I have an external hard drive which is encrypted via LUKS. It contains an ext4 fs.

I just got an error from rsync for a file which is located on this drive:

rsync: readlink_stat("/home/some/dir/items.json") failed: Structure needs cleaning (117)

If I try to delete the file I get the same error:

rm /home/some/dir/items.json
rm: cannot remove ‘//home/some/dir/items.json’: Structure needs cleaning

Does anyone know what I can do to remove the file and fix related issues with the drive/fs (if there are any)?


That is strongly indicative of file-system corruption. You should unmount, make a sector-level backup of your disk, and then run e2fsck to see what is up. If there is major corruption, you may later be happy that you did a sector-level backup before letting e2fsck tamper with the data.

  • 1
    Did what you suggested. e2fsck fixed some fs errors. Seems like I'm back to normal. Thx =)
    – Rotareti
    Dec 20 '16 at 20:06
  • 3
    I strongly suggest people to use GUIs like e.g. gparted to do this. Gparted still wraps e2fsck (in the case of checking a partition), but the graphical interface makes it a lot easier to select the proper hard-disk, as well as ensuring that you run these tools with the correct arguments. With the wrong arguments you risk severe loss of data!
    – Qqwy
    Feb 7 '19 at 22:50

If it helps anyone, I had a similar issue (rsync/rsnapshot backups, on an affected file). I posted my problem/solution, here:



rsnapshot (rsync) backup error on arch linux x86_64 system; a corrupted, deeply-nested file was throwing that error, also shown when I tried to delete that file:

sudo rm -fR hourly.5/

rm: cannot remove 'hourly.5/snapshot_root/mnt/Vancouver/temp/temp - old/temp - 09 (Dec 07, 2014 - Sep 02, 2015)/a_OLD-gmail/victoria.a.stuart@gmail.com/[Gmail]/LINUX/rsync, rsnapshot; Other backups/19.bak': Structure needs cleaning

Here is the problem:

cd mnt/Vancouver/temp/temp\ -\ old/temp\ -\ 09\ \(Dec\ 07\,\ 2014\ -\ Sep\ 02\,\ 2015\)/a_OLD-gmail/victoria.a.stuart@gmail.com/\[Gmail\]/LINUX/rsync\,\ rsnapshot\;\ Other\ backups/

ls -l

ls: cannot access '19.bak': Structure needs cleaning
total 0
-????????? ? ? ? ?  ? 19.bak        ## << THAT IS THE PROBLEM!!

[ See also: https://www.reddit.com/r/linuxquestions/comments/4b47r2/has_anyone_ever_gotten_structure_needs_cleaning/ ]

My backup drive is /dev/sda1.

sudo umount /dev/sda1

sudo fsck.ext4 /dev/sda1  ## << accepted suggested fixes

Rebooted: all seems fine. Went into backups drive, deleted that problematic file:

/mnt/Backups/rsnapshot_backups/hourly.5/snapshot_root/mnt/Vancouver/temp/temp - old/temp - 09 (Dec 07, 2014 - Sep 02, 2015)/a_OLD-gmail/victoria.a.stuart@gmail.com/[Gmail]/LINUX/rsync, rsnapshot; Other backups/19.bak


[Update: yes; that worked: my backups are running normally, again! :-) ]


File systems sometimes are not in order and need cleaning. This can be done by fsck command. But remember, you must run fsck only to unmounted partitions to avoid risk of file corruption.

If your file system is ext4, try running this command :

fsck -AR -t ext4 -y
  • 5
    a list of what options do is always welcome, as we should teach people to understand what they are running instead of just copy/paste some magic command. So -A is check all fstab devices, -R will exclude the root filesystem from -A, as it is mounted readwrite and usually can't be check at this time (can be check offline or if mounted read-only) , -t ext4 to limit the list to ext4 filesystems (ignoring the others that may exist) and -y to auto-answer yes to the repair questions
    – higuita
    May 25 '20 at 14:02
  • Not that I'd run a command like that without looking up the CLOs first, but I do appreciate the heads up. That's a bad answer in that it's unlikely -All the drives/partitions attached to a system will have issues. As OP said, they're using an external HDD which means they'd want to scan that specific drive/partition, not all minus root.
    – s.co.tt
    Apr 17 at 5:20

I fixed this problem with this command in my proxmox shell:

  • stop the container
    pct stop 100
  • fsck container, this repair the problem, on some issues files that are corrupt on container system
    pct fsck 100
  • start the container
    pct start 100

Now backup and all is good!

  • 1
    So your answer is — stop any software that might be using the disk, run fsck, and resume using the disk.   How does this differ from DepressedDaniel's answer? Nov 25 '18 at 1:27
  • 1
    Thjis is very different because it is a special case of proxmox containers. You can't fsck inside the lxc container nor have (a easy) direct control of the lxc devices to run the fsck, so this commands are the correct and easier answer for errors in a proxmox lxc container
    – higuita
    May 25 '20 at 14:05
  • @higuita This question is about “an external hard drive”, not an LXC device.
    – Melebius
    Jun 29 '20 at 9:47
  • 1
    @Melebius you are correct for the question but i was referring to this specific answer. While this answer do not solves the original question, it is a useful answer for the same problem in a proxmox container. It is useful for people that arrive here via search (like me)
    – higuita
    Jul 1 '20 at 20:04

I got the same error message from rsync and same error message from rm when I tried to delete the file. Because the filesystem was the root filesystem there was no way to use fsck. But when I just rebooted the system the file was gone and the backup succeeded. I have no clue why this worked but at least that's an easy fix and it's worth to try a reboot first.


It's usual error when try remove .Trash-0 if you try remove windows in encoding CP1251 file system on Linux system. So fs is corrupt but this dosn't metter. Fs of Windows always corrupt as see from Linux. But is not so. You may try open this file from windows os All will be well. And then remove it in windows. And only after that clean trash.

  • 1
    It's not a solution: it's LUKS drive encrypted with LUKS. Accessing (or at least trying access) it from Windows is in my opinion not the best idea.
    – mrc02_kr
    Oct 23 '18 at 8:08

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