I want to delete a huge directory with over 6 million files across over 4000 directories, totaling about 26GB of data. As I knew this was going to take a while I used ionice to set the I/O priority to idle, so I can continue doing other tasks while the files are deleted.

time ionice -c3 rm -vrf /tmp/huge-folder

However my entire desktop environment is now very sluggish nonetheless, Google chrome takes ages to open new tabs and load pages, sometimes it even takes a while to open a new xterm window. In summary: I appear to get none of the benefits of reduced I/O priority on the rm process.

Inspecting the situation with iotop shows that some of the I/O time is spent in the rm process with the idle I/O priority that I want:

I/O on rm

But then some other times the I/O time is spent in ext4's journaling process and the software raid process:

I/O on jbd2 and raid

Note how they are using their own default I/O priority, which is probably the cause of the problem. jbd2 even runs at priority be/3 which is in fact higher priority than the default be/4 of all my other desktop processes.

Many other questions ask and answer what jbd2 is and why it's consuming I/O time, that's not what I'm wondering about. My question is: Is there a way to truly get the idle I/O scheduling priority in this specific scenario? Obviously, applying ionice to jbd2 is a crazy idea.

Further setup info: This is on a ext4 filesystem on top of a software raid10 with 3 rotating disks. ext4 is formatted and mounted using default options (Debian defaults, in case those differ).

  • What is the technology of the disks? Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 18:52
  • @RuiFRibeiro What do you mean by technology? As mentioned, they are rotating disks, more specifically Western Digital model WD3000F9YZ.
    – jlh
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 20:04
  • Such a great question and no answers! 😢
    – rinogo
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 17:04

1 Answer 1


Since I asked this I learned a lot more about how I/O works in the linux kernel and I came do the conclusion that ionice just does not work with most write operations.

Read operations are mostly synchronous and can very easily be prioritized. Presumably this is a lot harder for write operations which are often delayed to a later time (thus asynchronous) in order to be optimized, aggregated and whatnot. I can imagine that transporting and correctly aggregating the niceness information along that way is not easy.

Source: Some notes on Linux's ionice. Note that this source also mentions that ionice just does not work with LVM or software RAID, but I have some doubts whether that is still strue (the blog post is a bit dated).

Also see: ionice does not have any effect on un-synced writes (i.e. normal writes)?

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .