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Create a symbolic link tree that shadows a directory structure

Terminal - Create a symbolic link tree that shadows a directory structure
find /home/user/doc/ -type d -printf "mkdir -vp '/home/user/Dropbox%p'\n" -o -type f -printf "ln -vs '%p' '/home/user/Dropbox%p'\n" | sh
2009-03-29 09:25:12
User: jnash
Functions: find
Create a symbolic link tree that shadows a directory structure

Extremely useful to maintain backups if you're using Dropbox. This mirrors the entire directory structure and places symlinks in each to the original file. Instead of copying over the data again to the ~/Dropbox folder creating a symbolic link tree is much more sensible in terms of space usage.

This has to be supplemented by another script that removes dead symlinks in the Dropbox folder which point to files that have been moved/removed.

find -L ./ -type l -delete

And then removing empty directories

find ./ -type d -exec rmdir 2>/dev/null {} \;

**Actually after some finding I found lndir which creates symbolic trees but it wasn't in the Arch repos so.. ;)


There are 3 alternatives - vote for the best!

Terminal - Alternatives

Know a better way?

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What others think

Holy crap, that's compicated.

If the src and dest are on the same filesystem (and you're on a *nix box), you may as well use hard links. Your command is reduced to:

cp -al src dest

Rather than dangling symlinks, which can also be found using the "symlinks" command, you will end up with files with a hard-link count of 1.

find src -type f -links 1 -delete

Finally you can tidy the empty directory command:

find . -depth -type d ! -name . -exec rmdir --ignore-fail-on-non-empty {} \;

This version will remove deep, but empty trees, and it won't complain about non-empty dirs.

Comment by flatcap 373 weeks and 2 days ago

Er, .. well I'll take that as a compliment :)

But, in all truthfullness, I think it is simple. find just branches into two (if/else) for dirs and files and either makes a directory or makes a symlink to the file.

Relatively, however, I guess yours wins in terms of complexity. But hard links might be a tad little more unsafe IMO considering I'm backing up stuff..

Comment by jnash 373 weeks and 2 days ago

If you're trying to back up data, this is very much the wrong way to do it.

Symlinks are NOT a backup. All they do is point to a file. If that file is changed, the symlink reflects that. Try this:

echo foo>file;ln -s file symlink;cat file;echo whoops>file;cat symlink

This creates a file, symlinks it, edits the file, and changed your "backup".

Hard links aren't safe either. do the same thing, only, you have to look harder to find out it's a link.

echo foo>file;ln file hardlink;cat file;echo whoops>file;cat hardlink

The only way to back up the data is to actually copy it elsewhere.

If you want to back up and save space, then rsync is your friend. It has some parameters that will compare to previous backups, and copy any changed files since the last backup, and hard link the rest. This way, you can delete any backup you want, and all others are unaffected. I can't tell you what they are, but google will help out:


You may also be interested in Flyback, http://flyback-project.org/ , which is a gui wrapper over rsync.

Good luck!

Comment by clockworkavian 373 weeks and 1 day ago

OP mentioned "dropbox", I think that copies the stuff to the server.

I am interested in expanding this idea to re-point the symlinks to other locations if the information has moved. it won't be foolproof but something that "finds" and repoints the link. Only ways I can think of doing this involve long scripts, so oneliners would be apprecaited if anyone can think of one.

Comment by unixmonkey3054 373 weeks and 1 day ago

@clockworkavian I think this is useful in the dropbox scenario, maybe you have a folder full of massive files and it doesn't make sense for you to keep it within your dropbox folder, by symlinking you are not using up local HDD space but it will still get uploaded to dropbox. I've done this by just symlinking the root folder. I'm interested in this mirroring approach however as there are certain files in my source folder that are massive and would fill up my dropbox however I am wanting to backup the smaller files in there so I am currently attempting to modify this script to accept a filetype filter.

Comment by stubar 68 weeks and 5 days ago

Your point of view

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