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This page is a translated version of the page Btrfs and the translation is 8% complete.
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Btrfs is a copy-on-write (CoW) filesystem for Linux aimed at implementing advanced features while focusing on fault tolerance, self-healing properties, and easy administration. Jointly developed at Oracle, Red Hat, Fujitsu, Intel, SUSE, STRATO, and many others, btrfs is licensed under the GPL and open for contribution from anyone.

Ext4 is safe and stable and can handle large filesystems with extents, but why switch? While it is true that Btrfs is still considered experimental and is growing in stability, the time when Btrfs will become the default filesystem for Linux systems is getting closer. Some Linux distributions have already begun to switch to it with their current releases. Btrfs has a number of advanced features in common with ZFS, which is what made the ZFS filesystem popular with BSD distributions and NAS devices.

  • Copy on Write (CoW) and snapshotting - Make incremental backups painless even from a "hot" filesystem or virtual machine (VM).
  • File level checksums - Metadata for each file includes a checksum that is used to detect and repair errors.
  • Compression - Files may be compressed and decompressed on the fly, which speeds up read performance.
  • Auto defragmentation - The filesystems are tuned by a background thread while they are in use.
  • Subvolumes - Filesystems can share a single pool of space instead of being put into their own partitions.
  • RAID - Btrfs does its own RAID implementations so LVM or mdadm are not required in to have RAID. Currently RAID 0, 1 and 10 are supported; RAID 5 and 6 are considered unstable.
  • Partitions are optional - While Btrfs can work with partitions, it has the potential to use raw devices (/dev/<device>) directly.
  • Data deduplication - There is limited data deduplication support; however, deduplication will eventually become a standard feature in Btrfs. This enables Btrfs to save space by comparing files via binary diffs.
  • Quotas - Btrfs offers quota support, which allows for grouping of subvolumes in quotas.
For an up-to-date and somewhat exhaustive listing of features see the upstream wiki's status page. Not all features are sufficiently mature for wide use though.

Down the road, new clustered filesystems will readily take advantage of Btrfs with its copy on write and other advanced features for their object stores. Ceph is one example of a clustered filesystem that looks very promising, and can take advantage of Btrfs.

Btrfs is said to be a stable and well-tested single-disk filesystem and ext4 replacement, but caution is advised when using advanced features such as Btrfs-RAID.[1]


btrfs can counter-intuitively fail filesystem operations with ENOSPC when df reports free space due to internal fragmentation (free space pinned by DATA + SYSTEM chunks, but needed in METADATA chunks).

Additionally, a single 4K reference to a 128M extent inside btrfs can cause free space to be present, but unavailable for allocations. This can also cause btrfs to return ENOSPC when free space is reported by df.

Installing sys-fs/btrfsmaintenance and configuring the scripts to run periodically can help to reduce the possibility of ENOSPC issues by rebalancing btrfs, but it will not eliminate the risk of ENOSPC when free space is present. Some workloads will never hit ENOSPC while others will. If the risk of ENOSPC in production is unacceptable, you should use something else. If using btrfs, be certain to avoid configurations known to have issues.

With the exception of ENOSPC, information on the issues present in btrfs in the latest kernel branches is available at the btrfs status page.



Activate the following kernel option to enable Btrfs support:

KERNEL Activate Btrfs in the kernel
File systems  --->
    <*> Btrfs filesystem


The sys-fs/btrfs-progs package contains the utilities necessary to work with the Btrfs filesystem. To install it:

root #emerge --ask sys-fs/btrfs-progs


Consider setting up sys-fs/btrfsmaintenance to handle regular balancing, defrag, trimming, and scrubbing.

Typing long Btrfs commands can quickly become a hassle. Each command (besides the initial btrfs command) can be reduced to a very short set of instructions. This method is helpful when working from the command line to reduce the amount of characters typed.

For example, to defragment a filesystem located at /, the following shows the long command:

root #btrfs filesystem defragment -v /

Shorten each of the longer commands after the btrfs command by reducing them to their unique, shortest prefix. In this context, unique means that no other btrfs commands will match the command at the command's shortest length. The shortened version of the above command is:

root #btrfs fi de -v /

No other btrfs commands start with fi; filesystem is the only one. The same goes for the de sub-command under the filesystem command.


The mkfs.btrfs command irreversibly destroys any content of the partition it is told to format. Please be sure the correct drive and partition have been selected before running any mkfs command!

To create a Btrfs filesystem on the /dev/sdXN partition:

root #mkfs.btrfs /dev/sdXN

In the example above, replace N with the partition number and X with the disk letter that is to be formatted. For example, to format the third partition of the first drive in the system with Btrfs, run:

root #mkfs.btrfs /dev/sda3
The last number column in /etc/fstab should be 0 for all Btrfs partitions. fsck.btrfs and btrfsck should not be run during each system boot.


Labels can be added to btrfs filesystems, making mounting and organization easier.

Labels are generally less unique than UUIDs, but setting labels like rootfs for /, and homedir for /home can help with organization.
If multiple filesystems with the same label exist on a system, the first labeled system in the fstab, or the first returned by blkid will be mounted. It is generally best to avoid depending on this behavior, so unique labels should be used.

Labels can be added to a btrfs filesystem after it has been created by using:

root #btrfs filesystem label /dev/sda1 rootfs

Labels can be added when the btrfs filesystem is created with:

root #mkfs.btrfs -L rootfs /dev/sda1


After creation, filesystems can be mounted in several ways:

  • mount - Manual mount.
  • /etc/fstab - Defining mount points in /etc/fstab enables automatic mounts on system boot.
  • Removable media - Automatic mounts on demand (useful for USB drives).
  • AutoFS - Automatic mount on filesystem access.

Converting ext* based file systems

It is possible to convert ext2, ext3, and ext4 filesystems to Btrfs using the btrfs-convert utility.

The following instructions only support the conversion of filesystems that are unmounted. To convert the root partition, boot to a system rescue disk (SystemRescueCD works nicely) and run the conversion commands on the root partition.

First, be sure the mount point is unmounted:

root #umount <mounted_device>

Check the integrity of the filesystem using the appropriate fsck tool. In the next example, the filesystem is ext4:

root #fsck.ext4 -f <unmounted_device>

Use btrfs-convert to convert the ext* formatted device into a Btrfs-formatted device:

root #btrfs-convert <unmounted_device>

Be sure to edit /etc/fstab after the device has been formatted to change the filesystem column from ext4 to Btrfs:

FILE /etc/fstabChanging ext4 to btrfs
<device>   <mountpoint>  btrfs  defaults  0 0


Another feature of Btrfs is online defragmentation. To defragment a root Btrfs filesystem, run:

root #btrfs filesystem defragment -r -v /

The autodefrag mount option sets the default behavior to online defragmentation.

Defragmenting with kernel versions < 3.9 or ≥ 3.14-rc2 as well as with Linux stable kernel versions ≥ 3.10.31, ≥ 3.12.12 or ≥ 3.13.4 breaks up ref-links between files and their COW copies[2] and thus may increase space usage considerably. Make sure to have enough free space available and not too many snapshots on the drive as full btrfs partitions can get really slow.


Btrfs supports transparent compression using the zlib, lzo, and zstd (v5.1.0)[3] compression algorithms.

It is possible to compress specific files using the file attributes:

user $chattr +c

The compress mount option sets the default behavior to compress all the newly created files. To re-compress the whole filesystem using lzo compression run the following command:

root #btrfs filesystem defragment -r -v -clzo /

Depending on the CPU and disk performance, using lzo compression could improve the overall throughput.

As alternatives to lzo it is possible to use the zlib or zstd compression algorithms. Zlib is slower but has a higher compression ratio, whereas zstd has a good ratio between the two[4].

To force zlib compression across the whole filesystem:

root #btrfs filesystem defragment -r -v -czlib /

Substitute zstd for zlib in the example above to activate zstd compression.

Compression level

Since kernel version 4.15.0[5], zlib compression can now be set by levels 1-9. Since kernel version 5.1.0 zstd can be set to levels 1-15. For example, to set zlib to maximum compression at mount time:

root #mount -o compress=zlib:9 /dev/sdXY /path/to/btrfs/mountpoint

Or to set minimal compression:

root #mount -o compress=zlib:1 /dev/sdXY /path/to/btrfs/mountpoint

Or adjust compression by remounting:

root #mount -o remount,compress=zlib:3 /path/to/btrfs/mountpoint

The compression level should be visible in /proc/mounts, or by checking the most recent dmesg output using the following command:

root #dmesg | grep -i btrfs
[    0.495284] Btrfs loaded, crc32c=crc32c-intel
[ 3010.727383] BTRFS: device label My Passport devid 1 transid 31 /dev/sdd1
[ 3111.930960] BTRFS info (device sdd1): disk space caching is enabled
[ 3111.930973] BTRFS info (device sdd1): has skinny extents
[ 9428.918325] BTRFS info (device sdd1): use zlib compression, level 3

Adjust fstab for compression

Once a drive has been remounted or adjusted to compress data, be sure to add the appropriate modifications to the /etc/fstab file. In this example, zstd compression is set with a level of 9 at mount time:

FILE /etc/fstabAdd Btrfs compression for zstd
/dev/sdb                /srv            btrfs           compress=zstd:9,relatime,rw     0 0

Compression ratio and disk usage

The usual userspace tools for determining used and free space like du and df may provide inaccurate results on a Btrfs partition due to inherent design differences in the way files are written compared to, for example, ext2/3/4[6].

It is therefore advised to use the du/df alternatives provided by the btrfs userspace tool btrfs filesystem. In addition, the compsize tool found in the sys-fs/compsize package can be helpful in providing additional information regarding compression ratios and the disk usage of compressed files. The following are example uses of these tools for a btrfs partition mounted under /media/drive.

user $btrfs filesystem du -s /media/drive
     Total   Exclusive  Set shared  Filename
 848.12GiB   848.12GiB       0.00B  /media/drive/
user $btrfs filesystem df /media/drive
Data, single: total=846.00GiB, used=845.61GiB
System, DUP: total=8.00MiB, used=112.00KiB
Metadata, DUP: total=2.00GiB, used=904.30MiB
GlobalReserve, single: total=512.00MiB, used=0.00B
user $compsize /media/drive
Processed 2262 files, 112115 regular extents (112115 refs), 174 inline.
Type       Perc     Disk Usage   Uncompressed Referenced  
TOTAL       99%      845G         848G         848G       
none       100%      844G         844G         844G       
zlib        16%      532M         3.2G         3.2G 


Btrfs can be used with multiple block devices in order to create RAIDs. Using Btrfs to create filesystems that span multiple devices is much easier than creating using mdadm, since there is no initialization time needed for creation.

Btrfs handles data and metadata separately. This is important to keep in mind when using a multi-device filesystem. It is possible to use separate profiles for data and metadata block groups. For example, metadata could be configured across multiple devices in RAID1, while data could be configured to RAID5. This profile is possible when using three or more block devices, since RAID5 requires a minimum of 3 block devices.

This type of profile offers the benefit of redundancy for metadata on each device and striping for data across devices, which increases read speeds. The drawback of this profile is more space than necessary is used for metadata, and write speeds are reduced for data blocks, since RAID5 uses a parity bit.


The simplest method is to use the entirety of unpartitioned block devices to create a filesystem spanning multiple devices. For example, to create a filesystem in RAID1 mode across two devices:

root #mkfs.btrfs -m raid1 <urządzenie1> <urządzenie2> -d raid1 <urządzenie1> <urządzenie2>


Converting between RAID profiles is possible with the balance sub-command. For example, say three block devices are presently configured for RAID1 and mounted at /srv. It is possible to convert the data in this profile from RAID1 to RAID5 with the following command:

root #btrfs balance start -dconvert=raid5 --force /srv

Conversion can be performed while the filesystem is online and in use. Possible RAID modes in btrfs include RAID0, RAID1, RAID5, RAID6, and RAID10. See the upstream Btrfs wiki for more information.

It is currently not safe to use the RAID 5 or 6 modes[7]. RAID 5 and 6 modes have seen some fixes[8] in Linux 4.12, but overall status is still marked as unstable.[9][10]. Users who want to use RAID5 or RAID6 functionality of btrfs are encouraged to check the Btrfs status page for stability status of said modes before utilizing the modes.


Additional devices can be added to existing multi device file systems. Follow the removal section below.

A riskier, but faster, alternative to safely removing a device is to shut the system down (or if the system supports hot swappable drives, at least unmount the filesystem), physically disconnect and remove the device that is to be replaced, substituted and connect the new device in it's place, power up the system (if necessary).

Note: Systems that will be power cycled will have the multi device filesystem fail to mount, since a device has been physically removed from the pool.

Once the system is booted, mount the multi-device filesystem with mount -odegraded, then perform the following steps on adding a new device.

root #mount -odegraded /srv
root #btrfs device add --force /dev/sdd /srv

After the device has been re-added it is then necessary to re-balance the filesystem to be sure data is spanned across the newly added device:

root #btrfs balance start /srv


By device path

Block devices (disks) can be removed from multi-device filesystems using the btrfs device remove subcommand:

root #btrfs device remove /dev/sde /srv
By device ID

Use the usage subcommand to determine the device IDs:

root #btrfs device usage /srv
/dev/sdb, ID: 3
   Device size:             1.82TiB
   Device slack:              0.00B
   Data,RAID1:             25.00GiB
   Data,RAID5:            497.00GiB
   Data,RAID5:              5.00GiB
   Metadata,RAID5:         17.00GiB
   Metadata,RAID5:        352.00MiB
   System,RAID5:           32.00MiB
   Unallocated:             1.29TiB
/dev/sdc, ID: 1
   Device size:             1.82TiB
   Device slack:              0.00B
   Data,RAID1:             25.00GiB
   Data,RAID5:            497.00GiB
   Data,RAID5:              5.00GiB
   Metadata,RAID5:         17.00GiB
   Metadata,RAID5:        352.00MiB
   System,RAID5:           32.00MiB
   Unallocated:             1.29TiB
/dev/sdd, ID: 4
   Device size:             1.82TiB
   Device slack:              0.00B
   Data,RAID1:             25.00GiB
   Data,RAID5:            497.00GiB
   Data,RAID5:              5.00GiB
   Metadata,RAID5:         17.00GiB
   Metadata,RAID5:        352.00MiB
   System,RAID5:           32.00MiB
   Unallocated:             1.29TiB
/dev/sde, ID: 5
   Device size:               0.00B
   Device slack:              0.00B
   Data,RAID1:             75.00GiB
   Data,RAID5:              5.00GiB
   Metadata,RAID5:        352.00MiB
   Unallocated:             1.74TiB

Next use the device ID to remove the device. In this case /dev/sde will be removed:

root #btrfs device remove 5 /srv


btrfs partitions can be resized while online using the built-in resize subcommand.

This does not affect the size of the partition itself, just the filesystem.

Set the size of the root filesystem to 128gb:

root #btrfs filesystem resize 128g /

Add 50 gigabytes of space to the rootfs:

root #btrfs filesystem resize +50g /

The command can also fill all available space:

root #btrfs filesystem resize max /


As mentioned above in the features list, Btrfs can create subvolumes. Subvolumes can be used to better organize and manage data. They become especially powerful when combined with snapshots. Important distinctions must be made between Btrfs subvolumes and subvolumes created by Logical Volume Management (LVM). Btrfs subvolumes are not block level devices, they are POSIX file namespaces.[11] They can be created at any location in the filesystem and will act like any other directory on the system with one difference: subvolumes can be mounted and unmounted. Subvolumes are nestable (subvolumes can be created inside other subvolumes), and easily created or removed.

A subvolume cannot be created across different Btrfs filesystems. If /dev/sda and /dev/sdb both contain separate (non-RAID) Btrfs filesystems, there is no way a subvolume can expand across the two filesystems. The snapshot can be moved from one filesystem to another, but it cannot span across the two. It must be on /dev/sda or /dev/sdb.


To create a subvolume, issue the following command inside a Btrfs filesystem's name space:

root #btrfs subvolume create <dest-name>

Replace <dest-name> with the desired destination and subvolume name. For example, if a Btrfs filesystem exists at /mnt/btrfs, a subvolume could be created inside it using the following command:

root #btrfs subvolume create /mnt/btrfs/subvolume1


To see the subvolume(s) that have been created, use the subvolume list command followed by a Btrfs filesystem location. If the current directory is somewhere inside a Btrfs filesystem, the following command will display the subvolume(s) that exist on the filesystem:

root #btrfs subvolume list .

If a Btrfs filesystem with subvolumes exists at the mount point created in the example command above, the output from the list command will look similar to the following:

root #btrfs subvolume list /mnt/btrfs
ID 309 gen 102913 top level 5 path mnt/btrfs/subvolume1


All available subvolume paths in a Btrfs filesystem can be seen using the list command above.

Subvolumes can be properly removed by using the subvolume delete command, followed by the path to the subvolume:

root #btrfs subvolume delete <subvolume-path>

As above, replace <subvolume-path> with the actual path to the subvolume to be removed. To delete the subvolume used in the examples above, the following command would be issued:

root #btrfs subvolume delete /mnt/btrfs/subvolume1
Delete subvolume (no-commit): '/mnt/btrfs/subvolume1'


Snapshots are subvolumes that share data and metadata with other subvolumes. This is made possible by Btrfs' Copy on Write (CoW) ability.[11] Snapshots can be used for several purposes, one of which is to create backups of file system structures at specific points in time.

If the root filesystem is Btrfs, it is possible to create a snapshot using the subvolume snapshot commands:

root #mkdir -p /mnt/backup/rootfs
root #btrfs subvolume snapshot / /mnt/backup/rootfs/

The following small shell script can be added to a timed cron job to create a timestamped snapshot backup of a Btrfs formatted root filesystem. The timestamps can be adjusted to whatever is preferred by the user.

FILE btrfs_snapshot.shBtrfs rootfs snapshot cron job example
NOW=$(date +"%Y-%m-%d_%H:%M:%S")
if [ ! -e /mnt/backup ]; then
mkdir -p /mnt/backup
cd /
/sbin/btrfs subvolume snapshot / "/mnt/backup/backup_${NOW}"


A subvolume can be mounted in a location different from where it was created, or users can choose to not mount them at all. For example, a user could create a Btrfs filesystem in /mnt/btrfs and create /mnt/btrfs/home and /mnt/btrfs/gentoo-repo subvolumes. The subvolumes could then be mounted at /home and /var/db/repos/gentoo, with the original top level subvolume left unmounted. This results in a configuration where the subvolumes' relative path from the top level subvolume is different from their actual path.

To mount a subvolume, perform the following command, where <rel-path> is the relative path of the subvolume from the top level subvolume, obtainable through the subvolume list command:

root #mount -o subvol=<rel-path> <device> <mountpoint>

Similarly, the filesystem tab can be updated to mount a Btrfs subvolume:

FILE /etc/fstabMounting Subvolumes
<device>  <mountpoint>  btrfs  subvol=<rel-path>  0 2


Filesystem check

With a failing disk or corrupted data, it may be necessary to run the a filesystem check. Typically filesystem check commands are handled through the fsck. prefix, but for btrfs filesystems, checks are handled via the btrfs check subcommand:

root #btrfs check --progress /dev/<device>
Checking multi-device filesystems are handled by passing any one of the devices in the filesystem to btrfs check. As long as all of the devices are available the check should run.

Multi device filesystem mount fails

After ungracefully removing one or more devices from a multi device filesystem, attempting to mount the filesystem will fail:

root #mnt /srv
mount: /srv: wrong fs type, bad option, bad superblock on /dev/sdb, missing codepage or helper program, or other error.

This type of mount failure could be caused by missing one or more devices from the multi device filesystem. Missing devices can be detected by using the filesystem show subcommand. In the following example /dev/sdb is one of the devices still connected to the multi device filesystem:

root #btrfs filesystem show /dev/sdb
Label: none  uuid: 9e7e9824-d66b-4a9c-a05c-c4245accabe99
        Total devices 5 FS bytes used 2.50TiB
        devid    1 size 1.82TiB used 817.03GiB path /dev/sdc
        devid    3 size 1.82TiB used 817.00GiB path /dev/sdb
        devid    5 size 10.91TiB used 2.53TiB path /dev/sde
        devid    6 size 10.91TiB used 2.53TiB path /dev/sdd
        *** Some devices missing

Missing device can be ungracefully dropped from the filesystem by using the following command:

root #btrfs device delete missing /srv
If the multi device filesystem is in RAID 0 mode, then data loss will occur!

Using with VM disk images

When using Btrfs with virtual machine disk images, it is best to disable copy-on-write on the disk images in order to speed up IO performance. This can only be performed on files that are newly created. It also possible to disable CoW on all files created within a certain directory. For example, using the chattr command:

root #chattr +C /var/lib/libvirt/images

Clear the free space cache

It is possible to clear Btrfs' free space cache by mounting the filesystem with the clear_cache mount option. For example:

root #mount -o clear_cache /path/to/device /path/to/mountpoint

Btrfs hogging memory (disk cache)

When utilizing some of Btrfs' special abilities (like making many --reflink copies or creating high amounts of snapshots), a lot of memory can be consumed and not freed fast enough by the kernel's inode cache. This issue can go undiscovered since memory dedicated to the disk cache might not be clearly visible in traditional system monitoring utilities. The slabtop utility (available as part of the sys-process/procps package) was specifically created to determine how much memory kernel objects are consuming:

root #slabtop

If the inode cache is consuming too much memory, the kernel can be manually instructed to drop the cache by echoing an integer value to the /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches file[12].

To be safe, and to help the kernel determine the maximum amount of freeable memory, be sure to run a sync before running the echo commands below:

user $sync

Most of the time Btrfs users will probably want to echo 2 to reclaim just the slab objects (dentries and btrfs_inodes):

root #echo 2 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches

To clear the entire disk cache (slab objects and the page cache) use echo 3 instead:

root #echo 3 > /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches
While the above commands are non-destructive (as long as a sync was completed before running them), they could seriously but temporarily slow down the system while the kernel loads only the necessary items back into memory. Think twice before running the above commands for systems under heavy load!

More information on kernel slabs can be found in this dedoimedo blog entry.

Mounting Btrfs fails, returning mount: unknown filesystem type 'btrfs'

The original solution by Tim on Stack Exchange inspired the following solution: build the kernel manually instead of using genkernel:

#cd /usr/src/linux
#make menuconfig
#make && make modules_install
#cp arch/x86_64/boot/bzImage /boot
#mv /boot/bzImage /boot/whatever_kernel_filename
#genkernel --install initramfs

Btrfs root doesn't boot

Genkernel's initramfs as created with the command below doesn't load btrfs:

root #genkernel --btrfs initramfs

Compile support for btrfs in the kernel rather than as a module, or use Dracut to generate the initramfs.

Zobacz również

  • Btrfs/snapshots — script to make automatic snapshots with Btrfs filesystem, using btrfs subvolume list-new function to create snapshots only when files have changed, so as to create fewer snapshots.
  • Btrfs/System Root Guide — one example for re-basing a Gentoo installation's root filesystem to use btrfs
  • Btrfs/Native System Root Guide — alternative guide on using a subvolume in a Btrfs filesystem as the system's root
  • Ext4 — an open source disk filesystem and most recent version of the extended series of filesystems.
  • Btrbk — a tool for creating incremental snapshots and remote backups of Btrfs subvolumes.
  • Samba shadow copies — expose Shadow Copies as 'Previous Versions' to Windows clients.
  • Snapper — a command-line program to create and manage filesystem snapshots, allowing viewing or reversion of changes.
  • ZFS — a next generation filesystem created by Matthew Ahrens and Jeff Bonwick.

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