Pardon my ignorance, I am a new user of this site, Linux, and the Raspberry Pi.

The following is a link to a question, from which I used user goldilocks' well documented answer of using rsync, to create my own rsync command to make a backup to a folder on the HDD of a MacBook Pro on my local network:

Can a Raspberry Pi be used to create a backup of itself?

I was unable to follow up on this question and unable to message the user goldilocks because it seems that there is no such thing on Stack Exchange?

What I came up with is this:

rsync -aHv --rsync-path="sudo rsync" --delete-during --exclude-from=/Users/user/Documents/rsync-exclude.txt --rsh="ssh" user@host:/ /Users/user/Desktop/rpi-backup/

From what I understand the addition of the --rsync-path="sudo rsync" argument allows for not having to use an (insecure) root account over ssh.

All seems to go well but unfortunately I get an error at the end of the transfer which looks like this:

rsync error: some files could not be transferred (code 23) at /BuildRoot/Library/Caches/com.apple.xbs/Sources/rsync/rsync-47/rsync/main.c(1400) [generator=2.6.9]

Is this something I should be worried about and if so how do I fix it? Or, is this because I used a rsync-exluded.txt file to exclude certain directories from being copied over during the rsync and this error is just confirming this?

Also, it was said by a user who replied to this question that it wouldn't be possible to backup to a Mac? My command seemed to work without problems as there was obviously a backup of the filesystem in the folder which I designated as the destination. The only hitch was the error that I received at the end of the rsync.

  • Welcome to the Stack Exchange (and the Raspberry Pi flavoured corner of it)! Whilst you cannot send messages to a particular user if you participate in (initially) asking good questions and providing good answers your reputation will increase to the point where you can talk in the chat rooms (20+ reputation) and add comments to material that is not your own (50+).
    – SlySven
    Feb 22, 2016 at 0:14
  • The user "goldilocks" is currently one of our moderators (note the ♦ next to their name) and as such is quite active - you may well find him in "The Bakery" which is the primary chat room for the Raspberry Pi SE... Oh, and have a +1 for a reasonable question to help you on your way. 8-)
    – SlySven
    Feb 22, 2016 at 0:17
  • The link you quoted has many different variants. I routinely use one of these (to backup to HDD). You should specify where you are attempting to backup to. Unfortunately, if you are trying to backup to OS X you will not succeed, for many different reasons. You can backuk to another Linux machine.
    – Milliways
    Feb 22, 2016 at 0:38
  • Thank you for the warm welcome SlySven! Hopefully I'll get enough points to get into this chatroom eventually! Milliways, could you please explain why it is that you said I will not succeed in backing up to OS X or possibly point me to somewhere , where this statement is a bit more fleshed out? Feb 22, 2016 at 1:14
  • If you are referring to a comment you should address it (with @). 1 The Unix and Linux rsync differ, 2 OS X overlays Unix with its own layer which prevent access to certain directories 3 Unless Users match settings may be lost, 4 Permissions on hfx and ext4 differ significantly. You may be successful in backing up user files, but system files will be lost/lose permissions.
    – Milliways
    Feb 22, 2016 at 2:18

2 Answers 2


There are several problems with doing what you are trying to do.

  1. As others pointed out, you lose a lot of metadata going from ext[234]fs to hfs+ and back. Also, by default hfs+ is case-preserving but case-insensitive, so if you have, e.g, /bin/foo and /bin/Foo, you'll lose one of them. Better use another linux machine. In the extremely unlikely case that you don't have a spare machine, just bring up a linux VM on your macbook.
  2. the rsync options are not wrong. You need -avSHxAX to correctly transfer all metadata.
  3. You don't really need --rsync-path or --rsh. Just do what you are doing as root, and set up .ssh/authorized_keys on the other machine's root account to allow access. Less confusing.
  4. The right way to take backups is to use dump/restore.

I've been using rpi-clone every day for a few weeks to clone my running RPi3 running Raspian Jessie. It takes about 10 minutes to clone to a second Micro SD card. I then switch off, take out both cards, store the original and boot using the clone. Hence I know that the backup works. I rotate 3 cards in this way, so that I always have a safe card. It works for me ;-)

  • Interesting script Geoff, unfortunately I don't have the needed hardware at the moment to check it out. Will be checking it out soon though. Thanks for the link. Apr 25, 2016 at 11:06
  • @chaoticslacker, The latest version of rpi-clone is now 2.0.22 (works for Buster). Wondering if you'd like to Select my Answer?
    – Geoff
    Jul 21, 2020 at 6:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.