Making backups

Multiple options exist for making backups of your paperless instance, depending on how you installed paperless.

Before making backups, make sure that paperless is not running.

Options available to any installation of paperless:

  • Use the document exporter. The document exporter exports all your documents, thumbnails and metadata to a specific folder. You may import your documents into a fresh instance of paperless again or store your documents in another DMS with this export.

  • The document exporter is also able to update an already existing export. Therefore, incremental backups with rsync are entirely possible.


You cannot import the export generated with one version of paperless in a different version of paperless. The export contains an exact image of the database, and migrations may change the database layout.

Options available to docker installations:

  • Backup the docker volumes. These usually reside within /var/lib/docker/volumes on the host and you need to be root in order to access them.

    Paperless uses 3 volumes:

    • paperless_media: This is where your documents are stored.

    • paperless_data: This is where auxillary data is stored. This folder also contains the SQLite database, if you use it.

    • paperless_pgdata: Exists only if you use PostgreSQL and contains the database.

Options available to bare-metal and non-docker installations:

  • Backup the entire paperless folder. This ensures that if your paperless instance crashes at some point or your disk fails, you can simply copy the folder back into place and it works.

    When using PostgreSQL, you’ll also have to backup the database.


Updating Paperless

Docker Route

If a new release of paperless-ngx is available, upgrading depends on how you installed paperless-ngx in the first place. The releases are available at the release page.

First of all, ensure that paperless is stopped.

$ cd /path/to/paperless
$ docker-compose down

After that, make a backup.

  1. If you pull the image from the docker hub, all you need to do is:

    $ docker-compose pull
    $ docker-compose up

    The docker-compose files refer to the latest version, which is always the latest stable release.

  2. If you built the image yourself, do the following:

    $ git pull
    $ docker-compose build
    $ docker-compose up

Running docker-compose up will also apply any new database migrations. If you see everything working, press CTRL+C once to gracefully stop paperless. Then you can start paperless-ngx with -d to have it run in the background.


In version 0.9.14, the update process was changed. In 0.9.13 and earlier, the docker-compose files specified exact versions and pull won’t automatically update to newer versions. In order to enable updates as described above, either get the new docker-compose.yml file from here or edit the docker-compose.yml file, find the line that says


and replace the version with latest:



In version 1.7.1 and onwards, the Docker image can now be pinned to a release series. This is often combined with automatic updaters such as Watchtower to allow safer unattended upgrading to new bugfix releases only. It is still recommended to always review release notes before upgrading. To pin your install to a release series, edit the docker-compose.yml find the line that says


and replace the version with the series you want to track, for example:


Bare Metal Route

After grabbing the new release and unpacking the contents, do the following:

  1. Update dependencies. New paperless version may require additional dependencies. The dependencies required are listed in the section about bare metal installations.

  2. Update python requirements. Keep in mind to activate your virtual environment before that, if you use one.

    $ pip install -r requirements.txt
  3. Migrate the database.

    $ cd src
    $ python3 migrate

    This might not actually do anything. Not every new paperless version comes with new database migrations.

Downgrading Paperless

Downgrades are possible. However, some updates also contain database migrations (these change the layout of the database and may move data). In order to move back from a version that applied database migrations, you’ll have to revert the database migration before downgrading, and then downgrade paperless.

This table lists the compatible versions for each database migration number.

Migration number

Version range




1.1.0 - 1.2.1


1.3.0 - 1.3.1


1.3.2 - current

Execute the following management command to migrate your database:

$ python3 migrate documents <migration number>


Some migrations cannot be undone. The command will issue errors if that happens.

Management utilities

Paperless comes with some management commands that perform various maintenance tasks on your paperless instance. You can invoke these commands in the following way:

With docker-compose, while paperless is running:

$ cd /path/to/paperless
$ docker-compose exec webserver <command> <arguments>

With docker, while paperless is running:

$ docker exec -it <container-name> <command> <arguments>

Bare metal:

$ cd /path/to/paperless/src
$ python3 <command> <arguments>

All commands have built-in help, which can be accessed by executing them with the argument --help.

Document exporter

The document exporter exports all your data from paperless into a folder for backup or migration to another DMS.

If you use the document exporter within a cronjob to backup your data you might use the -T flag behind exec to suppress “The input device is not a TTY” errors. For example: docker-compose exec -T webserver document_exporter ../export

document_exporter target [-c] [-f] [-d]

optional arguments:
-c, --compare-checksums
-f, --use-filename-format
-d, --delete

target is a folder to which the data gets written. This includes documents, thumbnails and a manifest.json file. The manifest contains all metadata from the database (correspondents, tags, etc).

When you use the provided docker compose script, specify ../export as the target. This path inside the container is automatically mounted on your host on the folder export.

If the target directory already exists and contains files, paperless will assume that the contents of the export directory are a previous export and will attempt to update the previous export. Paperless will only export changed and added files. Paperless determines whether a file has changed by inspecting the file attributes “date/time modified” and “size”. If that does not work out for you, specify --compare-checksums and paperless will attempt to compare file checksums instead. This is slower.

Paperless will not remove any existing files in the export directory. If you want paperless to also remove files that do not belong to the current export such as files from deleted documents, specify --delete. Be careful when pointing paperless to a directory that already contains other files.

The filenames generated by this command follow the format [date created] [correspondent] [title].[extension]. If you want paperless to use PAPERLESS_FILENAME_FORMAT for exported filenames instead, specify --use-filename-format.

Document importer

The document importer takes the export produced by the Document exporter and imports it into paperless.

The importer works just like the exporter. You point it at a directory, and the script does the rest of the work:

document_importer source

When you use the provided docker compose script, put the export inside the export folder in your paperless source directory. Specify ../export as the source.


Importing from a previous version of Paperless may work, but for best results it is suggested to match the versions.

Document retagger

Say you’ve imported a few hundred documents and now want to introduce a tag or set up a new correspondent, and apply its matching to all of the currently-imported docs. This problem is common enough that there are tools for it.

document_retagger [-h] [-c] [-T] [-t] [-i] [--use-first] [-f]

optional arguments:
-c, --correspondent
-T, --tags
-t, --document_type
-i, --inbox-only
-f, --overwrite

Run this after changing or adding matching rules. It’ll loop over all of the documents in your database and attempt to match documents according to the new rules.

Specify any combination of -c, -T and -t to have the retagger perform matching of the specified metadata type. If you don’t specify any of these options, the document retagger won’t do anything.

Specify -i to have the document retagger work on documents tagged with inbox tags only. This is useful when you don’t want to mess with your already processed documents.

When multiple document types or correspondents match a single document, the retagger won’t assign these to the document. Specify --use-first to override this behavior and just use the first correspondent or type it finds. This option does not apply to tags, since any amount of tags can be applied to a document.

Finally, -f specifies that you wish to overwrite already assigned correspondents, types and/or tags. The default behavior is to not assign correspondents and types to documents that have this data already assigned. -f works differently for tags: By default, only additional tags get added to documents, no tags will be removed. With -f, tags that don’t match a document anymore get removed as well.

Managing the Automatic matching algorithm

The Auto matching algorithm requires a trained neural network to work. This network needs to be updated whenever somethings in your data changes. The docker image takes care of that automatically with the task scheduler. You can manually renew the classifier by invoking the following management command:


This command takes no arguments.

Managing the document search index

The document search index is responsible for delivering search results for the website. The document index is automatically updated whenever documents get added to, changed, or removed from paperless. However, if the search yields non-existing documents or won’t find anything, you may need to recreate the index manually.

document_index {reindex,optimize}

Specify reindex to have the index created from scratch. This may take some time.

Specify optimize to optimize the index. This updates certain aspects of the index and usually makes queries faster and also ensures that the autocompletion works properly. This command is regularly invoked by the task scheduler.

Managing filenames

If you use paperless’ feature to assign custom filenames to your documents, you can use this command to move all your files after changing the naming scheme.


Since this command moves your documents, it is advised to do a backup beforehand. The renaming logic is robust and will never overwrite or delete a file, but you can’t ever be careful enough.


The command takes no arguments and processes all your documents at once.

Learn how to use Management Utilities.

Sanity checker

Paperless has a built-in sanity checker that inspects your document collection for issues.

The issues detected by the sanity checker are as follows:

  • Missing original files.

  • Missing archive files.

  • Inaccessible original files due to improper permissions.

  • Inaccessible archive files due to improper permissions.

  • Corrupted original documents by comparing their checksum against what is stored in the database.

  • Corrupted archive documents by comparing their checksum against what is stored in the database.

  • Missing thumbnails.

  • Inaccessible thumbnails due to improper permissions.

  • Documents without any content (warning).

  • Orphaned files in the media directory (warning). These are files that are not referenced by any document im paperless.


The command takes no arguments. Depending on the size of your document archive, this may take some time.

Fetching e-mail

Paperless automatically fetches your e-mail every 10 minutes by default. If you want to invoke the email consumer manually, call the following management command:


The command takes no arguments and processes all your mail accounts and rules.

Creating archived documents

Paperless stores archived PDF/A documents alongside your original documents. These archived documents will also contain selectable text for image-only originals. These documents are derived from the originals, which are always stored unmodified. If coming from an earlier version of paperless, your documents won’t have archived versions.

This command creates PDF/A documents for your documents.

document_archiver --overwrite --document <id>

This command will only attempt to create archived documents when no archived document exists yet, unless --overwrite is specified. If --document <id> is specified, the archiver will only process that document.


This command essentially performs OCR on all your documents again, according to your settings. If you run this with PAPERLESS_OCR_MODE=redo, it will potentially run for a very long time. You can cancel the command at any time, since this command will skip already archived versions the next time it is run.


Some documents will cause errors and cannot be converted into PDF/A documents, such as encrypted PDF documents. The archiver will skip over these documents each time it sees them.

Managing encryption

Documents can be stored in Paperless using GnuPG encryption.


Encryption is deprecated since paperless-ngx 0.9 and doesn’t really provide any additional security, since you have to store the passphrase in a configuration file on the same system as the encrypted documents for paperless to work. Furthermore, the entire text content of the documents is stored plain in the database, even if your documents are encrypted. Filenames are not encrypted as well.

Also, the web server provides transparent access to your encrypted documents.

Consider running paperless on an encrypted filesystem instead, which will then at least provide security against physical hardware theft.

Enabling encryption

Enabling encryption is no longer supported.

Disabling encryption

Basic usage to disable encryption of your document store:

(Note: If PAPERLESS_PASSPHRASE isn’t set already, you need to specify it here)

decrypt_documents [--passphrase SECR3TP4SSPHRA$E]