On an mtd partition with 39 erase blocks (= 4.9 MiB), I tried to format a ubifs. The resulting file system has free space of 2.2M uncompressed data when reserved blocks are reduced to the minimum possible 1 block (I know that's not good). This means that only 45% of the space is usable for data.

The same area formatted with jffs2 allows me to write 4.6 MB of data which is 93% or more than double the size in a ubifs setup.

The problem is that I can't use jffs2 because my OOB size of 64 bytes doesn't provide enough space for both BCH8 and JFFS2 OBB data, as described in a TI warning.

I already read the FAQ chapters Why does my UBIFS volume have significantly lower capacity than my equivalent JFFS2 volume? and Why does df report too little free space? but I still can't believe that the overhead is so big.

Is there anything I can do to increase the free space of my (writable) ubifs volume?

Do I save space when I merge ubi0 and ubi1? (more than the reserved blocks?)

This is my setup:

$ mtdinfo -a

Name:                           NAND.userdata
Type:                           nand
Eraseblock size:                131072 bytes, 128.0 KiB
Amount of eraseblocks:          39 (5111808 bytes, 4.9 MiB)
Minimum input/output unit size: 2048 bytes
Sub-page size:                  512 bytes
OOB size:                       64 bytes
Character device major/minor:   90:20
Bad blocks are allowed:         true
Device is writable:             true

$ ubinfo -a

Volumes count:                           1
Logical eraseblock size:                 129024 bytes, 126.0 KiB
Total amount of logical eraseblocks:     39 (5031936 bytes, 4.8 MiB)
Amount of available logical eraseblocks: 0 (0 bytes)
Maximum count of volumes                 128
Count of bad physical eraseblocks:       0
Count of reserved physical eraseblocks:  1
Current maximum erase counter value:     2
Minimum input/output unit size:          2048 bytes
Character device major/minor:            249:0
Present volumes:                         0

Volume ID:   0 (on ubi1)
Type:        dynamic
Alignment:   1
Size:        34 LEBs (4386816 bytes, 4.2 MiB)
State:       OK
Name:        userdata
Character device major/minor: 249:1

[    1.340937] nand: device found, Manufacturer ID: 0x2c, Chip ID: 0xf1
[    1.347903] nand: Micron MT29F1G08ABADAH4
[    1.352108] nand: 128 MiB, SLC, erase size: 128 KiB, page size: 2048, OOB size: 64
[    1.359782] nand: using OMAP_ECC_BCH8_CODE_HW ECC scheme

uname -a:
Linux 4.1.18-g543c284-dirty #3 PREEMPT Mon Jun 27 17:02:46 CEST 2016 armv7l GNU/Linux

Create & test ubifs:

# flash_erase /dev/mtd10 0 0
Erasing 128 Kibyte @ 4c0000 -- 100 % complete 
# ubiformat /dev/mtd10 -s 512 -O 512
ubiformat: mtd10 (nand), size 5111808 bytes (4.9 MiB), 39 eraseblocks of 131072 bytes (128.0 KiB), min. I/O size 2048 bytes
libscan: scanning eraseblock 38 -- 100 % complete  
ubiformat: 39 eraseblocks are supposedly empty
ubiformat: formatting eraseblock 38 -- 100 % complete  
# ubiattach -d1 -m10 -b 1
UBI device number 1, total 39 LEBs (5031936 bytes, 4.8 MiB), available 34 LEBs (4386816 bytes, 4.2 MiB), LEB size 129024 bytes (126.0 KiB)
# ubimkvol /dev/ubi1 -N userdata -m
Set volume size to 4386816
Volume ID 0, size 34 LEBs (4386816 bytes, 4.2 MiB), LEB size 129024 bytes (126.0 KiB), dynamic, name "userdata", alignment 1
# mount -t ubifs ubi1:userdata /tmp/1
# df -h /tmp/1
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
-               2.1M   20K  2.0M   2% /tmp/1
# dd if=/dev/urandom of=/tmp/1/bigfile bs=4096
dd: error writing '/tmp/1/bigfile': No space left on device
550+0 records in
549+0 records out
2248704 bytes (2.2 MB) copied, 1.66865 s, 1.3 MB/s
# ls -l /tmp/1/bigfile
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 2248704 Jan  1 00:07 /tmp/1/bigfile
# sync
# df -h /tmp/1
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
-               2.1M  2.1M     0 100% /tmp/1

Create & test jffs2:

# mkdir /tmp/empty.d
# mkfs.jffs2 -s 2048 -r /tmp/empty.d -o /tmp/empty.jffs2
# flash_erase /dev/mtd10 0 0
Erasing 128 Kibyte @ 4c0000 -- 100 % complete 
# nandwrite /dev/mtd10 /tmp/empty.jffs2
Writing data to block 0 at offset 0x0
# mount -t jffs2 /dev/mtdblock10 /tmp/1
# df -h /tmp/1
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
-               4.9M  384K  4.5M   8% /tmp/1
# dd if=/dev/urandom of=/tmp/1/bigfile bs=4096
dd: error writing '/tmp/1/bigfile': No space left on device
1129+0 records in
1128+0 records out
4620288 bytes (4.6 MB) copied, 4.54715 s, 1.0 MB/s
# ls -l /tmp/1/bigfile
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 4620288 Jan  1 00:20 /tmp/1/bigfile
# sync
# df -h /tmp/1
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
-               4.9M  4.9M     0 100% /tmp/1


I did some mass measurements which resulted in the following chart: enter image description here

So I can formulate my question more specific now:

The "formula" seems to be usable_size_mb = (raw_size_mb - 2.3831) * 0.89423077

In different words: no matter what size my mtd has, there are always 2.38 MB lost, no matter how big our volume is. This is the size of 19 erase blocks. The rest is a filesystem overhead of 10.6% of user data which is a high value but not unexpected for ubifs.

Btw. when doing the tests I got kernel warnings that at least 17 erase blocks are needed (=2.176 MB). But the smallest mtd which successfully ran through the test had 22 blocks (2.816 MB).


Why the numbers don't match up

The "at least 17 erase blocks" warning counts blocks needed by the UBIFS filesystem itself. Of those 17 erase blocks, 14 are UBIFS overhead and 3 are usable filesystem space. The underlying UBI layer underneath also uses 5 erase blocks of overhead.

Getting More Space

There's no way to make a single UBI partition with a single UBIFS filesystem use less overhead.

However, if you have more than one UBI partition on the same MTD device, I recommend merging them. Not only will it free up 5 erase blocks, but it will also get you improved wear leveling and bad block handling, because UBI will have more options for mapping physical erase blocks to logical erase blocks as needed.

(Ignoring overhead, imagine two partitions of two blocks each, one of which is bad. Now one partition only has one block left, and it's impossible to do wear leveling. But if you merge the two, then you have three good blocks left to share between the two filesystems as needed.)

To merge two adjacent UBI partitions:

  • Update your MTD partition table, replacing the two partitions with one larger one.
  • Run ubiformat on that one large partition.
  • Run ubimkvol twice, providing appropriate partition names and and specifying the sizes manually with -s or -S.

An accounting of UBI+UBIFS overhead

First, the UBI layer takes 5 erase blocks of overhead:

  • 2 for the volume table
  • 1 reserved for the wear leveling algorithm
  • 1 reserved for the "atomic LEB change" feature, which allows for reliable in-place updates of a logical erase block
  • 1 (ideally more, as you mentioned) reserved for handling bad physical erase blocks.

Next, the UBIFS layer has a minimum number of erase blocks for the filesystem metadata:

  • 1 for the filesystem superblock, which identifies the volume as a valid UBIFS and stores the filesystem parameters
  • 2 for the master node area (redundant copies), which are the roots of the tree used for filesystem lookups
  • 2 or more for the log area (which counts towards usable space)
  • 2 for the LEB properties tree, which tracks how each logical erase block is used
  • 1 or more for the orphan area (for tracking deleted files, so they are cleaned up correctly after an unclean unmount)
  • 8 reserved for filesystem metadata (garbage collection, deletions, buds, index)
  • 1 or more for committed data not in the log (usable space).


For the UBI overhead, the linux-mtd site has a straightforward description.

For the UBIFS overhead, I had to do a little more digging. The source code of mtd-utils counts up the absolute minimum number of erase blocks and mentions what each block is for. To make sense of it, the UBIFS whitepaper is useful.

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