Picking the Right Filesystem

When you installed Linux, the installation program gave you options relating to the filesystems you could use. Most distributions that ship with 2.4.x and later kernels support ext2fs, ext3fs, and ReiserFS. Some also support JFS and XFS. Even if your distribution doesn't support JFS or XFS, though, you can add that support by downloading the appropriate kernel patches or prepatched kernels from the JFS (http://oss.software.ibm.com/developerworks/opensource/ifs/) or XFS (http://oss.sgi.com/projects/xfs/) sites and compiling this support as a module or into the kernel proper. You can then convert a partition from one filesystem to another by backing up, creating the new filesystem, and restoring.

Note Support for JFS has been added to the 2.4.20 and 2.5.6 kernels, and XFS has been added to the 2.5.36 kernel. Thus, these filesystems are likely to become options for most distributions at install time.

Unfortunately, the best filesystem to use is not always obvious. For many installations, it's not even terribly important, but for some applications it is. Filesystem design differences mean that some perform some tasks better than others. Varying support tools also mean that advanced filesystem features differ. This section describes the pros and cons of the popular Linux filesystems in several different areas, such as filesystem portability, disk check times, disk speed, disk space consumption, support for large numbers of files, and advanced security features.

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