Automatic backups with UDEV

I recently challenged myself to come up with a way to make udev automatically backup when you plug in a USB harddrive. I did all my testing with a USB stick drive, but since they both show up as block devices to the kernel, it shouldn’t matter.

UDEV Rules

To start with, we need to set up static naming for the storage device that you want to make into backup disk.  Start by plugging in the disk.  (Now I’m not using Gnome or KDE so I’m not sure what their automounter will do.  So, you might have to find a way to exclude it from the automounter.  We need to find out the “model” of the drive.  My udev rules are pretty basic, and will work since most people don’t have more than one the same model of USB drive laying around that they would use.  You can always modify the udev rules to work for you.

udevadm info -a -p /sys/block/sdc | grep model

Here we are looking at the block device sdc (which is what the kernel named it since we don’t have any udev rules yet).  This could change depending on how many block devices you currently have.  Now we take this information, and feed it into a udev rule.  I created a file /etc/udev/rules.d/50-backup.rules The name isn’t really important, however, the number 50- is.  That is the order in which it runs.  We want that number to be less than 90 so that hal doesn’t run first.  Inside that file, we have the following:

KERNEL==”sd?1″, SUBSYSTEM==”block”, ATTRS{model}==”MODEL GOES HERE”, SYMLINK+=”backup”, RUN+=”/usr/local/bin/”

Replace “MODEL GOES HERE” with the output from the udevadm command

The backup script

Now we udev running our script /usr/local/bin/ we need to make that script



su $NOTIFYUSER alt-notify-send backup "Waiting for things to settle" 0
sleep 5

su $NOTIFYUSER alt-notify-send backup "Starting backup" 0
echo "$(date) - Mounting /dev/backup to $BACKUPDIR" > /tmp/backup.log
mount /dev/backup $BACKUPDIR >> /tmp/backup.log 2>&1
echo "$(date) - Staring rsync of $MAINDIR to $BACKUPDIR" >> /tmp/backup.log
rsync -arvuz --inplace --delete $MAINDIR $BACKUPDIR >> /tmp/backup.log 2>&1
echo "$(date) - Mounting /dev/backup to $BACKUPDIR" >> /tmp/backup.log
umount $BACKUPDIR >> /tmp/backup.log 2>&1
su $NOTIFYUSER alt-notify-send backup "Backup completed" 0

We have a couple of things to setup here.  First we need to create /mnt/backup as root, and fill out the other variables in the top of the script.  Aslo, if we want notification in gnome, we need to make a notify-send work around.  Put the following in /usr/local/bin/alt-notify-send

pids=`pgrep -u $user gnome-panel`

if [ -z "$title" ]; then
    echo You need to give me a title >&2
    exit 1
if [ -z "$text" ]; then
if [ -z "$timeout" ]; then

for pid in $pids; do
    # find DBUS session bus for this session
    /proc/$pid/environ | sed -e 's/DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS=//'`
    # use it
    notify-send -u low -t $timeout "$title" "$text"

Now chmod +x the two scripts, and everything should be good to go.  You can download the scripts used in this post below:

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  • YAY! Thank you so much!!!

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  • Roland Giesler

    What would I have to do to get a number of different SAS Harddisks to all mount at the same /dev/symlink when I insert any of them. In a setup I have, there are 6 similar model drives. Three of them are backup drives that are only ever mounted one at a time. Every week we swap the one that’s in the machine with the next one. However the rsync cron script expects the drive to always be mounted at the same mountpoint. So somehow I need to read a serial number or UUID of drive and use that assign the /dev/symlink and then mount that link in /etc/fstab, right?

    Some pointers to help would be great for me, please.

  • Right, you can just write a single UDEV rule for each hard disk that does the symlink to the /dev/symlink and then even run your backup script to mount /dev/symlink to your mountpoint (or just mount via /etc/fstab). If the disks are unique enough from other devices inserted, and share a common descriptor, you could write a single rule to mount all of them. For example, if all of the drives shared the same ATTRS{model} or ATTRS{vendor} or something like that, you could just trigger your symlink creation off of that ATTR instead of the disk UUID.

    Or, you could run e2label on each drive and give them all the same label. Then use that label in your /etc/fstab

  • Roland Giesler

    The problem is all the drives are identical models, so ATTRS{model} or ATTRS{vendor} won’t work.

    However, e2label was not known to me before and may just be the simpler solution. I’ll investigate that. On the other hand, is it possible to use the UUID of a disk in a UDEV rule? If I could do that, it would also be a solution. All the example I’ve seen in the documentation are for usb, DC/DVD and such devices.

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