BTRFS and Snapper (ELI5 Please)

I hope I am not messing with this wonderful forum or creating a lot of junk. But I noticed most threads show me that almost all users here are techies, not “just a user” like me. :blush:

I read about BTRFS (and installed), and about Snapper (didn’t install yet).

Sure I am missing something as I understand that BTRFS takes snapshots of the system, hashtag files,… etc. Snapper says the same (as far as I understood till now.)

  • If BTRFS takes snap shots, why need Snapper?
  • Does BTRFS snap shot my data as well (my home folder, mp3, PDF, …etc.)?
  • I assume you will explain to me both BTRFS and Snapper and I will need both, how to snapshot/incrementally backup my data?
  • In case I break the installed system and make it supposedly not bootable, do any of both make be roll back and boot? (this sounds to me as a super silly question)

Please ELI5, in simple English.

I just thought this thread might be useful to newbies. I hope.
Hope I am not filling the forum with silly stuff and junk. Sorry if I do.

Btrfs the filesystem has the ability to take snapshots (preserve the complete state of the filesystem at a certain point in time).

But taking a snapshot doesn’t happen automatically. Someone has to tell btrfs to take a snapshot. You can do it manually by issuing a command in the console. Or you want to automate it at appropriate times: in a regular interval (e.g. every hour) or at specific events (e.g. before performing a major update).

Several tools exist to configure and automate the snapshot process and allow browsing of said snapshots via a graphical user interface. Snapper is one of these tools.

PS: I’m only able to speak on btrfs generally, since I don’t use Snapper, but a different snapshot tool (btrbk). Nonetheless I hope it answers some of the questions.


first of al questions are free to ask :slight_smile:

as for snapshots there is pletara way of snapshots

with snapper ot timeshift… with snapper you have also some snappac from repo…

further i dont know snapshots not much but depend how you setup… personal… personal files i would backup seporately… just make snapshots of the system when a bad update happend you can easy rollback intoo working system.

Snapshots is basicly a moment backup of working system you can fix it by rolling back.


I got it now. Really thank you @Schlaefer.
This make a big difference and eliminate confusion I had. :partying_face:

1 Like

So, I can create 2 profiles in Snapper, one for the system, another for my data?

On rolling back to a working system, does this work if I messed up my system and it is supposedly (under ext4) not bootable?

This is the main reason I’m enjoying this great community and this great distro :partying_face:

With all my due respect most other forums gave me a feeling of a “customer support department” not a community.

If everything is set up right, then yes. To elaborate:

This gets a little bit more complicated - I struggled with that in the beginning too.

You format your disk to btrfs. Then you (or if you’re lucky the installer - EndeavourOS should do it if you install on a btrfs volume/disk) divide that drive into subvolumes.

Subvolumes sound crazy complicated in the beginning, but just imagine them as “mountable folders” where you organize things. You create a subvolume for root (the OS) and your files (your home folder). You can name those subvolumes however you want, but there’s a convention that they start with an “@” character. Don’t think about it to much, it’s just a name - there’s nothing special about the @ character.

A common layout is “@” for root/system/the OS and “@home” for the /home directory. The reason for that is that you’re doing snapshots on a subvolume level! So you’re dividing area “concerns” or “areas of responsibility”.

If you want to e.g. backup or restore (reinstall) you can do that for the OS or home folder without affecting the other! One benefit of btrfs is that those subvolumes share the same space. So you don’t have decide “this much space for the OS and this much GB for the home-folder”. It’s dynamically allocated.

Part of the common “@…” convention is that some software expects this layout, as does Snapper.

Since that’s a lot to process I’ll stop here. :slight_smile:

The good thing here I was suspecting my mental abilities but you just made feel OK.

I found this source, I’m trying to get as much as I can.

For now, I’ll just install Snapper and it GUI, to get a better “feel” with something “in my hands”.

Will update you how it goes so that hopefully to make it easier for newbies like me.

Just my 2 cents here :
For the system I would advice indeed to take snapshots. I personally have no experience with Snapper so I can’t tell about it, but I use Timeshift along with grub-btrfs. It allows me to take snapshots at each boot (Timeshift configuration) and to see them - and eventually select them - in the grub, when I boot.

As for my personnal data, I use borg with vorta as GUI. It works really well and keep differential backups on an external SSD disk.

Of course there are plenty other ways to achieve this, but this is what works well for me.
(And … Welcome to EOS)

1 Like

Thank you @Schlaefer

It’s been 2 days almost now.
I’ve been reading a lot about Sanpper and BTRFS
Both look great for me.
I already did Timeshift, updated grub,… etc.
Now I have an option to boot from any previous state (and “roll back” to it.

Unfortunately, Snapper and even snapper GUI seemed way complicated for me. I’m under impression they were made with IT guys and servers in the back mind!

At least I’m enjoying TimeShift snapshots.
P.S. In case you read my previous posts about my laptop being unresponsive. this is my second day on LXQT, and it is working as it should be as Linux. I don’t know why my laptop didn’t like KDE Plasma and XFCE. :astonished:

Nice to hear you found something.

I checked out snapper at the start of my btrfs-journey too - it’s often mentioned next to btrfs in tutorials - but it felt to complicated for me. A GUI should make life easier, but it felt more complicated to me. Maybe the situation is different on an automated Suse installation (where snapper originated). Same feelings towards Timeshift here.

Grub bootable snapshots are automagically created here too, but I don’t use/test them often enough to rely on them. My personal 99.9% use case is “I need to (manually) restore an individual file or folder in the state it was a short time ago.”, which I know works, because I use it on a daily basis. That’s one of btrfs’ killer-features for me.

I actually missed it (please drop a link). In my personally experience plasma should be fine on hardware made in the last ten years. Beyond that XFCE gets the job done. On really, really old hardware (32-bit era) I had good results with sparkylinux (stable, XFCE) out of the box.

Hi. @Schlaefer
Sorry for late reply. Her is the link

By the way, I just reinstalled (again) KDE Plasma basic not full.
It is challenging me and I take the challenge

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed 2 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.