What is the console equivalent of the following Python code:

target = file("disk", "w")    # create a file
target.seek(2*1024*1024*1024) # skip to 2 GB

Maybe some dd incantation? The idea is making a file with the apparent size of 2 GB for use e.g. in virtualization.

kvm disk -cd whatever.iso #Only allocate space as necessary

3 Answers 3


You can create a sparse file like this with dd:

dd of=file bs=1 seek=2G count=0
$ du file
0       disk
$ du --apparent-size file
2097152 disk
  • 4
    Also, 2G is a GNU extension to dd. You can use bs=1024 seek=2097152 if you don't have GNU dd.
    – Chris Down
    Dec 20, 2012 at 14:29
  • Heh, G is an extension, and it's not supported by OpenBSD's version of dd... but, M and K are supported, so maybe seek=2048M is a bit more readable, depending on what platforms you're targetting
    – Earlz
    Dec 20, 2012 at 20:01
  • You should read from /dev/zero: if=/dev/zero Dec 25, 2012 at 21:03
  • @DanielFanjul Why? There is absolutely no difference, no bytes are written.
    – Chris Down
    Dec 25, 2012 at 21:39
  • @ChrisDown Because /dev/null contains no data when you read, but /dev/zero contains infinte zeros. Oh, count=1, the number of bytes to write must not be zero. Dec 26, 2012 at 18:39

Generally speaking, just use dd; but as you mention the use of KVM virtualization, you might consider using qemu-img:

qemu-img create -f raw disk 2G

It does the same as the dd command in the answer of Chris Down, effectively.

Regardless of what command you use, for use in virtualization, I would strongly suggest using fallocate to pre-allocate blocks in order to prevent fragmentation and increase performance.

fallocate -l 2G disk

It's not available on all platforms and filesystems, though. This will not write zeroes, but just assigns blocks to the file, rather than doing that on-demand later every time it has to extend the file.

  • Is the quote a typo?
    – badp
    Dec 20, 2012 at 14:32
  • @badp yes, fixed.
    – gertvdijk
    Dec 20, 2012 at 14:32
  • 2
    qemu-img and dd both perform one system call to set the file size (ftruncate), but will perform a lot more to load themselves and the libraries they're linked to. And, in that regard, dd is going to be a lot more effective than qemu-img (which is a lot larger and is linked to far more libraries). GNU truncate is going to be even more effective. dd also has the advantage of being ubiquitous. Good point about fallocate though. Dec 20, 2012 at 17:42
  • @StephaneChazelas I totally second your comment. I've edited my answer to point out that qemu-img is just an obvious alternative in the use of KVM virtualization.
    – gertvdijk
    Dec 21, 2012 at 0:09

See also the GNU truncate command:

truncate -s 2G some-file

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