AiiDA stores:

  • the profile configuration in the config.json file located in the .aiida folder. Typically located at ~/.aiida (see also Configure AiiDA).

  • files associated with nodes in the repository folder (one per profile). Typically located in the .aiida folder.

  • queryable metadata in the PostgreSQL database (one per profile).

All three components are required for the operation of AiiDA and should be backed up.

Repository backup (.aiida folder)

For small repositories back up the .aiida folder either by making a full copy or using tools for incremental backups like rsync.

For large repositories with more than 100k nodes, even incremental backups can take a significant amount of time. AiiDA provides a helper script that takes advantage of the AiiDA database in order to figure out which files have been added since your last backup. The instructions below explain how to use it:

  1. Configure your backup using verdi -p PROFILENAME devel configure-backup where PROFILENAME is the name of the AiiDA profile that should be backed up. | This will ask for information on:

    • The “backup folder”, where the backup configuration file will be placed. This defaults to a folder named backup_PROFILENAME in your .aiida directory.

    • The “destination folder”, where the files of the backup will be stored. This defaults to a subfolder of the backup folder but we strongly suggest to back up to a different drive (see note below).

    The configuration step creates two files in the “backup folder”: a backup_info.json configuration file (can also be edited manually) and a script.


    Using the same disk for your backup forgoes protection against the most common cause of data loss: disk failure. One simple option is to use a destination folder mounted over ssh.

    On Ubuntu, install sshfs using sudo apt-get install sshfs. Imagine you run your calculations on server_1 and would like to back up regularly to server_2. Mount a server_2 directory on server_1 using the following command on server_1:

    sshfs -o idmap=user -o rw backup_user@server_2:/home/backup_user/backup_destination_dir/ /home/aiida_user/remote_backup_dir/

    Use gnome-session-properties in the terminal to add this line to the actions performed at start-up. Do not add it to your shell’s startup file (e.g. .bashrc) or your computer will complain that the mount point is not empty whenever you open a new terminal.

  2. Run the script in the “backup folder” to start the backup.

    This will back up all data added after the oldest_object_backedup date. It will only carry out a new backup every periodicity days, until a certain end date if specified (using end_date_of_backup or days_to_backup), see Configuration options below.

    Once you’ve checked that it works, make sure to run the script periodically (e.g. using a daily cron job, see note below).


    On Ubuntu, you can set up a cron job using:

    sudo crontab -u USERNAME -e

    It will open an editor, where you can add a line of the form:

    00 03 * * * /home/USERNAME/.aiida/backup/ 2>&1 | mail -s "Incremental backup of the repository"

    or (if you need to backup a different profile than the default one):

    00 03 * * * verdi -p PROFILENAME run /home/USERNAME/.aiida/backup/ 2>&1 | mail -s "Incremental backup of the repository"

    This will launch the backup of the database every day at 3 AM (03:00), and send the output (or any error message) to the email address specified at the end (provided the mail command – from mailutils – is configured appropriately).

Finally, if you have a separate automatic backup of your home directory set up, do not forget to exclude the repository folder.

Configuration options

The configuration options in the backup_info.json are:

  • periodicity (in days):
    The backup runs periodically for a number of days defined in the periodicity variable. The purpose of this variable is to limit the backup to run only on a few number of days and therefore to limit the number of files that are backed up at every round.
    E.g. "periodicity": 2.
    Example: If you have files in the AiiDA repositories created in the past 30 days, and periodicity is 15, the first run will backup the files of the first 15 days; a second run of the script will backup the next 15 days, completing the backup (if it is run within the same day). Further runs will only backup newer files, if they are created.
  • oldest_object_backedup (timestamp or null):
    This is the timestamp of the oldest object that was backed up. If you are not aware of this value or if it is the first time you start a backup for this repository, then set this value to null. Then the script will search the creation date of the oldest Node object in the database and start the backup from that date.
    E.g. "oldest_object_backedup": "2015-07-20 11:13:08.145804+02:00"
  • end_date_of_backup (timestamp or null):
    If set, the backup script will backup files that have a modification date up until the value specified by this variable. If not set, the ending of the backup will be set by the days_to_backup variable, which specifies how many days to backup from the start of the backup. If none of these variables are set (end_date_of_backup and days_to_backup), then the end date of backup is set to the current date.
    E.g. "end_date_of_backup": null or "end_date_of_backup": "2015-07-20 11:13:08.145804+02:00".
  • days_to_backup (in days or null):
    If set, you specify how many days you will backup from the starting date of your backup. If it is set to null and also end_date_of_backup is set to null, then the end date of the backup is set to the current date. You can not set days_to_backup & end_date_of_backup at the same time (it will lead to an error).
    E.g. "days_to_backup": null or "days_to_backup": 5.
  • backup_length_threshold (in hours):
    The backup script runs in rounds and on every round it will backup a number of days that are controlled primarily by periodicity and also by end_date_of_backup / days_to_backup, for the last backup round. The backup_length_threshold specifies the lowest acceptable round length. This is important for the end of the backup.
    E.g. backup_length_threshold: 1
  • backup_dir (absolute path):
    The destination directory of the backup.
    E.g. "backup_dir": "/home/USERNAME/.aiida/backup/backup_dest".

Database backup

PostgreSQL typically spreads database information over multiple files that, if backed up directly, are not guaranteed to restore the database. We therefore strongly recommend to periodically dump the database contents to a file (which you can then back up using your method of choice).

The instructions below show how to achieve this under Ubuntu 12.04 and 18.04. In the following, we assume your database is called aiidadb, and the database user and owner is aiida. You’ll find this information in the output of verdi profile show.

In order to dump your database, use a bash script similar to

## see


# NOTE: password stored in ~/.pgpass, where pg_dump will read it automatically


In order to avoid having to enter your database password each time you use the script, you can create a file .pgpass in your home directory:


where YOUR_DATABASE_PASSWORD is the password you set up for the database.

This file needs read and write permissions: chmod u=rw ~/.pgpass.

In order to automatically dump the database to a file ~/.aiida/${AIIDADB}-backup.psql.gz once per day, you can add a cron job:

Add the following script backup-aiidadb-USERNAME to the folder /etc/cron.daily/:

su USERNAME -c "/home/USERNAME/.aiida/"

and replace all instances of USERNAME with your UNIX user name.

Remember to give the script execute permissions:

sudo chmod +x /etc/cron.daily/backup-aiidadb-USERNAME

Finally make sure your database folder (/home/USERNAME/.aiida/) containing this dump file and the repository directory, is properly backed up by your backup software (under Ubuntu, 12.04: Backup -> check the “Folders” tab, 18.04: Backups -> check the “Folder to save” tab).

Restore backup

In order to restore a backup, you will need to:

  1. Restore the repository folder.
    If you used the backup script, this involves extracting the corresponding zip file (should be created in ~/.aiida/).
  2. Create an empty database following the instructions described in Database setup skipping the verdi setup phase.
    The database should have the same name and database username as the original one (i.e. if you are restoring on the original postgresql cluster, you may have to either rename or delete the original database).
  3. As the postgres user, cd to the folder containing the database dump (aiidadb-backup.psql) and load it:

    psql -h localhost -U aiida -d aiidadb -f aiidadb-backup.psql

    After supplying your database password, the database should be restored.


    On Ubuntu, type sudo su - postgres to become the postgres UNIX user.