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 is the console equivalent of the following Python code:

target = file("disk", "w")    # create a file
target.seek(2*1024*1024*1024) # skip to 2 GB

Maybe some dd incantation? The idea is making a file with the apparent size of 2 GB for use e.g. in virtualization.

kvm disk -cd whatever.iso #Only allocate space as necessary
share|improve this question
dd is the only traditional tool that exposes the seek system call (see dd vs cat -- is dd still relevant these days? but there are other ways to skin this cat on typical current unices. – Gilles Dec 21 '12 at 1:45
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Generally speaking, just use dd, but as you mention the use of KVM virtualization, you might consider using qemu-img:

qemu-img create -f raw disk 2G

It does the same as the dd command in the answer of Chris Down, effectively.

Regardless of what command you use, for use in virtualization, I would strongly suggest to use fallocate to pre-allocate blocks in order to prevent fragmentation and increase performance.

fallocate -l 2G disk

It's not available on all platforms and filesystems, though. This will not write zeroes, but just assigns blocks to the file, rather than doing that on demand later everytime it has to extend the file.

share|improve this answer
Is the quote a typo? – badp Dec 20 '12 at 14:32
@badp yes, fixed. – gertvdijk Dec 20 '12 at 14:32
qemu-img and dd both perform one system call to set the file size (ftruncate), but will perform a lot more to load themselves and the libraries they're linked to. And, in that regard, dd is going to be a lot more effective than qemu-img (which is a lot larger and is linked to far more libraries). GNU truncate is going to be even more effective. dd also has the advantage of being ubiquitous. Good point about fallocate though. – Stéphane Chazelas Dec 20 '12 at 17:42
@StephaneChazelas I totally second your comment. I've edited my answer to point out that qemu-img is just an obvious alternative in the use of KVM virtualization. – gertvdijk Dec 21 '12 at 0:09

You can create a sparse file like this with dd:

dd of=file bs=1 seek=2G count=0
$ du file
0       disk
$ du --apparent-size file
2097152 disk
share|improve this answer
Also, 2G is a GNU extension to dd. You can use bs=1024 seek=2097152 if you don't have GNU dd. – Chris Down Dec 20 '12 at 14:29
Heh, G is an extension, and it's not supported by OpenBSD's version of dd... but, M and K are supported, so maybe seek=2048M is a bit more readable, depending on what platforms you're targetting – Earlz Dec 20 '12 at 20:01
You should read from /dev/zero: if=/dev/zero – Daniel Fanjul Dec 25 '12 at 21:03
@DanielFanjul Why? There is absolutely no difference, no bytes are written. – Chris Down Dec 25 '12 at 21:39
@ChrisDown Because /dev/null contains no data when you read, but /dev/zero contains infinte zeros. Oh, count=1, the number of bytes to write must not be zero. – Daniel Fanjul Dec 26 '12 at 18:39

See also the GNU truncate command:

truncate -s 2G some-file
share|improve this answer

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.