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I was just reading up on the Birth section of stat and it appears ext4 should support it, but even a file I just created leaves it empty.

 ~  % touch test                                                       slave-iv
 ~  % stat test.pl                                                     slave-iv
  File: ‘test.pl’
  Size: 173             Blocks: 8          IO Block: 4096   regular file
Device: 903h/2307d      Inode: 41943086    Links: 1
Access: (0600/-rw-------)  Uid: ( 1000/xenoterracide)   Gid: (  100/   users)
Access: 2012-09-22 18:22:16.924634497 -0500
Modify: 2012-09-22 18:22:16.924634497 -0500
Change: 2012-09-22 18:22:16.947967935 -0500
 Birth: -

 ~  % sudo tune2fs -l /dev/md3 | psp4                                  slave-iv
tune2fs 1.42.5 (29-Jul-2012)
Filesystem volume name:   home
Last mounted on:          /home
Filesystem UUID:          ab2e39fb-acdd-416a-9e10-b501498056de
Filesystem magic number:  0xEF53
Filesystem revision #:    1 (dynamic)
Filesystem features:      has_journal ext_attr resize_inode dir_index filetype needs_recovery extent flex_bg sparse_super large_file huge_file uninit_bg dir_nlink extra_isize
Filesystem flags:         signed_directory_hash 
Default mount options:    journal_data
Filesystem state:         clean
Errors behavior:          Continue
Filesystem OS type:       Linux
Inode count:              59736064
Block count:              238920960
Reserved block count:     11946048
Free blocks:              34486248
Free inodes:              59610013
First block:              0
Block size:               4096
Fragment size:            4096
Reserved GDT blocks:      967
Blocks per group:         32768
Fragments per group:      32768
Inodes per group:         8192
Inode blocks per group:   512
RAID stride:              128
RAID stripe width:        256
Flex block group size:    16
Filesystem created:       Mon May 31 20:36:30 2010
Last mount time:          Sat Oct  6 11:01:01 2012
Last write time:          Sat Oct  6 11:01:01 2012
Mount count:              14
Maximum mount count:      34
Last checked:             Tue Jul 10 08:26:37 2012
Check interval:           15552000 (6 months)
Next check after:         Sun Jan  6 07:26:37 2013
Lifetime writes:          7255 GB
Reserved blocks uid:      0 (user root)
Reserved blocks gid:      0 (group root)
First inode:              11
Inode size:           256
Required extra isize:     28
Desired extra isize:      28
Journal inode:            8
First orphan inode:       55313243
Default directory hash:   half_md4
Directory Hash Seed:      442c66e8-8b67-4a8c-92a6-2e2d0c220044
Journal backup:           inode blocks

Why doesn't my ext4 partition populate this field?

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up vote 29 down vote accepted

The field gets populated (see below) only coreutils stat does not display it. Apparently they're waiting1 for the xstat() interface.

coreutils patches - aug. 2012 - TODO

stat(1) and ls(1) support for birth time. Dependent on xstat() being provided by the kernel

You can get the creation time via debugfs:

debugfs -R 'stat <inode_number>' DEVICE

e.g. for my /etc/profile which is on /dev/sda2 (see How to find out what device a file is on):

stat -c %i /etc/profile
debugfs -R 'stat <398264>' /dev/sda2
debugfs 1.42.5 (29-Jul-2012)
Inode: 398264   Type: regular    Mode:  0644   Flags: 0x80000
Generation: 2058737571    Version: 0x00000000:00000001
User:     0   Group:     0   Size: 562
File ACL: 0    Directory ACL: 0
Links: 1   Blockcount: 8
Fragment:  Address: 0    Number: 0    Size: 0
 ctime: 0x506b860b:19fa3c34 -- Wed Oct  3 02:25:47 2012
 atime: 0x50476677:dcd84978 -- Wed Sep  5 16:49:27 2012
 mtime: 0x506b860b:19fa3c34 -- Wed Oct  3 02:25:47 2012
crtime: 0x50476677:dcd84978 -- Wed Sep  5 16:49:27 2012
Size of extra inode fields: 28

1 Linus' reply on LKML thread

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sudo debugfs -R 'stat /path/to/foo' /dev/sda2 gives me /path/to/foo: File not found by ext2_lookup. stat /path/to/foo works (with Birth empty). Also, ext2? – Sparhawk Nov 9 '13 at 3:01
@Sparhawk: I had this problem too with a file /home/user/path/to/file because /home was on a separate partition. In that case, the path provided to stat must be relative to /home. Example: sudo debugfs -R 'stat user/path/to/file' /dev/sda2. To get rid of the path handling, we can provide to stat the inode number instead of the path: sudo debugfs -R "stat <$(stat -c %i /home/user/path/to/file)>" /dev/sda5 – jpfleury Apr 17 '14 at 2:39
@jpfleury Thanks. That works now. – Sparhawk May 1 '14 at 1:13
Equivalent of stat /home/richard is sudo debugfs -R 'stat /richard' /dev/disk/by-label/home — assuming that /home is a separate file-system, and you file-systems are labelled. – richard Aug 11 '14 at 11:27
@jpfleury My situation is like yours with a separation home partition. I can get the creation time by your method. But I don't know why. For example, home partition is sda5, and current directory is ~, and I want to get crtime of file.txt under ~. I use sudo debugfs -R 'stat file.txt' /dev/sda5. Why debufs cannot find the file.txt on sda5? – Zachary Sep 16 '14 at 11:17

I combined this into a simple shell function:

get_crtime() {

  for target in "${@}"; do
    inode=$(stat -c %i "${target}")
    fs=$(df  --output=source "${target}"  | tail -1)
    crtime=$(sudo debugfs -R 'stat <'"${inode}"'>' "${fs}" 2>/dev/null | 
    grep -oP 'crtime.*--\s*\K.*')
    printf "%s\t%s\n" "${target}" "${crtime}"

You can then run it with

$ get_crtime foo foo/file /etc/
foo Wed May 21 17:11:08 2014
foo/file    Wed May 21 17:11:27 2014
/etc/   Wed Aug  1 20:42:03 2012
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is there a particular reason for not using inode=$(stat -c %i "${target}") instead? It's easier and simpler.. – Bruno Casteleiro Oct 10 '15 at 17:33
@BrunoCasteleiro basically because that was the one that occurred to me and I like the chance to safely parse ls. It doesn't happen often :). You're right though, stat is probably better, thanks. – terdon Oct 12 '15 at 11:39

There's another case where Birth time will be empty/zero/dash: Ext4's Inode size has to be at least 256bytes to store crtime. The problem occur if you initially created the filesystem smaller than 512MB ( the default Inode size will be 128 bytes, see /etc/mke2fs.conf and mkfs.ext4 manpage).

stat -c '%n: %w' testfile
testfile: -  


stat -c '%n: %W' testfile
testfile: 0

Now check the filesystem inode (is it big enough to store crtime?):

tune2fs -l $(df . --output=source | grep ^/) | grep "Inode size:"
Inode size:           128

Technical information: On the Ext4 Disk Layout page, note that some attributes of the inode tables are beyond 0x80 (128).

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Correct (I remember reading about this on vger). The 512MB limit is defined in mke2fs.c at line 1275 – don_crissti Mar 27 '15 at 23:22

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