Comprehensive Guide: Backing Up and Recovering Data in MariaDB

Comprehensive Guide: Backing Up and Recovering Data in MariaDB

Ensuring the safety and integrity of data in your database management system should be one of the highest priorities. MariaDB, a powerful and widely used open-source relational database system, provides robust mechanisms for backing up and recovering data. This comprehensive guide aims to equip you with the knowledge and practical know-how to implement a reliable backup strategy in MariaDB. From installing the backup utility to configuring automatic backups, creating backup scripts, performing manual backups, and efficiently recovering data, this article covers it all. Keep reading to learn how to safeguard your valuable data in MariaDB.


Install the Backup Utility

sudo apt update
sudo apt install -y mariadb-backup

Create a Backup Script

Create a backup script at /usr/local/bin/


# Enable errexit so the script stops as soon as it encounters an error
set -e

# Create directory for backups
mkdir -p /var/mariadb/backup

# Store the backup filename
FILENAME=/var/mariadb/backup/backup_$(date -u +%Y%m%dT%H%M%SZ).gz

# Use mariabackup to create a compressed backup of the database
mariabackup --user=root --backup --stream=xbstream | gzip > "$FILENAME"

# Was the backup file created?
if [ -f "$FILENAME" ]; then
        # Is the file too small to contain data?
        if [ $(stat -c "%s" "$FILENAME") -lt 100000 ]; then
                # Remove the junk file. Output error. Exit.
                rm "$FILENAME"
                echo "Backup failed: The backup file contained no data" >&2
                exit 1
        # Output error. Exit.
        echo "Backup failed: No backup file was created" >&2
        exit 1

# Count the number of backup files
NUM_BACKUPS=$(find /var/mariadb/backup -type f -name "backup_*\.gz" | wc -l)

# If there are multiple backup files...
if [ $NUM_BACKUPS -gt 1 ]; then
        # Remove backup files that are 14 days old or older
        find /var/mariadb/backup -type f -name "backup_*\.gz" -mtime +14 -exec rm {} \;

Some notes about this script:

  • It will store backup files at /var/mariadb/backup. Feel free to change the path to suit your needs. Be aware that there are multiple places in the script where you'll need to change it.

  • The filename of each backup with be in the format of backup_20230714T0853Z.gz. The part after backup_ is the time the backup was started in UTC. Feel free to change the filename on the FILENAME= line.

  • Normally, if there is an error backing up the database, a (very small) file is still created. The script will check if the file is too small. If so, it assumes there was an error so it deletes the file and reports an error.

  • The script will also delete backup files older than 14 days. You can change the number of days by changing +14 to whatever you like. You can also remove this part of the script entirely if you never want to remove old backups. Just delete the line that starts with NUM_BACKUPS= and the if block that comes after it.

Make the script executable.

sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/

Configure Automatic Backups with systemd

I like to configure database backups to happen automatically on a schedule. My Debian Linux server uses systemd so I leverage it to set a service and a timer to run my backups.

Create /etc/systemd/system/backup_databases.service.

Description=Backup Databases



Create /etc/systemd/system/backup_databases.timer.

Description=Run Database Backup Script Daily



This timer triggers daily at midnight. You can change this. Here are some examples:

  • If you want to trigger at 5 AM, use OnCalendar=*-*-* 05:00:00

  • If you want to trigger at midnight every 7 days, use OnCalendar=*-*-* 00:00:00/7

  • If you want to trigger at 6 AM and 6 PM, use OnCalendar=*-*-* 06,18:00:00

Reload the system daemon to pick up the new service and timer.

sudo systemctl daemon-reload

Enable the timer so it starts when the system starts.

sudo systemctl enable backup_databases.timer

Start the timer now.

sudo systemctl start backup_databases.timer

At this point, all MariaDB databases will be automatically backed up to /var/mariadb/backup on the schedule you set.

Manually Backing Up Databases

You can back up databases at any time.

sudo mariabackup --user=root --backup --stream=xbstream | sudo gzip > /var/mariadb/backup/backup_$(date -u +%Y%m%dT%H%M%SZ).gz

Or you could run the backup script.

sudo /usr/local/bin/

Running the backup script will run the entire script, including the command which removes backups 14 days or older.


Take a Manual Backup

Before continuing with data recovery, I highly recommend creating a manual backup, in case you need to revert to the state before recovery started.

Recover the Data

Create a directory for storing the recovered files temporarily.

sudo mkdir /var/mariadb/backup/recovered

You can change /var/mariadb/backup/recovered to any directory you like. If you do, make sure to use your directory in all of the following commands.

Unzip the compressed database backup in the directory.

sudo gunzip -c /var/mariadb/backup/backup_20230430T031458Z.gz | sudo mbstream -x --directory=/var/mariadb/backup/recovered

Change /var/mariadb/backup/backup_20230430T031458Z.gz to the actual path of your backup file.

Prepare the recovery files. This is necessary because files created at backup time are not point-in-time consistent and MariaDB will reject the recovery if not properly prepared.

sudo mariabackup --prepare --target-dir=/var/mariadb/backup/recovered

Stop MariaDB.

sudo systemctl stop mariadb

Remove all existing data files.

sudo rm -rf /var/lib/mysql

MariaDB is meant to be a drop-in replacement for MySQL, so it uses the MySQL name for some things.

Restore the backup files.

sudo mariabackup --copy-back --target-dir=/var/mariadb/backup/recovered

Change ownership of the newly recovered files so that the mysql user can access them properly.

sudo chown -R mysql:mysql /var/lib/mysql

Start MariaDB.

sudo systemctl start mariadb

The database is now restored to the state it was in when the backup was taken.

Remove the recovery files as they are no longer needed.

sudo rm -rf /var/mariadb/backup/recovered

Protecting your data from unforeseen events or accidental corruption is crucial for maintaining the integrity of your database. By following the steps outlined in this comprehensive guide, you can establish a robust backup strategy tailored to your needs. Remember, regularly backing up your data and understanding the recovery process will save you from potential headaches and downtime. With the knowledge gained from this article, you are well-equipped to secure your data and confidently navigate data backup and recovery in MariaDB.

Cover photo by Eugene Golovesov on Unsplash.