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Btrfs has begun to gain some momentum in replacing ext4 as the default filesystem of choice for a few distributions such as Fedora Core 16. It is experimentally available in a number of other distributions (From Wikipedia: openSUSE 11.3, SLES 11 SP1, Ubuntu 10.10, Sabayon Linux, RHEL6,MeeGo, Debian 6.0, and Slackware 13.37). I'm certainly not ready to convert all my workplace servers over (my file system choice is generally conservative), I'm considering using it at home and on select non-mission critical production machines at work.

Btrfs brings a feature set that is similar to ZFS in many ways. I can understand why this would be desirable in an "enterprise" environment, especially with systems that focus on storage delivery. But how is this same feature set useful for end users? What advantages does Btrfs' feature list give me on machines whose primary function is not the presentation of storage? What advantages does it give me on my laptop?

Outside of enterprise storage, why should I bother switching to Btrfs from the tried and true Ext filesystem?

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Could you elaborate on the point "default filesystem of choice for a few distributions" (I mean links?) - it's most interesting. –  rozcietrzewiacz Aug 9 '11 at 8:09
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Afaik, on disk format is not yet stable. I won't use it until it is. And if you can't answer why you are, you shouldn't either. –  xenoterracide Aug 9 '11 at 14:25
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The feature process always has a fallback plan if the proposed feature is not ready. Luckily that's easy in this case — keep to the status quo. Details in this case here. –  mattdm Aug 9 '11 at 19:18
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"Btrfs brings a feature set that is similar to ZFS in many ways." Indeed but not in all ways. For example ZFS doesn't need an fsck and this is by design. ZFS isn't corrupted by OS panics or disk power failures. –  jlliagre Aug 10 '11 at 8:28
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3 Answers 3

up vote 12 down vote accepted

From wiki:

Extent based file storage
2^64 byte == 16 EiB maximum file size
Space-efficient packing of small files
Space-efficient indexed directories
Dynamic inode allocation
Writable snapshots, read-only snapshots
Subvolumes (separate internal filesystem roots)
Checksums on data and metadata
Compression (gzip and LZO)
Integrated multiple device support 
    RAID-0, RAID-1 and RAID-10 implementations 
Efficient incremental backup
Background scrub process for finding and fixing errors on files with redundant copies
Online filesystem defragmentation 

Explanation for desktop users:

  • Space-efficient packing of small files: Important for desktops with tens of thousands of files (maildirs, repos with code, etc).
  • Dynamic inode allocation: Avoid the limits of Ext2/3/4 in numbers of inodes. Btrfs hasn't this limits.
  • Read-only snapshots: fast backups.
  • Checksums on data and metadata: essential for data integrity. Ext4 only has metadata integrity.
  • Compression: LZO compression is very fast.
  • Background scrub process for finding and fixing errors on files with redundant copies: data integrity.
  • Online filesystem defragmentation: autodefrag in 3.0 is a nice feature.

I recommend you the kernel 3.0 and to wait for the release of the complete fsck. Also btrfs is a good FS for SSD.

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Fast backups and full system rollbacks –  psusi Aug 9 '11 at 17:59
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For the benefits: I believe it will be mainly the backup and mirroring features.

But why would you be so hasty as to think of btrfs as a filesystem ready to replace any of your current ones? Both the wiki you refer to :

(...) it is currently possible to corrupt a filesystem irrecoverably if your 
machine crashes or loses power on disks that don't handle flush requests
correctly. This will be fixed when the fsck tool is ready.

and the 3.0 kernel documentation

  Btrfs filesystem (EXPERIMENTAL) Unstable disk format
  (...)
  Btrfs is highly experimental, and THE DISK FORMAT IS NOT FINALIZED. 
  You should say N here unless you are interested in testing Btrfs 
  with non-critical data.

clearly discourage you from using btrfs for any other purpose than testing.

But when it comes to form, I believe for the end-user will only have value for private data like things in one's home directory. There will be no need for the safety net of moving things to trash - actually there will be a need of redefining the "trash" on desktop environments. Rest of the features will probably just end up (to the user) as feeling faster (if at all), but more quickly eating up the disk space.

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This is short but sweet.

Any improvement to the stability and data integrity of the filesystem is beneficial for end users. Computers exist for end users and storing their photos, documents, movies, whatever.

You'll never know the disasters you averted by upgrading to a more robust filesystem.

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Ostensibly yes... but how do the features of Btrfs equate to an improvement in "stability and data integrity"? –  kce Aug 9 '11 at 20:00
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