I have no experience with btrfs, but it's advertised to be able to de-duplicate files.

In my application, I'd need to duplicate whole directory trees.

From what I learned, btrfs only de-duplicates in some post scan, not immediately. Even just using cp doesn't seem to trigger any de-duplication (at least, df shows an increased disk usage in the size of the copied files).

Can I avoid moving data around altogether and tell btrfs directly to duplicate a file at another location, essentially just cloning its metadata?

In essence, similar to a hardlink, but with independent metadata (permissions, mod. times, ...).

  • 7
    cp --reflink=always. – mikeserv Dec 16 '15 at 17:35
  • 3
    Note that this isn't anything like a hardlink. When you cp --reflink=always, the result from the user perspective will be two completely independent files in every way. The fact that the underlying file system is abstracting that via copy-on-write is only an implementation detail. You don't get "a hardlink, but with independent metadata.". To my knowledge, btrfs doesn't do any automatic deduplication yet. I think that's a future plan but I'm not positive on that. – ormaaj Dec 16 '15 at 18:32
  • @ormaaj - a hardlink wouldn't have independent metadata. and Udo asked for an implementation detail. when you do a reflink to a file you essentially clone its metadata. its only when the references independently change that the files diverge - and that's what deduplication is all about! – mikeserv Dec 16 '15 at 20:24
  • 1
    @mikeserv Er, I'm pretty sure deduplication has a different sense. Deduplication is taking already existing redundant copies of data and re-unifying it. COW is a means of minimizing duplication, it isn't deduplication. – ormaaj Dec 16 '15 at 20:45
  • @ormaaj - i think thats a weird thing to say: deduplication is not about minimizing duplication. – mikeserv Dec 16 '15 at 21:10

There are two options:

  1. cp --reflink=always
  2. cp --reflink=auto

The second is almost always preferable to the first. Using auto means it will fallback to doing a true copy if the file system doesn't support reflinking (for instance, ext4 or copying to an NFS share). With the first option, I'm pretty sure it will outright fail and stop copying.

If you are using this as part of a script that needs to be robust in the face of non-ideal conditions, auto will serve your better.

| improve this answer | |
  • are you Eric Estrada? – mikeserv Dec 20 '15 at 2:27
  • 2
    @mikeserv Lol, no. My first name is Ethan. That would be funny though; Eric Estrada: actor by day, sysadmin by night. Believe it or not, this is the first time in over a decade of going by the online handle eestrada that anyone has ever asked me that. – eestrada Dec 20 '15 at 2:42
  • 2
    sure, Eric. anyway, good answer. – mikeserv Dec 20 '15 at 5:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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