Restore GitLab

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.

Restore prerequisites

The destination GitLab instance must already be working

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). Restoring SQL data skips views owned by PostgreSQL extensions.

The destination GitLab instance must have the exact same version

You can only restore a backup to exactly the same version and type (CE or EE) of GitLab on which it was created. For example, CE 15.1.4.

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

GitLab secrets must be restored

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.


Certain GitLab configuration must match the original backed up environment

You likely also want to restore your previous /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb (for Linux package installations) or /home/git/gitlab/config/gitlab.yml (for self-compiled installations) and any TLS keys, certificates (/etc/gitlab/ssl, /etc/gitlab/trusted-certs), or SSH host keys.

Certain configuration is coupled to data in PostgreSQL. For example:

  • If the original environment has three repository storages (for example, default, my-storage-1, and my-storage-2), then the target environment must also have at least those storage names defined in configuration.
  • Restoring a backup from an environment using local storage restores to local storage even if the target environment uses object storage. Migrations to object storage must be done before or after restoration.

Restoring directories that are mount points

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 Linux package installations

This procedure assumes that:

  • You have installed the exact same version and type (CE/EE) of GitLab 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, ensure you have completed the restore prerequisites steps and have run gitlab-ctl reconfigure after copying over the GitLab secrets file from the original installation.

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

# This command will overwrite the contents of your GitLab database!
# NOTE: "_gitlab_backup.tar" is omitted from the name
sudo gitlab-backup restore BACKUP=11493107454_2018_04_25_10.6.4-ce

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.

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, restart and check GitLab:

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 self-compiled installations

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.

Restoring an incremental repository 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 options

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

Specify backup to restore when there are more than one

By default, backup files use a naming scheme starting with a timestamp. When more than one backup exists, you must specify which *_gitlab_backup.tar file to restore by setting the environment variable BACKUP=timestamp_of_backup.

Disable prompts during restore

During a restore from backup, the restore script prompts for confirmation:

  • If the Write to authorized_keys setting is enabled, before the restore script deletes and rebuilds the authorized_keys file.
  • When restoring the database, before the restore script removes all existing tables.
  • After restoring the database, if there were errors in restoring the schema, before continuing because further problems are likely.

To disable these prompts, set the GITLAB_ASSUME_YES environment variable to 1.

  • Linux package installations:

    sudo GITLAB_ASSUME_YES=1 gitlab-backup restore
  • Self-compiled installations:

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

The force=yes environment variable also disables these prompts.

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)

To exclude specific tasks:

  • Linux package installations:

    sudo gitlab-backup restore BACKUP=timestamp_of_backup SKIP=db,uploads
  • Self-compiled installations:

    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:

  • Linux package installations:

    sudo gitlab-backup restore BACKUP=timestamp_of_backup REPOSITORIES_STORAGES=storage1,storage2
  • Self-compiled installations:

    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 and the SKIP_REPOSITORIES_PATHS options. Both options accept 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 or skipped, depending on which option you used. 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), the repository for Project C in Group B (group-b/project-c), and skip the Project D in Group A (group-a/project-d):

  • Linux package installations:

    sudo gitlab-backup restore BACKUP=timestamp_of_backup REPOSITORIES_PATHS=group-a,group-b/project-c SKIP_REPOSITORIES_PATHS=group-a/project-d
  • Self-compiled installations:

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

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:

  • Linux package installations:

    sudo gitlab-backup restore
  • Self-compiled installations:

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


The following are possible problems you might encounter, along with potential solutions.

Restoring database backup using output warnings from a Linux package installation

If you’re using backup restore procedures, you may encounter the following warning messages:

ERROR: must be owner of extension pg_trgm
ERROR: must be owner of extension btree_gist
ERROR: must be owner of extension plpgsql
WARNING:  no privileges could be revoked for "public" (two occurrences)
WARNING:  no privileges were granted for "public" (two occurrences)

Be advised that the backup is successfully restored in spite of these warning messages.

The Rake task runs this as the gitlab user, which doesn’t have superuser access to the database. When restore is initiated, it also runs as the gitlab user, but it also tries to alter the objects it doesn’t have access to. Those objects have no influence on the database backup or restore, but display a warning message.

For more information, see:

Restoring fails due to Git server hook

While restoring from backup, you can encounter an error when the following are true:

  • A Git Server Hook (custom_hook) is configured using the method for GitLab version 15.10 and earlier
  • Your GitLab version is on version 15.11 and later
  • You created symlinks to a directory outside of the GitLab-managed locations

The error looks like:

{"level":"fatal","msg":"restore: pipeline: 1 failures encountered:\n - @hashed/path/to/hashed_repository.git (path/to_project): manager: restore custom hooks, \"@hashed/path/to/hashed_repository/<BackupTimestamp>_<GitLabVersion>-ee/001.custom_hooks.tar\": rpc error: code = Internal desc = setting custom hooks: generating prepared vote: walking directory: copying file to hash: read /mnt/gitlab-app/git-data/repositories/+gitaly/tmp/default-repositories.old.<timestamp>.<temporaryfolder>/custom_hooks/compliance-triggers.d: is a directory\n","pid":3256017,"time":"2023-08-10T20:09:44.395Z"}

To resolve this, you can update the Git server hooks for GitLab version 15.11 and later, and create a new backup.