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What to expect from Btrfs on openSUSE 13.2?

November 12th, 2014 by

As the first major Linux distribution to have Btrfs as the default file system, what can users and developers expect from openSUSE 13.2?

How is the systems capabilities enhanced?

Btrfs has different performance characteristics; it’s a logging-style file system that provides fault tolerance, repair, and easy management features.

The most well known advantage of Btrfs is the rollback capability with the open-source tool Snapper.

“Btrfs is mature,” said George Shi, who helped rollbacks become a reality for openSUSE users. “It works with Snapper to implement snapshot and rollback, the killer function of Btrfs. You can pick any date you saved to rollback your full system.”

The snapshot tool is the ultimate replenishing mechanism for Linux. The tool is enabled by default and snapshots are automatically created in regular intervals as well as before and after each software installation. Users and administrators can therefore have their computers or servers travel back in time to a previous state. With Btrfs and Snapper, it’s even possible to boot a previous state, which is why 13.2 continues to receive more downloads than previous versions. When an update causes a third-party application, add-on or interface to fail, it is possible to find the point where the function worked correctly.

“The push came from SUSE Linux Enterprise, and was a five years journey,” said Matthias G. Eckermann, who used that development to benefit users of 13.2.

Btrfs also creates enhancements for the use of Docker, Shi added.

“The underlying container host would also benefit from Btrfs snapshot/rollback for system resiliency perspective,” Shi said. “They are concepts of two layers so they’re not directly connected.”

Two additional improvements that Btrfs brings are to checksums and deduplication.

Metadata checksums improve the reliability of the file system.

Users can expect more development of the Btrfs file system.

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44 Responses to “What to expect from Btrfs on openSUSE 13.2?”

  1. Anonymous

    I give up btrfs, because often root fs mount as readonly after system start.

  2. TheUnknownUser

    Please advise whether Btrfs is a good option, as compared to the present system backup and restore, for single user PCs in the domestic setting. What are the additional storage requirements for rollback?

    • Douglas DeMaio

      Btrfs uses copy on write so unchanged files don’t require extra space in snapshots

    • Mark

      BTRFS is not a backup. It isn’t. There are helpful aspects to it, but it isn’t a backup. Not a backup.

      If you use it as a backup, eventually you will fail.

      The additional requirements for rollbacks? That depends on the amount of extra data, and that is a direct function of the amount of data needed to describe the difference between the ‘reference’ data set and the delta data set and the number of ‘copies’ that you keep. In you situation? Who knows, as it is very much a function of how you use them?

    • qwerty

      It is a good option for nobody.

      Use it and you deserve all the pain that is coming to you.

  3. KenWeiLL

    Usually, how much space does each snapshot consume?
    I can’t remember where, but I’ve read some blog that openSUSE’s Btrfs’ snapshot requires a substantial space for the storage of snapshots.

  4. Tom

    Snapshots are fine, but I don’t see any option to boot snapshot in Grub2 EFI. Also, deleting snapshot takes a very long time (and freezes system for a few minutes). I don’t see any option to auto delete snapshot when detected low space on the drive. There is also possibly a bug in installer, when I manually create separate /home or /boot, it gives me some error about subvolumes. I am sorry to say that, but 13.2 is the most buggy openSUSE release I have ever used.

  5. Matthias

    brtfs Installation is unuseable on this Elitebook 6930p, ext4 work just fine.

    Get new hot stuff is not working on both.

  6. Andrew

    I have been using Btrfs for since 13.1…I have had no problems at all. One time could not update…but, just deleted older snapshots, which cleared space and everything went back to normal. You may have had a couple of issues depending upon a certain kind of hardware…but to say 13.2 is the most buggy version…is wrong. I fully upgraded all my machines, and every single thing I used before is working the same if not way better then it did before. Even my son, updated his on MacPro and now his special mac mouse works perfectly. So Btrfs is not the problem…its users not knowing how to use it properly, or keep it maintained with the tools provided. If you are using a slower machine, ext4 will work better, but if you have a faster machine, or SSD, Btrfs is the best protection you can have for a Linux system. Keep up the good work at openSUSE everyone….you did a great job.

    • Tom

      Andrew: I use SSD on all my machines, all of them have 16 GB RAM and 4 or 8 core CPUs, so I don’t think these are slow machines.

      Ok, I can continue using ext4, but it won’t affect another bugs in 13.2. One of my machines cannot resume from suspend (with neither with Nouveau nor with nVidia driver). There are also many problems with network – sometimes there is no default route set after resume from suspend, NetworkManager tries to manage OpenVPN and VMware interfaces (which it should’t, because it breaks thinks). On my ThinkPad after resume from suspend trackpoint sometimes does not work (touchpad works). After enabling autofs, boot takes about a minute longer. I cannot install with encrypted swap (and setting it up after install causes some YaST modules to crash). On one machine I had problem with bootloader install (I had to configure it manually). There are still two Service managers in YaST. After a power failure, I could’t boot from btrfs partition (don’t know what happened, I had to restore a backup). These are only some bugs I fount after a few days using 13.2 (clean installation) on four machines. I didn’t have any of these problem in 13.1.

      • MD25

        Concerning the suspend/resume bug, I used to have it on several previous versions of opensuse (screen locked with a blinking prompt when trying to set up X server during resume, with NVIDIA card), but this time, with 13.2 (installed from a 13.1 through zypper dup), it works. Maybe the fact that I uninstalled end re-installed pm-utils helped?…

      • David P.


        I’m not having any of those issues on my nVidia-based hardware.

        • mike

          If you aren’t having issues it is not a problem, huh you freaking moron?

        • Joe

          I have this issue myself, though was OK in 12.3. Clean install of 13.2. Will resume if I resume right after suspend, and while the screen will appear, will not get past perhaps re waking the video card. Using nvidia’s drivers as before.

  7. Chika

    I think *I* will decide when something is mature enough for use. openSUSE appears to have a habit of jumping the gun on new kit before it is really ready; KDE4 springs to mind, for example. If I really wanted cutting edge, I’d be using Tumbleweed. I don’t so I’m not.

    I was cautious when ext4 came in and for good reason, and there are a number of reasons I can see already judging by posts already here for leaving btrfs alone at least for the time being. Certainly it is a good idea in principle and once it has been thoroughly tested in the field, I can see no reason to adopt it but I suspect that this won’t be in this version.

    After all, I’m annoyed enough as it is with things like systemd without making things worse. To be honest, I’ve given 13.2 a go (well, I tried it at the last RC) and can see nothing to push me off 13.1 (or 11.4 on the few systems I have left that use it).

  8. jason

    Take your fingers away from btrfs. it’s horrible.
    your filesytem stops working faster than you would believe.

    Scalability is the weakness of btrfs. If you are not planning correctly you will struggle. I gave it a try on sles 11 about 2 years ago and had a horrible time – there is no checkfs for btrfs. snapshots fill up your system. there is no user experience on this filesystem.

    I will never again try this horrible filesystem.

  9. Chazar

    I would like to try BTRFS, but Grub2 installatation fails. Works fine with EXT4. Apparently this is a known problem on Multi-OS machines, but nevertheless made its way onto the Installation DVD. I researched it and use EXT4 now in order to install myself, but our Admin simply switched to another distribution instead.

  10. terry

    I tried to test snapper using the steps in “rollback” both links in this page without any success. I wonder is Arvin Schnell can give step by step after you are unable to boot
    “Reboot again and tell the kernel to boot the “good” snapshot by setting the kernel rootflags parameter:” where? I inserted the CD and tried to boot with those parameters but send me to a login screen and snapper was not found, neither I was able to boot.

    BTW I am very happy with the new 13.2 running in vmware workstation. Now before installing it in my working systems trying to decide if it is worth or not to change ext4.
    Thanks you.

  11. I need BTRFS because i am an idiot and crashed my roomates computer by accident AND HE WILL BE MAD.


  13. John

    I’ve been a faithful user of SuSE since v8, but the addition of systemd (and it’s subsequent destruction of multiple production systems) and the *way* too soon adoption of btrfs is forcing me to change distributions. My salary depends on me producing and operating *RELIABLE* systems. SuSE Linux *USED* to be that. Sadly, no longer. I will miss the generally reliable package management the most, but I *CAN NO LONGER AFFORD* to use OpenSUSE for any production systems, if I want to keep my job and peaceful home-life. It’s pretty sad that FreeBSD and OpenBSD are starting to look desirable…

    • Chika

      I feel your pain. I’ve also been an opensuser for many a long year since I jumped ship from Red Hat 5.2 (that probably dates me a bit!) yet some of the design decisions and the reasoning behind them, in some cases, remind me of a certain other operating system “distro” and its recent tendency to re-engineer its product in ways that seem like a good idea to them but are either poorly executed or poorly thought out, then they stubbornly stick by them despite protests from users.

      As I already said, btrfs has some merits behind it, just as systemd did, but it just isn’t ready for a production environment. The problem is finding an alternative that ticks all the boxes which is why I’m sticking with what I have. I’ll keep an eye on the future releases of openSUSE as always but it’s 13.1 and 11.4 all the way until they get it right and stop the constant attempts at re-inventing the wheel. Just give it time.

    • Joe

      Where were you when SuSE was pushing reiserfs?

      This version of linux isn’t for production anyhow. You’d be better off with Linuxmint.

  14. Mark

    You get paid for this and can’t change away from something because it is the default? sheesh.

    • Roman

      Nobody is forcing you to use brfs. You can keep using ext4 for the next two versions or until you feel comfortable working with btrfs and btrfs-progs.
      Yes. There is a learning curve.

      Rather than complaining. Install btrfs on a separate partition, virtual or physical drive. Experiment and test each version until you feel you are ready.

      When you have time. Join in and submit bug reports. Become part of the solution.

      • qwerty

        If Opensuse 15 drops ext4, opensuse will die.

        btrfs suck and will always suck.

        It was a stupid thing to offer as a default. It is nowhere near ready for production.

        Maybe in 20 years…

    • Roman

      Nobody is forcing you to use btrfs. You can keep using ext4 for the next two versions or until you feel comfortable working with btrfs and btrfs-progs.
      Yes. There is a learning curve.

      Rather than complaining. Install btrfs on a separate partition, virtual or physical drive. Experiment and test each version until you feel you are ready.

      When you have time. Join in and submit bug reports. Become part of the solution.

      • qwerty

        The solution is to ignore it and let it die. There is no other solution.

        I am not wasting my finite time on a wrongheaded project run by idiots.

  15. David

    While I’m pleased so far with OpenSuSE 13.2 (found and configured my second monitor just find which was manual with 13.1 for example) the installer using btrfs as a default and having to find options to turn it off is a problem.

    When installing SuSE 13.2 from scratch, btrfs wanted by default to delete Windows partitions (whatever you think of Windows I need it for work) because it couldn’t resize and co-exist with them. It wasn’t easy to work out that and where I needed to find ext4 and then had to do the partitioning myself. The menu needs a bit of work even for a seasoned Linux user. Also you had to carefully read the message what it was going to do, there were no big warnings that this is probably not what you wanted to do.

    It should not offer to delete a windows partition as the default setting, it should have fallback option clearly labelled and available in that case. Someone is going to screw up their machine with this. Very poor I’m afraid irrespective of how well btrfs performs.

    ‘Nobody is forcing you to use btrfs. You can keep using ext4 for the next two versions or until you feel comfortable working with btrfs and btrfs-progs.’

    If OpenSuSE forces btrfs, I’m off to find another distribution. Coping with other partitions is a requirement for many people.

    • Chika

      Hang on a mo. I doubt that openSUSE could force btrfs in that way any more than they could force ext4 on us back when that was a relatively new file system. If you look at the current stuff, even with some of the obfuscation in the redesigned install kit (sorry, but they had it just right in the prior version), you’ll find options to use all sorts of replacement file systems. Of course some of those systems are there for backwards compatibility and you would be ill advised to use some of them but unless something radical happened in the way that Linux works, there would always be a way back to ext4 or ext3 or reiser or whatever. It might take an extra step or two to do but I doubt that it would be more than that as long as you didn’t try something silly like trying to install on NTFS!

      As for deleting partitions and such, it’s something you have to be careful of regardless of what you are doing. If you really want to have a multiboot system (something I’ve had little use for since the advent of virtualisation anyway), back everything up first. I never allow openSUSE to use defaults anyway, but I realise that the partitioning tool is a dangerous thing if you aren’t familiar with it regardless of the OS you are running so I agree that people might screw up their machines but a backup gives you a way out should that happen.

      I hate to say it but anyone that doesn’t back up their live system before upgrading is asking for trouble.

      • David

        Yes I did back up my system. However, trying to reinstall a windows system that comes with the computer with a backup partition that would have been deleted…. That’s not the point and nor really is the possible (and maybe unlikely) scenario of being forced onto btrfs.

        The point is the _DEFAULT_ shouldn’t be to lose other partitions and anything else you have to search for and understand what you are doing to install OpenSuSE. The default should be sensible, or at least one of a number of choices and quite clear to less savy users who might be trying linux for the first time. It is bad design.

        • David

          So as not to sound unconstructively negative, here is what I’d suggest as a possibility on the installer.

          ‘First’ screen:
          Welcome to openSUSE…. This installer will make it very easy to get up and running with openSUSE, however there is the possibility of losing existing data or other bootable systems such as Windows should the installation be set up incorrectly or suffer some failure. We advise to back up any data you need before continuing.

          Second screen:
          This screen determines how openSUSE will live on your computer and share the disk with any existing data or bootable systems. Please choose an option:

          . I’m an openSUSE or Linux expert and I’d like to choose myself

          It appears you have an existing Windows system present. The next 4 options may be adjusted later using the Yast2 partitioning tool should you change your mind

          . I’m evaluating openSUSE, please install me a minimum system [takes a small amount of free space away from Windows]

          . I’m mostly a Windows user, please keep the Windows system large [takes a bit more free space away from Windows than evaluation]

          . I intend to use both systems 50-50 [takes half the free space from Windows]

          . I intend to use openSUSE mostly [takes away a lot of space from Windows]

          The final option is if you want only openSUSE on your disk. Some Windows software will not run on openSUSE with Wine, and many workplaces do not support Linux connectivity. Be very sure you want to do this or have a back up of your Windows system just in case.

          . I want to only use openSUSE and to delete Windows [Windows will be deleted and not recoverable]

  16. Roman

    Rather than using Wine. I purchased Crossover for Linux for running my favourite Windows programs.
    I’ve been using it for a number of years and I’m quite happy with it.

  17. Roman

    Follow Up

    I’ve switched from Windows to openSUSE in 2005 and I’ve been very happy with support on forums.opensuse.org.

  18. Khalid A. Ftaini

    openSUSE 13.2 is the most stable release of openSUSE series, and the less power consumption for my Acer Travelmate 5760G laptop, but with considering use of ext4 for the file system.
    I don’t know what the problem with btrfs, but when I tried to use it the Grub2 and Grub-EFI refused to boot altogether with a message that say “Can’t recognize file system” whether I used my customize partitioning or after removing all partitions and used the default proposed partitioning. Why?
    The problem is ended with using (ext4) file system.
    And still I love openSUSE and would like to see the next release with fixed troubles for (btrfs) and Grub2 booting.

    • Roman

      If you get that message – click on BTRFS in the left column. Then click on the Edit subvolumes button. You should see a list of 14 subvolumes.
      Remove the “home” subvolume. It doesn’t belong there unless /home is using btrfs.

      If your /home partition is formatted using a different filesystem i.e. ext4 or xfs
      always delete the “home” subvolume.

      • qwerty


        Never use btrfs, a pre-alpha product, and I am being generous calling it pre-alpha.

        Problem solved forever.

  19. Sam

    My first impression of openSUSE 13.2 was very bad because I had also all the trouble with btrfs that is reported above.

    After going back to ext4 it works very well. I’m happy with it.

    Besides that btrfs is half-baked I don’t see any reason for me to use btrfs. I do not need any of the features that btrfs offers.

  20. qwerty

    What to expect?

    Slow reads, locked partitions and lost data.

    that is what you get using pre-alpha quality in production.

  21. YHu

    We recently acquired a Dell MD3800F diskarry with about 80T of total space, and I decided to test btrfs with it. We have been using XFS and were generally happy with it, but we did loss data once. I considered ZFS but MD3800F can’t work in passthrough mode to expose the harddisks to the FS, and ext4 by default has some problems with such a large partition. I had hoped BTRFS on openSuSE 13.2 could work as promised. But to my surprise, it crashed the otherwise rock-solid system three times in the last four days, when I use rsync to move data to the new FS. I guess I will have to give up on BTRFS.

    BTW, that will be the second time for me to do so. I tested BTRFS three years ago and that experience was even nastier!

  22. Martijn

    What to expect? A disk that suddenly reports to have ” no space available”, while df still says usage below 90%. Removing gigabytes of files does not solve anything. Some manual balancing of chunks should solve it. But this command fails as well, reporting 57 enospc available. As network cannot be started, there seem to be no other way out than having this disk physically attached to another system to save the data on it, and then reformat.

    Warning to OpenSUSE 13.2 users: BTRFS is unreliable, use ext3 or ext4 instead.

    • Martijn

      Forward to my post above, January 16th 2015. The problems with the filesystem appeared to be related to the underlying SSD hardware. SSD was slowly dying. After several hours read-only (I assume) it wasn’t even recognized anymore by the mainboard.

      So BTFRS was not the problem for this case!

      — Although I never had my personal storage hardware fail before I started to use BTFRS ;-) —