Unix & Linux Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for users of Linux, FreeBSD and other Un*x-like operating systems. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What filesystem would be best for backups? I'm interested primary in stability (especially uncorruptability of files during hard reboots etc.) but how efficiently it handles large (>5GB) files is also important.

Also, which mount parameters should I use?

Kernel is Linux >= 2.6.34.

EDIT: I do not want backup methods. I need the filesystem to store them.

share|improve this question
How much data are you backing up daily, weekly, monthly? How much data do you plan to retain, and for how long? – Stefan Lasiewski Aug 31 '10 at 18:33
Does it have to be Linux? Have you considered ZFS (An older, stable version 14) on FreeBSD 8.1? – Stefan Lasiewski Aug 31 '10 at 18:35
It is temporary backup storage for laptop - untill it will be sent to external harddrive. As of FreeBSD - while it is wonderful system it does not suit me in this application. – Maciej Piechotka Aug 31 '10 at 19:43
up vote 12 down vote accepted

You can use ext4 but I would recommend mounting with journal_data mode which will turn off dealloc (delayed allocation) which 'caused some earlier problems. The disabling of dealloc will make new data writes slower, but make writes in the event of power failure less likely to have loss. I should also mention that you can disable dealloc without using journal_data which has some other benefits (or at least it did in ext3), such as slightly improved reads, and I believe better recovery.

Extents will still help with fragmentation. Extents make delete's of large files much faster than ext3, a delete of any sized data (single file) should be near instantaneous on ext4 but can take a long time on ext3. (any extent based FS has this advantage)

ext4 also fsck 's faster than ext3.

One last note, there were bugfixes in ext4 up to like 2.6.31? I would basically make sure you aren't running a kernel pre 2.6.32 which is an LTS kernel.

share|improve this answer

XFS is rock solid and has been in the kernel for ages. Examine tools like xfs_freeze and see if it is what you are looking for. I know this is highly subjective but I have used XFS for data storage for years without incident.

share|improve this answer
based on my answer I would like to note that XFS is extents based and carries many the same advantages as ext4. However I'd like to mention that it carries the same issues with dealloc that ext4 can have, which can result in data loss in a pull the plug scenario. I don't know whether dealloc can be disabled in XFS. – xenoterracide Aug 31 '10 at 20:12
Yeah, I am not sure if you can disable the feature, but the xfs_freeze utility ensures a stable disk image. From the man page: The -f flag requests the specified XFS filesystem to be frozen from new modifications. When this is selected, all ongoing transactions in the filesystem are allowed to complete, new write system calls are halted, other calls which modify the filesystem are halted, and all dirty data, metadata, and log information are written to disk. Any process attempting to write to the frozen filesystem will block waiting for the filesystem to be unfrozen. – dsp Aug 31 '10 at 20:25
I'm less concerned with mid-writing corruption of files as long as flush works. – Maciej Piechotka Aug 31 '10 at 20:48

Just use a backup tool that support checksums. For example Dar does, and it supports incremental backups. Then you can backup to a rock solid filesystem like ext3.

For backups you want something rock solid/very stable. And btrfs or ZFS are simply not ready today.

share|improve this answer
I count it as ext3 – Maciej Piechotka Aug 31 '10 at 17:11

btrfs has transparent checksumming of data written to disk and a fast ordered-writes mode that is always on (and many other backup-friendly features) which makes it appealing for backups. See https://btrfs.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/Main_Page for more details.

share|improve this answer
Hmm. While it might be a good answer in future I don't think btrfs or zfs are stable on Linux right now. – Maciej Piechotka Aug 31 '10 at 16:20
I've had btrfs recommended to me by kernel users. Last I knew the Mercurial maintainer was running it on at least one machine full-time. I use ZFS via FUSE daily and it's rock solid, if a bit slow because of FUSE. – durin42 Aug 31 '10 at 16:43
btrfs on disk format isn't stable yet... I wouldn't recommend it until that has changed. Kernel programmers can run all kinds of crazy things. – xenoterracide Aug 31 '10 at 17:01
ZFS might be stable... but due to the FUSE thing I wouldn't bother with it. – xenoterracide Aug 31 '10 at 17:28
ZFS on FUSE is a hack. It might be a good hack, I wouldn't trust it for your critical business data. Also, ZFS on FUSE has some speed issues, and speed is critical when you are backing up terabytes of data. – Stefan Lasiewski Aug 31 '10 at 18:33

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.