Fix “tar: Error exit delayed from previous errors” and its cause and solution

Monday, 18th August 2014


tar: Error exit delayed from previous errors

error is a very common error encountered when creating archives (or backing up server configurations / websites / sql binary data). The error is quite unexplanatory and whenever creating files verbose in order to see the files added to archve in "real time" with lets say:

tar -czvf /tmp/filename_backup_date-of-backup.tar.gz /home/websites /home/sql

its pretty hard to track on exactly which file is the backup producing the Error exit delayed from previous errors, this is especially the case whenever adding to archive directories containing millions of tiny few kilobyte sized files. Many novice on uncautious Linux admins , might simply ignore the warning if they're in a hurry / are having excessive work to be done as there will be .tar.gz backup produced and whenever uncompressed most of the files are there and the backup error would seem not of a big issue.

However as backuping files is vital stuff, especially when moving the files from a server to be decomissioned you have to be extra careful and make the backup properly, e.g. figure out the cause of the error, to do so log the full output of tar operations with tee command, like so:

tar -czvf /tmp/filename_backup_date-of-backup.tar.gz /home/websites/ /home/sql | tee /tmp/backup_tar_full_output.log

Then you will have to review the file and lookup for errors with less search string – / (slash) – look for "error" and "permission den" keywords and this should point you to what is causing the error. In cases when millions of files are to be archived, the log might grow really big and hard to process, therefore a much quicker way to understand what's happening is to only log and show in shell standard output last file error with > (shell redirect):

tar -czvf /tmp/filename_backup_date-of-backup.tar.gz /home/websites /home/sql > /tmp/backup_failure-cause.log


tar: Cannot open: Permission denied
tar: Removing leading `/' from member names

The error indicates clearly the cause of error is lack of Permissions to read the file tnsnames.ora.20080918 so solution is to either grant permissions to non-root user with (chmod / chown) cmds, in my case grant perms to user hipo with which tar is ran, or run again the website backup with superuser, I usually just run with root user to prevent tampering with original permissions, e.g. to solve the error, either:

$ su root
# tar -czvf /tmp/filename_backup_date-of-backup.tar.gz /home/websites /home/sql

Or even better if sudo is installed and user is added to /etc/sudoers file

$ sudo tar -czvf /tmp/filename_backup_date-of-backup.tar.gz /home/websites /home/sql

Though permission errors is the most often reason for:

tar: Error exit delayed from previous errors, you should keep in mind that in some cases the error might be caused due to failing RAID membered disk drive or single hdd failure on systems that are not in some RAID array


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