Restore GitLab (FREE SELF)

GitLab provides a command line interface to restore your entire installation, and is flexible enough to fit your needs.

The restore prerequisites section includes crucial information. Be sure to read and test the complete restore process at least once before attempting to perform it in a production environment.

You can restore a backup only to the exact same version and type (CE/EE) of GitLab that you created it on (for example CE 9.1.0).

If your backup is a different version than the current installation, you must downgrade or upgrade your GitLab installation before restoring the backup.

Each backup archive contains a full self-contained backup, including those created through the incremental repository backup procedure. To restore an incremental repository backup, use the same instructions as restoring any other regular backup archive.

Restore prerequisites

You need to have a working GitLab installation before you can perform a restore. This is because the system user performing the restore actions (git) is usually not allowed to create or delete the SQL database needed to import data into (gitlabhq_production). All existing data is either erased (SQL) or moved to a separate directory (such as repositories and uploads).

To restore a backup, you must also restore the GitLab secrets.

These include the database encryption key, CI/CD variables, and variables used for two-factor authentication.

Without the keys, multiple issues occur, including loss of access by users with two-factor authentication enabled, and GitLab Runners cannot log in.


You may also want to restore your previous /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb (for Omnibus packages) or /home/git/gitlab/config/gitlab.yml (for installations from source) and any TLS keys, certificates (/etc/gitlab/ssl, /etc/gitlab/trusted-certs), or SSH host keys.

Depending on your case, you might want to run the restore command with one or more of the following options:

  • BACKUP=timestamp_of_backup: Required if more than one backup exists. Read what the backup timestamp is about.
  • force=yes: Doesn't ask if the authorized_keys file should get regenerated, and assumes 'yes' for warning about database tables being removed, enabling the Write to authorized_keys file setting, and updating LDAP providers.

If you're restoring into directories that are mount points, you must ensure these directories are empty before attempting a restore. Otherwise, GitLab attempts to move these directories before restoring the new data, which causes an error.

Read more about configuring NFS mounts

Restore for Omnibus GitLab installations

This procedure assumes that:

  • You have installed the exact same version and type (CE/EE) of GitLab Omnibus with which the backup was created.
  • You have run sudo gitlab-ctl reconfigure at least once.
  • GitLab is running. If not, start it using sudo gitlab-ctl start.

First ensure your backup tar file is in the backup directory described in the gitlab.rb configuration gitlab_rails['backup_path']. The default is /var/opt/gitlab/backups. The backup file needs to be owned by the git user.

sudo cp 11493107454_2018_04_25_10.6.4-ce_gitlab_backup.tar /var/opt/gitlab/backups/
sudo chown git:git /var/opt/gitlab/backups/11493107454_2018_04_25_10.6.4-ce_gitlab_backup.tar

Stop the processes that are connected to the database. Leave the rest of GitLab running:

sudo gitlab-ctl stop puma
sudo gitlab-ctl stop sidekiq
# Verify
sudo gitlab-ctl status

Next, restore the backup, specifying the timestamp of the backup you wish to restore:

# This command will overwrite the contents of your GitLab database!
sudo gitlab-backup restore BACKUP=11493107454_2018_04_25_10.6.4-ce

Users of GitLab 12.1 and earlier should use the command gitlab-rake gitlab:backup:restore instead. Some known non-blocking error messages may appear.

WARNING: gitlab-rake gitlab:backup:restore doesn't set the correct file system permissions on your Registry directory. This is a known issue. In GitLab 12.2 or later, you can use gitlab-backup restore to avoid this issue.

If there's a GitLab version mismatch between your backup tar file and the installed version of GitLab, the restore command aborts with an error message. Install the correct GitLab version, and then try again.

WARNING: The restore command requires additional parameters when your installation is using PgBouncer, for either performance reasons or when using it with a Patroni cluster.

Next, restore /etc/gitlab/gitlab-secrets.json if necessary, as previously mentioned.

Reconfigure, restart and check GitLab:

sudo gitlab-ctl reconfigure
sudo gitlab-ctl restart
sudo gitlab-rake gitlab:check SANITIZE=true

In GitLab 13.1 and later, check database values can be decrypted especially if /etc/gitlab/gitlab-secrets.json was restored, or if a different server is the target for the restore.

sudo gitlab-rake gitlab:doctor:secrets

For added assurance, you can perform an integrity check on the uploaded files:

sudo gitlab-rake gitlab:artifacts:check
sudo gitlab-rake gitlab:lfs:check
sudo gitlab-rake gitlab:uploads:check

Restore for Docker image and GitLab Helm chart installations

For GitLab installations using the Docker image or the GitLab Helm chart on a Kubernetes cluster, the restore task expects the restore directories to be empty. However, with Docker and Kubernetes volume mounts, some system level directories may be created at the volume roots, such as the lost+found directory found in Linux operating systems. These directories are usually owned by root, which can cause access permission errors since the restore Rake task runs as the git user. To restore a GitLab installation, users have to confirm the restore target directories are empty.

For both these installation types, the backup tarball has to be available in the backup location (default location is /var/opt/gitlab/backups).

Restore for Helm chart installations

The GitLab Helm chart uses the process documented in restoring a GitLab Helm chart installation

Restore for Docker image installations

If you're using Docker Swarm, the container might restart during the restore process because Puma is shut down, and so the container health check fails. To work around this problem, temporarily disable the health check mechanism.

  1. Edit docker-compose.yml:

      disable: true
  2. Deploy the stack:

    docker stack deploy --compose-file docker-compose.yml mystack

For more information, see issue 6846.

The restore task can be run from the host:

# Stop the processes that are connected to the database
docker exec -it <name of container> gitlab-ctl stop puma
docker exec -it <name of container> gitlab-ctl stop sidekiq

# Verify that the processes are all down before continuing
docker exec -it <name of container> gitlab-ctl status

# Run the restore. NOTE: "_gitlab_backup.tar" is omitted from the name
docker exec -it <name of container> gitlab-backup restore BACKUP=11493107454_2018_04_25_10.6.4-ce

# Restart the GitLab container
docker restart <name of container>

# Check GitLab
docker exec -it <name of container> gitlab-rake gitlab:check SANITIZE=true

Restore for installation from source

First, ensure your backup tar file is in the backup directory described in the gitlab.yml configuration:

## Backup settings
  path: "tmp/backups"   # Relative paths are relative to Rails.root (default: tmp/backups/)

The default is /home/git/gitlab/tmp/backups, and it needs to be owned by the git user. Now, you can begin the backup procedure:

# Stop processes that are connected to the database
sudo service gitlab stop

sudo -u git -H bundle exec rake gitlab:backup:restore RAILS_ENV=production

Example output:

Unpacking backup... [DONE]
Restoring database tables:
-- create_table("events", {:force=>true})
   -> 0.2231s
- Loading fixture events...[DONE]
- Loading fixture issues...[DONE]
- Loading fixture keys...[SKIPPING]
- Loading fixture merge_requests...[DONE]
- Loading fixture milestones...[DONE]
- Loading fixture namespaces...[DONE]
- Loading fixture notes...[DONE]
- Loading fixture projects...[DONE]
- Loading fixture protected_branches...[SKIPPING]
- Loading fixture schema_migrations...[DONE]
- Loading fixture services...[SKIPPING]
- Loading fixture snippets...[SKIPPING]
- Loading fixture taggings...[SKIPPING]
- Loading fixture tags...[SKIPPING]
- Loading fixture users...[DONE]
- Loading fixture users_projects...[DONE]
- Loading fixture web_hooks...[SKIPPING]
- Loading fixture wikis...[SKIPPING]
Restoring repositories:
- Restoring repository abcd... [DONE]
- Object pool 1 ...
Deleting tmp directories...[DONE]

Next, restore /home/git/gitlab/.secret if necessary, as previously mentioned.

Restart GitLab:

sudo service gitlab restart

Restoring only one or a few projects or groups from a backup

Although the Rake task used to restore a GitLab instance doesn't support restoring a single project or group, you can use a workaround by restoring your backup to a separate, temporary GitLab instance, and then export your project or group from there:

  1. Install a new GitLab instance at the same version as the backed-up instance from which you want to restore.
  2. Restore the backup into this new instance, then export your project or group. For more information about what is and isn't exported, see the export feature's documentation.
  3. After the export is complete, go to the old instance and then import it.
  4. After importing the projects or groups that you wanted is complete, you may delete the new, temporary GitLab instance.

A feature request to provide direct restore of individual projects or groups is being discussed in issue #17517.

Restore options

The command line tool GitLab provides to restore from backup can accept more options.

Disabling prompts during restore

During a restore from backup, the restore script may ask for confirmation before proceeding. If you wish to disable these prompts, you can set the GITLAB_ASSUME_YES environment variable to 1.

For Omnibus GitLab packages:

sudo GITLAB_ASSUME_YES=1 gitlab-backup restore

For installations from source:

sudo -u git -H GITLAB_ASSUME_YES=1 bundle exec rake gitlab:backup:restore RAILS_ENV=production

Excluding tasks on restore

Introduced in GitLab 14.10.

You can exclude specific tasks on restore by adding the environment variable SKIP, whose values are a comma-separated list of the following options:

  • db (database)
  • uploads (attachments)
  • builds (CI job output logs)
  • artifacts (CI job artifacts)
  • lfs (LFS objects)
  • terraform_state (Terraform states)
  • registry (Container Registry images)
  • pages (Pages content)
  • repositories (Git repositories data)
  • packages (Packages)

For Omnibus GitLab packages:

sudo gitlab-backup restore BACKUP=timestamp_of_backup SKIP=db,uploads

For installations from source:

sudo -u git -H bundle exec rake gitlab:backup:restore BACKUP=timestamp_of_backup SKIP=db,uploads RAILS_ENV=production

Restore specific repository storages

Introduced in GitLab 15.0.

When using multiple repository storages, repositories from specific repository storages can be restored separately using the REPOSITORIES_STORAGES option. The option accepts a comma-separated list of storage names.

For example, for Omnibus GitLab installations:

sudo gitlab-backup restore BACKUP=timestamp_of_backup REPOSITORIES_STORAGES=storage1,storage2

For example, for installations from source:

sudo -u git -H bundle exec rake gitlab:backup:restore BACKUP=timestamp_of_backup REPOSITORIES_STORAGES=storage1,storage2

Restore specific repositories

Introduced in GitLab 15.1.

You can restore specific repositories using the REPOSITORIES_PATHS option. The option accepts a comma-separated list of project and group paths. If you specify a group path, all repositories in all projects in the group and descendent groups are included. The project and group repositories must exist within the specified backup.

For example, to restore all repositories for all projects in Group A (group-a), and the repository for Project C in Group B (group-b/project-c):

  • Omnibus GitLab installations:

    sudo gitlab-backup restore BACKUP=timestamp_of_backup REPOSITORIES_PATHS=group-a,group-b/project-c
  • Installations from source:

    sudo -u git -H bundle exec rake gitlab:backup:restore BACKUP=timestamp_of_backup REPOSITORIES_PATHS=group-a,group-b/project-c

Restore untarred backups

If an untarred backup (made with SKIP=tar) is found, and no backup is chosen with BACKUP=<timestamp>, the untarred backup is used.

For example, for Omnibus GitLab installations:

sudo gitlab-backup restore

For example, for installations from source:

sudo -u git -H bundle exec rake gitlab:backup:restore