BackUp error-"make sure these files can be opened"


Rene Thomas

:) Ey Up, fellow linux-ers. :)

When backing up the configuration [on Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty Tahr] has anyone encountered (& resolved) the error message that goes a li'l something like this:

"...make sure the following files can be opened:


i realise they are all hidden files, but among the small amounts of Linux programming I understand i am able to locate dem files using the BASH Terminal command to list all [ la -l ] yet i still cant open them


Rene Thomas

Hi ryanvade,

I will get back to you on this one.

I do have superuser privileges, but I could do with prefixing su or sudo to the command(s) I try to open the mysterious data lumps with.

Thanks for more of your help.



Rene, any luck with this?

I think it's extremely unlikely to be a permissions related thing. It would be very unusual to have config files in your home directory that are owned by root.

It's more likely that the files you mentioned are in use by other processes. So your backup software is either unable or unwilling to access the files to copy them.

Of the three config files you listed:
Enchant is a spell checker used by text editors/word processors. So if its config file is open, there must be a program/process running which is using the Enchant spell-checker. Shouldn't be too hard for you to work out which program/process that is. You probably had a text editor open when you ran your backup.

.gvfs is a config file used by the Gnome Virtual File System - If you are running Gnome, then it is almost certainly in use.

And dconf is another Gnome system component which stores settings and hardware information. So if you are running Gnome, this config file will almost certainly be in use too.

One way that you can verify that the files ARE open is to use the lsof command, which lists processes with open files.
If memory serves (At work ATM, so not on a Linux machine sadly), I think you can pass it a list of files and it will tell you what processes (if any) are using those files:
lsof /home/rene/.cache/dconf /home/rene/.config/enchant /home/rene/.gvfs

Else you could try filtering the output of lsof with grep:
lsof | grep '\.gvfs\|\.cache/dconf\|\.config/enchant'
You may or may not require sudo.... Again, been a while since I used lsof for anything, and I don't have a Linux machine handy right now.....

If any of the files are open (and they almost certainly are!) - In order for your backup program to be able to back them up, you will need to shut down the processes that are using the open files.

Shutting down the process which is using the enchant config should not present a problem. Once it is shut down, you should be able to back-up that config file.

But because .gvfs and .cache/dconf are config files for Gnome system components, I imagine that attempting to shut down the processes using those files would be a very bad and silly thing to do!

Offhand, the only safe option I can think of - if you REALLY want those files backed up; would be to boot into a LiveCD/LiveUSB of a distro which has some backup software installed on it. When you boot into a live environment, the config files on your HD will not be open. So you should be able to mount your HD and back up your entire home directory to your storage media.

I haven't been a Gnome user for a long time, so I don't really know the ins and outs of dconf or gvfs. There might be another way to back up their config from a running system..... Somebody else might have a better idea!
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Rene Thomas


That is such a wonderful reply and obviously you have put so much thought and consideration into it I am totally shamefaced to have not got back to you earlier.
I especially like your humility in admitting you cannot remember all the details of how lsof works on Linux. So many boffins on the linux sites seem unwilling to confess they have any gaps in their knowledge, but you have clearly shown that it is possible to wield knowledge to good effect without pretending you have no limitations.
It seems barbaric not to follow such generously comprehensive instructions with an affirmative appraisal of their success in fixing the problem, or at the very least an in-depth summary of the results, but due to constraints on my time and attention, which seem unlikely to let up any time soon, I am thinking that my attempt to learn the ins-and-outs of Linux may be unrealistic.
The forums are no place to explore my deliberations on whether to invest more time into programming, but one factor that is relevant is that the "F" key on my computer snapped off and has had to be glued back on some three times, which makes the afccuracy off typing necessary to do coding extremely time-consuming! f
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