Generate paper backups for Linux. Currently command-linux Linux only.

Takes any file, and outputs a "paper backup": a printable black-and-white pdf full of QR codes. To back up your file, print the PDF. The pile of paper in your hand is now a backup of the file.

This is alpha software--I use it for my own backups, but I offer no guarantees. Test your restore when you make it, not when you need it!

What is a paper backup?

A paper backup is a number of printed sheets of paper containing special barcodes.

If your file is lost, corrupted, deleted, etc, you can restore from your paper backup. qr-backup reads the QR barcodes using your computer's webcam (or scanner) to get your file back.

Should I back up to paper?

Possibly. You should still back it up to something more usual like a USB thumbstick first, because it's easier to restore and update.

Common files to back up are small important records, and small secret files. Examples include: a diary, an address book, a short story you wrote, financial records, medical records, an ssh or gpg cryptographic key, or a cryptocurrency (bitcoin) wallet.

Paper is not the best or most efficient storage method, so you can't back up big files. 10KB or 100KB files is a reasonable limit.

Learn about the advantages of paper backups.

Example Backup


System Requirements

Backup Requirements

  • A Linux computer and knowledge of how to use the command line
  • A printer
  • python 3.6 or later
  • python-qrcode
  • python-pillow
  • imagemagick
  • zbar (optional, used to digitally test restore)

Restore Requirements

  • A Linux computer and knowledge of how to use the command line
  • The restore process works without qr-backup installed
  • A webcam or scanner
  • imagemagick
  • zbar

Making a backup

  1. Run qr-backup on your file. On the Linux command-line, run qr-backup <YOUR_FILE>
  2. This generates a black-and-white PDF (<YOUR_FILE>.qr.pdf)
  3. Print the PDF on your printer

There are many command-line options available for advanced users. For a full list, read the USAGE doc online, or run qr-backup --help on your computer.

Restoring a paper backup

The restore process does NOT require qr-backup. It does require a command-linux Linux computer.

(Option 1): Use qr-backup, if you have it.

  • Webcam option
    1. Run qr-backup --restore
  • Scanner option
    1. Scan images using your scanner
    2. Run qr-backup --restore IMAGES

(Option 2): Use the linux command line, if you lose qr-backup. Commands are provided in the PDF printout. You will need to install zbar.