Qubes Backup Restoration Chaos

Hello, I am fairly new to Qubes. I’ve been experimenting with the systems and customizations. I have appreciated the customization and the endless possibilities, though the documentation isn’t quite there yet when compared to Open/FreeBSD or Arch. I feel like there should be deeper use case documentation and example templates based upon threat level, as opposed to answers such as “well it depends on your threat level”. I feel like this OS is being marketed at journalists and the like, yet a lot of answers are given as if the end user should have a degree in virtualisation, networking, and infosec. This is not really a complaint, but rather a retrospection on the way the community percieves outsiders. There are exceptions to this of course like Solène and unman (forgive me if I misspelled or missed any other helpful forum members).

I apologize for the beginning rant but I feel I need to present these disclaimers out of fear that my opinions would be dismissed without prior explanation.

So, forgive me if I missed something that has already been discussed or mentioned in the forums and feel free to point out my ignorance and direct me to “RTFM” if my complaints are a result of something I missed in the documentation.

One part of Qubes I really appreciated was the built in backup and recovery software built into the system. Though once I actually used it I found it to be a nightmare.

Again, I was super excited by the simplicity of the process built in and the theory behind it. But when I made a fresh install of the OS and recovered my backup, I was left with duplicate vm’s and no clean way to remove the default Qubes without having to manually adjust names, permissions, templates, default display managers, etc. I’m sure if someone else has had to do this they would understand.

It’s not horrible, or completely unmanageable. But jesus, it was not at all what I expected when I excitedly restored my old installation. Seriously, I wish there was a simpler way to recover a backup without having to fight with Qubes Manager with what it will allow, or not allow you to do. But mainly it’s a mess. Your left with a disaster to clean up. Not generally what you expect from system backups like that.

I’ll add in passing (cause there is a good chance I missed the options in the documentation or the Qubes Manager gui) but I found an issue with deleting some Qubes. It seemed that there were templates or Qubes or whatever relying on eachother for the display VM template. And to this moment I have two duplicate vm’s that seem to rely on eachother and will not allow me to delete either of them. No matter how far I search in global confs or the manager. I can change the names, and pretty much every detail. But between these two duplicate qubes, they have decided to rely upon eachother and are impossible to delete within the manager.

  • By duplicate I mean they served the same purpose and name between the backup qube install and the fresh install.

My final observation is that the Qubes I did manage to successfully recover and delete the duplicate left me without any apps within the applications menu in the settings. Normally there was a plethora of default xfce apps, Firefox, settings, or whatever apps you may have installed. In this case where the qube was recovered from backup, the app menus were empty and currently I am stumped on how to recover that.

Anyways, take it or leave it. This is my current perspective. I love this OS. I’ve wanted to use it for a couple years and I finally have a computer to run it. Please don’t put me in that box of “oh fuck off back to Ubuntu or Windows”. The Unix and Linux communities can be either hostile of critisism or super supportive and realistic of it. So forgive my defensiveness. But I want to figure this beautiful implimentation of security based Linux distribution. And I’m here for the long haul, but I’m hesitant of the community.


What is the actual problem you encounter when restoring? Can you provide specifics? I recently did a clean 4.2 installation and restored from a 4.1 backup, and I didn’t encounter anything that I can even remotely describe as a “nightmare,” “mess,” or “disaster,” so this is very puzzling to me.

As for this part, try using qvm-remove <qube> in a dom0 terminal. If it can’t remove a qube, it should tell you why, and you can share the output here so that we can help. If you want to remove a template, try qvm-template remove <template> and report what it says.

Try clicking on the “Refresh applications” button at the top of the “Applications” tab in the qube’s settings. That worked for me.

Hi trashphyer, thanks for the input.
I hope there is no need for you to be hesitant of working in the
community - you are welcome here.

I agree with you about the documentation, and this is something we are
working to improve. Contributions are welcome, either on GitHub, or by
PM/email to me.

I dont often use the native Backup tools because I salt, and am focussed
on data backups rather than volumes backups.

Reading through your pain I think I see the following issues:

  1. A complete system backup and restore. This would replicate all system
    settings, wipe existing templates/qubes and replace them with those from
    the backup. High risk of user shooting themselves in foot and resulting
    in broken system.
  2. Dealing with duplicates. The restore automatically removes the
    existing qube and replaces it with the qube from the restore. That could
    be an option prompted on restore, with pointer to (eg) missing/new template.
  3. Dealing with templates. The restore could prompt when a qube uses a
    template already on the system to make sure that the user restores
    templates before template base qubes. (Or could this be managed
    automatically within the restore process?)
  4. Handling system settings.
  5. Dealing with menu items by restoring the previous menu selections as
    part of the restore, not just pulling the defaults from the template.
  6. Improve the documentation with more examples, use cases, and
    pointers to issues that might arise.

Lots to think about.

Thanks again.

I never presume to speak for the Qubes team.
When I comment in the Forum I speak for myself.