Automate (offline) backups with restic and systemd

This blog post builds on the content of the fedora magazine article Automate backups with restic and systemd.

2 important features were missing in the article for my use case:

  • Don't reveal restic passwords in plain-text files

  • Backup to offline storage (USB flash drive)

Fortunately modern Linux distributions offer all mechanisms to implement these 2 requirements:

  • Udisks(2) allows non-privileged users to mount external USB-disks automatically

  • systemd.path allows path-based activation of systemd units

  • restic can be configured call an external command to retrieve the password

  • pass the UNIX password manager uses GPG, which in turn uses pinentry to retrieve the pass master-password

The remaining task is to combine the mechanisms so that the backup starts automatically when the USB flash drive is inserted. Furthermore a status message should be displayed after the backup.

Udisks automount

Storage devices that are plugged into the system mount automatically as long as polkit does not get in the way. The default udisks2 policy should allow users on local consoles to mount the file systems:

pkaction  -a org.freedesktop.udisks2.filesystem-mount -v
  description:       Mount a filesystem
  message:           Authentication is required to mount the filesystem
  vendor:            The Udisks Project
  icon:              drive-removable-media
  implicit any:      auth_admin
  implicit inactive: auth_admin
  implicit active:   yes

implicit active applies to clients in active sessions on local consoles. The value yes means that mounting file systems doesn't require extra authentication.

You can use pkcheck to check if you have access from your session:

pkcheck -u -p $$ -a org.freedesktop.udisks2.filesystem-mount && echo can mount!
can mount!

systemd user units

The following configurations assume that the repository is located in the subdirectory restic on a USB drive with the label RESTIC.

Description=Restic backup

Environment=RESTIC_PASSWORD_COMMAND="pass Backup/restic@flashdrive"
ExecStart=restic backup %h/shared
ExecStopPost=-bash -c '[[ $EXIT_STATUS == 0 ]] &&  notify-send "Backup finished: Drive can be removed."'
ExecStopPost=-bash -c '[[ $EXIT_STATUS != 0 ]] &&  notify-send "Backup failed." -u critical'

Desktop Notifications are used in ExecStartPost commands to inform the user about the exit status of restic:


To automatically start the backup when the USB drive is mounted we create the file backup.path with the following content:

Description=Restic backup Directory Watch


Don't forget to enable and start the path unit:

systemctl --user enable backup.path
systemctl --user start backup.path


I also thought about to implement a reminder (via notify-send) for backups using timer jobs but came to the conclusion that this is over-engineering. I use Org mode repeated tasks to keep track of my offline backup tasks.

I left out the pruning part to keep the article short and clear. Don't use restic prune in ExecStop: It is not suitable for long-running processes (TimeoutAbortSec applies here).