timeshift linux backup system restore

Failed to start Load Kernel Modules

My laptop just displayed Failed to start Load Kernel Modules after I updated Manjaro XFCE via the terminal. Light Display Manager couldn’t get started ether which left me with a broken system.

The first step in recovering a broken Linux system

Regardless of what happens on a Linux system, the first step should always be a secondary login. Just because the system hung during the boot process doesn’t mean that Linux isn’t available. To see if you can log in to a secondary terminal, do this: ctrl+alt+F2

This gave me a login but I decided to issue the shutdown -h now command to turn the laptop off. The reason for doing so was that I prefer to live-boot off of an USB stick of which I have many available. The one I grabbed had ArcoLinux B on it which is both, good and bad.

Good because ArcoLinux is my favorite distribution which runs on my design workstations and bad because the B edition doesn’t include Timeshift. If it did, then all I had to do was running Timeshift and wait for the process to finish. More on that in a few minutes.

Asking for help in the Manjaro Forum

In addition, I posted a topic in the Manjaro forum to see if anyone else experienced this recently and if yes, if she/he would post a possible fix. More about that development as soon as someone responds.

What to do before running Timshift

Just because Timeshift is available (upon installation) doesn’t mean that I will run it right away. Yes, it would restore my Laptop to yesterday’s state but that would not be ideal. Since my last backup, I have received new emails and uploaded some pictures from my smartphone to the Documents directory. Usually, restoring a previous snapshot skips the /home directory which means that all of my files that I have created will be there after I reboot. How ever, I have learned to never take anything for granted.

How to access a hard drive if the laptop doesn’t boot

Having a bootable USB stick is a must because I can boot any device and transfer the files I need before restoring. My Timeshift configuration only backs up the system. The home directory gets backed up with Grsync a few times a week. Because I didn’t run it yesterday, all of my new files would be lost if I restored now.

Thankfully, Thunar is able to access all of my disk partitions in root mode. Now that I can see everything, I will take the .thunderbird directory (hidden in /home/myaccount/.thunderbrid and a few other nuggets just to be on the safe side.

Once I transferred the .thunderbird directory to an external USB hard drive, I can run Timeshift and go back to the last working snapshot.

Why did this happen?

I first discovered Manjaro in the fall of 2018 and liked the speed. In comparison to my previous Debian-based OS, Manjaro was noticeably faster and KDE looked stunning on my dual 4K screens.
Manjaro is a rolling release distro which means that updates come in on a daily basis. When the Linux kernel and graphics drivers are part of the update, I always update in the terminal.

That is something which I learned the hard way. At first, I just used pacman to update the system but a few weeks into my Linux journey, the system broke. Investigating the issue helped me understand that updates should never be done with pacman. Too bad that Manjaro doesn’t mention that via a pop-up after a new install.

Sometimes, running an update a second time can fix what the first update couldn’t. So I rebooted and switched to a secondary terminal to run sudo pacman -Syyu but it didn’t work as I had hoped for.

Another boot

By now, I have transferred everything that I need and am ready to issue the Timeshift backup.
Since ArcoLinux B is a minimal ISO, Timeshift is not included. Installing it would mean updating the system so it’s time for a little bit of trickery.

To get rid of the big packages which pacman would have to update before installing Timeshift, I fired up packman and sorted the updates by size. Then I started to uncheck the big packages all the way down to 3 Meg in size. Applying that update triggered error messages as I expected that it would.

With pacman open, I removed all the dependencies manually with the help of the good old terminal. Eventually I succeeded and the update finished with only installing 40 Meg instead of 500.

Time for Timeshift

By now, one hour has passed since I posted on the Manjaro forum and so far, no one responded with advise or criticism which usually seeps in by those who don’t have a clue.
I am not in a rush and work on other machines while the laptop is getting ready to run Timeshift.
Update: After two hours, still no reply to my post. Reminds me of the olden days when I had only one computer. Waiting for advise was stressful but these days are over.

Final verdict

Manjaro is not amazing but Timeshift is!
ArcoLinux, as far as I can remember does not butcher updates but on my laptop, which runs Manjaro, it has happened a few times. Thanks to Timeshift, I am back to where I was yesterday. The most recent snapshot provided fast and reliable fix.

ArcoLinux is also not out of the hot water. For some reason, the development Team does not grasp the importance of Timeshift. If they did, they’d include it on the ISO so that one doesn’t have to waste bandwidth and time installing. Sometimes I feel like making my own Linux distribution for graphics and web designers. There are hundreds of different distributions out there but most are far from ideal for real work.

Final advise.
If you use your Linux computer for work then back up and back up and back up. I have three external USB drives which are dedicated to serving backups for all of my computers. The best investment that I have ever made. Without the backups, I’d be in trouble at least once a month.

Now I have to evaluate if I want Manjaro on my laptop. If a proper secondary terminal -Syyu upgrade does not fix the issue, then it’s time to keep looking for a distribution that can deal with my optimus dilemma.

Finally, a shout out to Tony George, the genius who created Timeshift. There is not much info on him on the net but he does have a website

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