So backing up a an SD Card from your Raspberry Pi is not necessarily that straightforward ; normal procedure will be to poweroff , remove SD Card and Backup manually on a Mac/ PC.

It is however possible to backup a ‘Live Pi’ via command line/terminal to a USB flash/memory stick WITHOUT any disruption or shutdown of your Pi.

The first thing you will need is a (fresh/clean) USB stick and I’ll take you through the formatting of that first. Insert the ‘Memory Stick’ to a spare USB port on your Pi and run the following command in terminal    ;

df -h

Your device will most likely be listed as /dev/sda1 see pic below

As you can see this USB device (32Gb Sandisk Ultrafit) has already been in use and is formatted – BUT I wanted a clean disk so let’s do some formatting. Unmount the drive first with this command;

sudo umount /dev/sda1

Next we’re going to erase / format it as a NFTS drive but I will then also need to install support for this format first ;

sudo apt-get install ntfs-3g

I will create a directory (folder) for the USB drive (optional) like this;

sudo mkdir /mnt/usbstorage

create ownership with these commands;

sudo chown -R pi:pi /mnt/usbstorage
sudo chmod -R 775 /mnt/usbstorage

We can now format and erase USB drive with this command (NTFS);

sudo mkfs.ntfs /dev/sda1 -f -v -I -L USBbackup

I chose the label USBbackup for my drive (did not work though, it still came out as untitled). Also note I forgot to unmount drive at first.

We can now start the backup of the SD card whilst our Pi is up and running, let’s identify devices type of the SD card;

sudo cat /etc/fstab

You should be able to identify a partition named  /dev/mmcblk0p2 or very similar – lets execute the backup command;

sudo dd if=/dev/mmcblk0p2 of=/home/pi/untitled/AIY.img bs=8M

The cursor will be blinking intermittently for up to 20 mins during the backup process – do NOT interrupt this by shutting terminal down , good time to make a cup of tea. After about 20mins you will get a confirmation of successful backup.

8Gb SD Card  backed up as an AYI.img complete, process/confirmation of backup might take 20 minutes – sometimes longer if working with Class 4 devices.


RaspberryPi USB Cheat sheet

Rolf van Gelder’s CageWebDev blog

HTCP guides

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