I ran tune2fs -l /dev/sda on my production server today and got the following output:

tune2fs 1.42.9 (4-Feb-2014)
Filesystem volume name:   <none>
Last mounted on:          /
Filesystem UUID:          a5b1c696-aa59-43db-a252-88b2e6d8212c
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 user_xattr acl
Filesystem state:         clean
Errors behavior:          Continue
Filesystem OS type:       Linux
Inode count:              60923904
Block count:              243670272
Reserved block count:     12183513
Free blocks:              223441953
Free inodes:              60799595
First block:              0
Block size:               4096
Fragment size:            4096
Reserved GDT blocks:      965
Blocks per group:         32768
Fragments per group:      32768
Inodes per group:         8192
Inode blocks per group:   512
Flex block group size:    16
Filesystem created:       Fri May  9 19:48:11 2014
Last mount time:          Fri Jun  6 20:17:28 2014
Last write time:          Fri Jun  6 20:17:01 2014
Mount count:              1
Maximum mount count:      -1
Last checked:             Fri Jun  6 20:17:01 2014
Check interval:           0 (<none>)
Lifetime writes:          194 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:       17301533
Default directory hash:   half_md4
Directory Hash Seed:      1fbb5b3a-79fe-42b3-b69d-0f8073618d27
Journal backup:           inode blocks

What stood out to me was this line:

First orphan inode:       17301533

I've always understood orphan inodes to mean inodes that are left over after a crash. However the file system in question has always been cleanly unmounted and the system is on a UPS and has never shutdown uncleanly.

Is there a reason why there are orphaned inodes and does it indicate a problem?


An orphaned inode is one that has been unlinked but is still open in another process. For example running tail -f {file} in one shell followed by rm {file} in another. The filesystem keeps track of these so they can be cleaned up when the process quits.

See this note on Ext4 Disk Layout.

  • Thanks. Out of interest, is there a way to see which processes are holding on to these orphaned inodes? – Tim Jan 5 '15 at 22:07
  • 1
    Output of lsof will show the file as /path/to/file (deleted) – Robert Calhoun Jan 5 '15 at 22:21

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