hash-mark. The resource file follows the standard /bin/sh syntax. Please see the examples supplied with tob.
Files in this directory define backup volumes. A volume name is defined by a file name.startdir which contains the starting directories of the backup. The format of this file is one directory per line. No comments may occur in this file. E.g., if your configuration has two disk filesystems mounted on / and /usr respectively, then a backup volume bothdisks which selects both filesystems is defined by the following file bothdisks.startdir:


Since the default behavior of tob is to select only files from one device and not to descend different devices, in this scenario, if you provide a starting directory of / , then /usr would not be backed up.

If your start directories have spaces or special characters in them, they must be escaped for the bash shell, which generally means a backslash in front of spaces:

   /windows/Documents\ and\ Settings/

A second file, name.exclude, can be created to indicate files to exclude from a backup name. This file is optional. When present, the exclude file must contain grep-expressions of the names to exclude, one name per line. E.g., for a backup named unix of the whole Unix filesystem it may be a good idea to exclude the temporary files from /tmp and /usr/tmp. A possible exclude file unix.exclude might then contain

Please consult grep(1) for regular expressions.
Files in this directory are used to store listings of backup volumes made by tob. These files are managed internally by tob. Each backup volume has one associated list file. It contains information about name and path of each file, the time the file was last changed, its owner, group and permissions, the inode, and the number of hard links that point to it.
On Debian GNU/Linux, more documentation about tob is stored here. Please see the text file tob.txt.gz or the postscript version for a detailed description of tob.
On Debian GNU/Linux, several examples for tob resource files are stored here.


Stephen van Egmond <>, based on previous work by Karel Kubat <>.



Dirk Eddelbuettel <>.  


tar(1), afio(5), grep(1).




This document was created by man2html, using the manual pages.
Time: 22:02:31 GMT, April 16, 2011