Why your Chrome OS Linux backups are not working and how to fix it

By - Dan Millward

Published -

One of the great features of owning a Chrome OS computer is the ability to install Linux Apps. The ability to install Linux apps on your Chromebook opens up a whole new type of functionality.

If you use Linux a lot on your Chromebook then you may get to a stage where you want to back up your Linux data. This is important because installing Linux and all of your favourite programs is something you may do over a long period of time.

If the worst happens and you need to factory reset your Chromebook or you simply want to upgrade to a new device. Ensuring all of your Linux programs and the documents you create using these apps are backed up is vital.

Linux on Chrome OS

Installing Linux apps is a little different to Android apps. It’s fair to say there is a bit more to it. Using Linux apps is a lot about tweaking them to work just how you want. This can be done by changing settings over time. The easiest way to install Linux apps is to use a Linux App store.

This means you may get to a stage where you’ve got all the Linux apps you want and where they are working perfectly for you. However, if someone asked you to recreate your whole Linux install from scratch, you may forget exactly how you got where you are today.

This is the beauty of Linux. It allows you to tweak so many different things to make your apps work just how you want. Also, you’ll most likely have plenty of files that you’ve saved in Linux that you’ve created using Linux Apps. For example, you may have a lot of image files that you’ve created using GIMP, and you would want to ensure these are also backed up.

Linux apps are different to Android apps

If for some reason you need to factory reset your Chromebook. One thing you don’t need to worry about is Android apps. This is because these apps are much easier to install. Also, the Android apps you install are synced with your Google account.

This means you don’t need to worry about remembering the Android apps you like to use. When you factory reset a Chromebook or even if you’re buying a new one. As soon as you log in with your Google account your Android apps are automatically downloaded onto your new device. This is totally different to Linux apps, where you’d have to install them again manually.

The only thing you need to worry about before resetting a Chromebook or replacing it with a new one. Is to make sure any files you have stored locally are backed up. This is an easy process because you can move them to Google Drive.

Backing up Linux on Chrome OS

Because it isn’t as easy to reinstall your Linux apps as it is with your Android apps. You’ll want to ensure you backup your Linux install. A Linux backup will ensure everything you’ve done since installing Linux is backed up.

This will allow you to reinstall your Linux backup, so you have access to all of the programs and files you’ve created. If your Linux backup is less than 4GB you would have easily been able to backup Linux to an external device such as a USB stick. You can then use this to reinstall Linux at any time.

If on the other hand, your Linux backup was more than 4GB then you may have experienced problems with backing it up to an external disk. If you’ve experienced this problem it isn’t anything to do with your Linux backup not working, it’s all to do with the external drive you’re trying to back it up to.

You need to use an NTFS drive

When you format a USB stick or an external disk on Chrome OS it will automatically default to FAT32. This is a file system that is used on Chromebooks and many other devices such as video cameras.

The issue with FAT32 is that it can only handle files that are 4GB or below. Any file over this size cannot be written to a FAT32 disk. This is why most large external hard disks are formatted using NTFS.

NTFS is a more secure file system and one of the biggest benefits is that it isn’t limited to only dealing with files under 4GB. If you’ve been trying to back up your Linux install to an external disk and you have been unsuccessful. It’s most likely because your Linux backup file is over 4GB and your external disk is formatted using FAT32.

To fix this you need to format the disk and use the NTFS file system. Once you’ve done this you’ll be able to back up your Linux install to an external disk.

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