Bill Moran wrote:
Sean Murphy <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:
I have read up on soft updates and have some questions.

The way that I am understanding soft updates purpose is to allow file systems to be mounted dirty after an unclean shutdown of the system.

That's not the purpose.  The purpose is to improve performance by taking
advantage of delayed writes much the way an asynchronous filesystem does,
while preventing horrendous data corruption by ordering those writes, much
the way a journalling filesystem does.

The fact that you can generate filesystem snapshots is a side-benefit.  The
fact that you can use filesystem snapshots to validate the filesystem after
it's been mounted is a further side-benefit.

If this is a safe way to restore consistency why is it not used on /?

Because writes are delayed, it's possible for data to be lost in the event of
a crash -- it acts like a database, either the entire transaction is committed
or it's rolled back, either way, the data is guaranteed not to be corrupt.

Also, on heavily used filesystems, softupdates can lead to the filesystem
temporarily having less space available than it really does.  I.e. you update
/kernel, softupdates completely replaces the file with a new one, but the
blocks for the old file haven't been reclaimed yet.  For a short period, you
might have 1 kernel file, but there's 2x that being allocated for it.

For these two reasons, / is traditionally _not_ mounted with softupdates
enabled, since it's critical to system startup.

If a file system is not heavily written to is it better not to use soft updates?

Weigh the good vs. the bad:
*) synchronous mounted filesystem is almost guaranteed to keep your data safe
   at all times, but is abysmally slow.
*) softupdates _may_ lose some data if your system crashes before all writes
   are flushed, but will never _corrupt_ it.  Additionally, you get a LOT
   better speed.
*) Asynchronous is a little faster than softupdates, but it's damn near
   guaranteed to be corrupt in the event of a crash.

When file systems are mounted dirty and our being used while the backgound fsck is running on the file systems how does it prevent files from being lost?

It doesn't.  It guarantees that your filesystem will always be mountable and
never corrupt, but it doesn't guarantee against data loss.

Here's a simplified example:
Let's say you're saving a big file and the power goes out.  When the power comes
back on, there are basically 3 states that file can be in:
A) It was fully written to disk -- you got lucky.
B) Nothing had been written to disk yet -- "data loss"
C) It was partially written to disk -- your filesystem is corrupt, you either
   need to allow a filesystem repair program to fix it (fsck -- or chkdsk on
   Windows, for example) or you'll have weird problems with it until you do so.

Softupdates guarantees against C.  It does this by (essentially) writing the
file "backwards":
1) it writes all the data to data blocks, and once that's done
2) _then_ it creates a directory entry for the file.

If the system crashes between #1 and #2, it looks like B happened, but you never
get in scenario C where the filesystem is corrupt and gets more corrupt as you
continue to use it.  Instead, when fsck runs (in the background) it realizes
that there are data blocks in use that don't belong to any file, and it can
free them up for the filesystem to use.

That's somewhat simplified, but it gives you the basic idea.


Just for future reference, a more brief-although not complete-explanation of softupdates can be found on Wikipedia <>. The article does link some other documents which discuss softupdates in more detail though. From what I skimmed it appears that the documents describe softupdates as a system, but perhaps not all of the features that you are looking for (asynchronous softupdating, for instance).
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