$ uname -r
$ findmnt /
/      /dev/vda3 ext4   rw,relatime,seclabel
$ sudo fstrim -v /
fstrim: /: the discard operation is not supported

Same VM, but after switching the disk from VirtIO to SATA:

$ findmnt /
/      /dev/sda3 ext4   rw,relatime,seclabel
$ sudo fstrim -v /
/: 5.3 GiB (5699264512 bytes) trimmed

The virtual disk is backed by a QCOW2 file. I am using virt-manager / libvirt. libvirt-daemon is version 4.7.0-2.fc29.x86_64. My host is currently running a vanilla kernel build 5.1 (ish), so it's a little bit "customized" at the moment, but I built it starting from a stock Fedora kernel configuration.

Is there a way to enable discard support on VirtIO somehow? Or does the code just not support it yet? I don't necessarily require the exact instructions how to enable it, but I am surprised and curious and I would like a solid answer :-).

3 Answers 3


Apparently discard wasn't supported on that setting. However it can work if you change the disk from "VirtIO" to "SCSI", and change the SCSI controller to "VirtIO". I found a walkthrough. There are several walkthroughs; that was just the first search result. This new option is called virtio-scsi. The other, older system is called virtio-block or virtio-blk.

I also found a great thread on the Ubuntu bug tracker. It points out that virtio-blk starts supporting discard requests in Linux 5.0. It says this also requires support in QEMU, which was committed on 22 Feb 2019. Therefore in future versions, I think we will automatically get both VirtIO and discard support.

Currently my virt-manager does not create virtio-scsi disks by default, even when it knows I am installing Fedora 29; it only creates the basic "VirtIO" disks. I do not know if there is any disadvantage of switching to virtio-scsi.

I guess virtio-scsi provides the same sort of performance advantage as virtio-blk, when compared to emulated SATA. (I do not see an option to use NVME protocol anywhere in virt-manager :-P, with or without VirtIO).

The oVirt website has some nice propaganda, which mentions

  1. some limitations in virtio-blk
  2. virtio-scsi can be used in pass-through mode to a SCSI LUN, and can use various new SCSI command features without needing modifications in virtio-scsi . If you are not specifically using SCSI pass-through, then any new commands will require new support in QEMU, but not in the virtio-scsi code.
  3. virtio-scsi includes support for multiple queues. (I am not clear whether this is also helpful for efficiency on single-queue hardware, or not).
  • You should use virtio-scsi anyway; virtio-blk doesn't have as good performance and AFAIK isn't being well maintained anymore. virt-manager will eventually catch up; they use extremely conservative default settings unfortunately. Commented May 10, 2019 at 17:56
  • @MichaelHampton I suppose virtio-scsi got discard support without needing to add any more specific code for it :-). I probably won't bother with this issue until my laptop runs out of disk space again :-). A performance citation would be interesting if you had one. The references I find say it's mostly about features and flexibility and show the performance is similar in most cases.
    – sourcejedi
    Commented May 10, 2019 at 18:36
  • @MichaelHampton: According to RHEL pdf, see page 25. Admit it's from 2008, but still. It saysvirtio-blk has better performance and should be selected when possible. It's my impression it's still very much maintained. They "just" added the trim support a few qemu versions back. Are you still holding on to you statement, please correct me if I'm wrong.
    – MrCalvin
    Commented Jun 22, 2020 at 11:10

I had to explicitly enable discard in the libvirt domain XML file for it to work:

     <disk type='file' device='disk'>
-      <driver name='qemu' type='raw'/>
+      <driver name='qemu' type='raw' discard='unmap'/>
       <source file='...'/>
       <target dev='vda' bus='virtio'/>
       <address type='pci' domain='0x0000' bus='0x04' slot='0x00' function='0x0'/>

A small addition to sourcejedi's answer

To support discard in virtio-blk, you also need to update "machine" in the VM config.

  • in pc-q35-3.1, virtio-blk does NOT support discard
  • in pc-q35-4.2, it does

In any case, it's best to update VM config to the latest machine. Or just use alias "q35" without specifying the exact version


qemu-system-x86_64 -machine help | grep q35

for example,

<type arch='x86_64' machine='pc-q35-7.2'>hvm</type>

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