Checking and Repairing Filesystems

No matter how stable, computers do fail, even due to something as simple as a power cable being accidentally unplugged. Unfortunately, such an interruption can make a mess of a filesystem. If a disk write operation is aborted before it completes, the data in transit could be lost, and the portions of the disk that were allocated for it are left marked as used. In addition, filesystem writes are cached in memory, and a power loss or other crash prevents the kernel from synchronizing the cache with the disk. Both of these scenarios lead to inconsistencies in the filesystem and must be corrected to ensure reliable operation.

Filesystems are checked with fsck. Like mkfs, fsck is a frontend to filesystem-specific utilities, including fsck.ext2, which is a link to the e2fsck program. (See its manpage for detailed information.)


e2fsck can also check ext3 filesystems. When it finds an ext3 filesystem that was not cleanly unmounted, it first commits the journal, then checks the filesystem as it normally would with ext2.

Part of the information written on disk to describe a filesystem is known as the superblock, written in block 1 of the partition. If this area of the disk is corrupted, the filesystem is inaccessible. Because the superblock is so important, copies of it are made in the filesystem at regular intervals, by default every 8192 blocks. The first superblock copy is located at block 8193, the second copy is at block 16385, and so on. As you’ll ...

Get LPI Linux Certification in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.