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Back Up and Restore with Filesystem Snapshots

On this page

  • Snapshots Overview
  • Considerations
  • Back Up and Restore Using LVM on Linux
  • Back up Instances with Journal Files on Separate Volume or without Journaling

This document describes a procedure for creating backups of MongoDB standalone servers and replica sets using system-level tools, such as LVM or storage appliance, as well as the corresponding restoration strategies. For information on sharded clusters, see Back Up a Sharded Cluster with File System Snapshots.

These filesystem snapshots, or "block-level" backup methods, use system level tools to create copies of the device that holds MongoDB's data files. These methods complete quickly and work reliably, but require additional system configuration outside of MongoDB.


See also:

Snapshots work by creating pointers between the live data and a special snapshot volume. These pointers are theoretically equivalent to "hard links." As the working data diverges from the snapshot, the snapshot process uses a copy-on-write strategy. As a result, the snapshot only stores modified data.

After making the snapshot, you mount the snapshot image on your file system and copy data from the snapshot. The resulting backup contains a full copy of all data.

MongoDB supports volume-level back up using the WiredTiger storage engine when the MongoDB instance's data files and journal files reside on separate volumes. However, to create a coherent backup, the database must be locked and all writes to the database must be suspended during the backup process.

For encrypted storage engines that use AES256-GCM encryption mode, AES256-GCM requires that every process use a unique counter block value with the key.

For encrypted storage engine configured with AES256-GCM cipher:

  • Restoring from Hot Backup
    Starting in 4.2, if you restore from files taken via "hot" backup (i.e. the mongod is running), MongoDB can detect "dirty" keys on startup and automatically rollover the database key to avoid IV (Initialization Vector) reuse.
  • Restoring from Cold Backup

    However, if you restore from files taken via "cold" backup (i.e. the mongod is not running), MongoDB cannot detect "dirty" keys on startup, and reuse of IV voids confidentiality and integrity guarantees.

    Starting in 4.2, to avoid the reuse of the keys after restoring from a cold filesystem snapshot, MongoDB adds a new command-line option --eseDatabaseKeyRollover. When started with the --eseDatabaseKeyRollover option, the mongod instance rolls over the database keys configured with AES256-GCM cipher and exits.


In general, if using filesystem based backups for MongoDB Enterprise, use the "hot" backup feature, if possible.

The database must be valid when the snapshot takes place. This means that all writes accepted by the database need to be fully written to disk: either to the journal or to data files.

If there are writes that are not on disk when the backup occurs, the backup will not reflect these changes.

For the WiredTiger storage engine, the data files reflect a consistent state as of the last checkpoint. Checkpoints occur with every 2 GB of data or every minute.

Snapshots create an image of an entire disk image. Unless you need to back up your entire system, consider isolating your MongoDB data files, journal (if applicable), and configuration on one logical disk that doesn't contain any other data.

Alternately, store all MongoDB data files on a dedicated device so that you can make backups without duplicating extraneous data.

Ensure that you copy data from snapshots onto other systems. This ensures that data is safe from site failures.

This tutorial does not include procedures for incremental backups. Although different snapshot methods provide different features, the LVM method outlined below does not provide any capacity for capturing incremental backups.

If your mongod instance has journaling enabled, then you can use any kind of file system or volume/block level snapshot tool to create backups.

If you manage your own infrastructure on a Linux-based system, configure your system with LVM to provide your disk packages and provide snapshot capability. You can also use LVM-based setups within a cloud/virtualized environment.


Running LVM provides additional flexibility and enables the possibility of using snapshots to back up MongoDB.

If your deployment depends on Amazon's Elastic Block Storage (EBS) with RAID configured within your instance, it is impossible to get a consistent state across all disks using the platform's snapshot tool. As an alternative, you can do one of the following:

  • Flush all writes to disk and create a write lock to ensure consistent state during the backup process.

    If you choose this option see Back up Instances with Journal Files on Separate Volume or without Journaling.

  • Configure LVM to run and hold your MongoDB data files on top of the RAID within your system.

    If you choose this option, perform the LVM backup operation described in Create a Snapshot.

This section provides an overview of a simple backup process using LVM on a Linux system. While the tools, commands, and paths may be (slightly) different on your system the following steps provide a high level overview of the backup operation.


Only use the following procedure as a guideline for a backup system and infrastructure. Production backup systems must consider a number of application specific requirements and factors unique to specific environments.

For information on sharded clusters, see Back Up a Sharded Cluster with File System Snapshots.

For the purpose of volume-level backup of MongoDB instances using WiredTiger, the data files and the journal are no longer required to reside on a single volume.

To create a snapshot with LVM, issue a command as root in the following format:

lvcreate --size 100M --snapshot --name mdb-snap01 /dev/vg0/mongodb

This command creates an LVM snapshot (with the --snapshot option) named mdb-snap01 of the mongodb volume in the vg0 volume group.

This example creates a snapshot named mdb-snap01 located at /dev/vg0/mdb-snap01. The location and paths to your systems volume groups and devices may vary slightly depending on your operating system's LVM configuration.

The snapshot has a cap of at 100 megabytes, because of the parameter --size 100M. This size does not reflect the total amount of the data on the disk, but rather the quantity of differences between the current state of /dev/vg0/mongodb and the creation of the snapshot (i.e. /dev/vg0/mdb-snap01.)


Ensure that you create snapshots with enough space to account for data growth, particularly for the period of time that it takes to copy data out of the system or to a temporary image.

If your snapshot runs out of space, the snapshot image becomes unusable. Discard this logical volume and create another.

The snapshot will exist when the command returns. You can restore directly from the snapshot at any time or by creating a new logical volume and restoring from this snapshot to the alternate image.

While snapshots are great for creating high quality backups quickly, they are not ideal as a format for storing backup data. Snapshots typically depend and reside on the same storage infrastructure as the original disk images. Therefore, it's crucial that you archive these snapshots and store them elsewhere.

After creating a snapshot, mount the snapshot and copy the data to separate storage. Your system might try to compress the backup images as you move them offline. Alternatively, take a block level copy of the snapshot image, such as with the following procedure:

umount /dev/vg0/mdb-snap01
dd if=/dev/vg0/mdb-snap01 | gzip > mdb-snap01.gz

The above command sequence does the following:

  • Ensures that the /dev/vg0/mdb-snap01 device is not mounted. Never take a block level copy of a filesystem or filesystem snapshot that is mounted.

  • Performs a block level copy of the entire snapshot image using the dd command and compresses the result in a gzipped file in the current working directory.


    This command will create a large gz file in your current working directory. Make sure that you run this command in a file system that has enough free space.

To restore a snapshot created with LVM, issue the following sequence of commands:

lvcreate --size 1G --name mdb-new vg0
gzip -d -c mdb-snap01.gz | dd of=/dev/vg0/mdb-new
mount /dev/vg0/mdb-new /srv/mongodb

The above sequence does the following:

  • Creates a new logical volume named mdb-new, in the /dev/vg0 volume group. The path to the new device will be /dev/vg0/mdb-new.


    This volume will have a maximum size of 1 gigabyte. The original file system must have had a total size of 1 gigabyte or smaller, or else the restoration will fail.

    Change 1G to your desired volume size.

  • Uncompresses and unarchives the mdb-snap01.gz into the mdb-new disk image.

  • Mounts the mdb-new disk image to the /srv/mongodb directory. Modify the mount point to correspond to your MongoDB data file location, or other location as needed.


The restored snapshot will have a stale mongod.lock file. If you do not remove this file from the snapshot, and MongoDB may assume that the stale lock file indicates an unclean shutdown. If you use db.fsyncLock() you will need to remove the mongod.lock file.

To restore a backup without writing to a compressed gz file, use the following sequence of commands:

umount /dev/vg0/mdb-snap01
lvcreate --size 1G --name mdb-new vg0
dd if=/dev/vg0/mdb-snap01 of=/dev/vg0/mdb-new
mount /dev/vg0/mdb-new /srv/mongodb


All MongoDB collections have UUIDs by default. When MongoDB restores collections, the restored collections retain their original UUIDs. When restoring a collection where no UUID was present, MongoDB generates a UUID for the restored collection.

For more information on collection UUIDs, see Collections.

You can implement off-system backups using the combined process and SSH.

This sequence is identical to procedures explained above, except that it archives and compresses the backup on a remote system using SSH.

Consider the following procedure:

umount /dev/vg0/mdb-snap01
dd if=/dev/vg0/mdb-snap01 | ssh gzip > /opt/backup/mdb-snap01.gz
lvcreate --size 1G --name mdb-new vg0
ssh gzip -d -c /opt/backup/mdb-snap01.gz | dd of=/dev/vg0/mdb-new
mount /dev/vg0/mdb-new /srv/mongodb

For the purpose of volume-level backup of MongoDB instances using WiredTiger, the data files and the journal are no longer required to reside on a single volume. However, the database must be locked and all writes to the database must be suspended during the backup process to ensure the consistency of the backup.

If your mongod instance is either running without journaling or has the journal files on a separate volume, you must flush all writes to disk and lock the database to prevent writes during the backup process. If you have a replica set configuration, then for your backup use a secondary which is not receiving reads (i.e. hidden member).


To flush writes to disk and to "lock" the database, issue the db.fsyncLock() method in mongosh:


To unlock the database after the snapshot has completed, use the following command in mongosh:



MongoDB Backup Methods


Back Up and Restore with MongoDB Tools