BTRFS

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Warning BTRFS integration is currently a technology preview in Proxmox VE.

BTRFS is a modern copy on write file system natively supported by the Linux kernel, implementing features such as snapshots, built-in RAID and self healing via checksums for data and metadata. Starting with Proxmox VE 7.0, BTRFS is introduced as optional selection for the root file system.

General BTRFS advantages
  • Main system setup almost identical to the traditional ext4 based setup

  • Snapshots

  • Data compression on file system level

  • Copy-on-write clone

  • RAID0, RAID1 and RAID10

  • Protection against data corruption

  • Self healing

  • natively supported by the Linux kernel

Caveats
  • RAID levels 5/6 are experimental and dangerous

Installation as Root File System

When you install using the Proxmox VE installer, you can choose BTRFS for the root file system. You need to select the RAID type at installation time:

RAID0

Also called “striping”. The capacity of such volume is the sum of the capacities of all disks. But RAID0 does not add any redundancy, so the failure of a single drive makes the volume unusable.

RAID1

Also called “mirroring”. Data is written identically to all disks. This mode requires at least 2 disks with the same size. The resulting capacity is that of a single disk.

RAID10

A combination of RAID0 and RAID1. Requires at least 4 disks.

The installer automatically partitions the disks and creates an additional subvolume at /var/lib/pve/local-btrfs. In order to use that with the Proxmox VE tools, the installer creates the following configuration entry in /etc/pve/storage.cfg:

dir: local
        path /var/lib/vz
        content iso,vztmpl,backup
        disable

btrfs: local-btrfs
        path /var/lib/pve/local-btrfs
        content iso,vztmpl,backup,images,rootdir

This explicitly disables the default local storage in favor of a btrfs specific storage entry on the additional subvolume.

The btrfs command is used to configure and manage the btrfs file system, After the installation, the following command lists all additional subvolumes:

# btrfs subvolume list /
ID 256 gen 6 top level 5 path var/lib/pve/local-btrfs

BTRFS Administration

This section gives you some usage examples for common tasks.

Creating a BTRFS file system

To create BTRFS file systems, mkfs.btrfs is used. The -d and -m parameters are used to set the profile for metadata and data respectively. With the optional -L parameter, a label can be set.

Generally, the following modes are supported: single, raid0, raid1, raid10.

Create a BTRFS file system on a single disk /dev/sdb with the label My-Storage:

 # mkfs.btrfs -m single -d single -L My-Storage /dev/sdb

Or create a RAID1 on the two partitions /dev/sdb1 and /dev/sdc1:

 # mkfs.btrfs -m raid1 -d raid1 -L My-Storage /dev/sdb1 /dev/sdc1

Mounting a BTRFS file system

The new file-system can then be mounted either manually, for example:

 # mkdir /my-storage
 # mount /dev/sdb /my-storage

A BTRFS can also be added to /etc/fstab like any other mount point, automatically mounting it on boot. It’s recommended to avoid using block-device paths but use the UUID value the mkfs.btrfs command printed, especially there is more than one disk in a BTRFS setup.

For example:

File /etc/fstab
# ... other mount points left out for brevity

# using the UUID from the mkfs.btrfs output is highly recommended
UUID=e2c0c3ff-2114-4f54-b767-3a203e49f6f3 /my-storage btrfs defaults 0 0
Tip If you do not have the UUID available anymore you can use the blkid tool to list all properties of block-devices.

Afterwards you can trigger the first mount by executing:

mount /my-storage

After the next reboot this will be automatically done by the system at boot.

Adding a BTRFS file system to Proxmox VE

You can add an existing BTRFS file system to Proxmox VE via the web-interface, or using the CLI, for example:

pvesm add btrfs my-storage --path /my-storage

Creating a subvolume

Creating a subvolume links it to a path in the btrfs file system, where it will appear as a regular directory.

# btrfs subvolume create /some/path

Afterwards /some/path will act like a regular directory.

Deleting a subvolume

Contrary to directories removed via rmdir, subvolumes do not need to be empty in order to be deleted via the btrfs command.

# btrfs subvolume delete /some/path

Creating a snapshot of a subvolume

BTRFS does not actually distinguish between snapshots and normal subvolumes, so taking a snapshot can also be seen as creating an arbitrary copy of a subvolume. By convention, Proxmox VE will use the read-only flag when creating snapshots of guest disks or subvolumes, but this flag can also be changed later on.

# btrfs subvolume snapshot -r /some/path /a/new/path

This will create a read-only "clone" of the subvolume on /some/path at /a/new/path. Any future modifications to /some/path cause the modified data to be copied before modification.

If the read-only (-r) option is left out, both subvolumes will be writable.

Enabling compression

By default, BTRFS does not compress data. To enable compression, the compress mount option can be added. Note that data already written will not be compressed after the fact.

By default, the rootfs will be listed in /etc/fstab as follows:

UUID=<uuid of your root file system> / btrfs defaults 0 1

You can simply append compress=zstd, compress=lzo, or compress=zlib to the defaults above like so:

UUID=<uuid of your root file system> / btrfs defaults,compress=zstd 0 1

This change will take effect after rebooting.

Checking Space Usage

The classic df tool may output confusing values for some btrfs setups. For a better estimate use the btrfs filesystem usage /PATH command, for example:

# btrfs fi usage /my-storage