Olivier ozhegan at
Tue Dec 25 08:16:02 PST 2001

   Hi Galvin,

--- Gavin Kelly <gavin.kelly2 at> wrote:
> Can anyone point me in the
> direction of some documentation on the various
> filesystems and how they
> differ. I would also like to know how they differ
> from the M$ FAT filesystems.

   Check out this one :

   Note that contains a lot of
documentation about all aspects of Linux, and is
generally a good starting point to look for answers.

> In particular I read that the ext2
> filesystem doesn't need to be defragmented (hooray!)
> and I was wondering why this is.

   This is a typical DOS user question. For example,
the following happened to the famous french Linux
aficionado Robert Di Cosmo : he was in a train,
sitting next to a man using a laptop computer. Robert
had a glance at the screen and noticed the computer
was running the Windows Disk Defragmenter. He
pretended to not know what it was and said : "Look, my
computer does not have this program". The man
condescended to help him, thinking he was a beginner
Windows user, but Robert is a confirmed Unix user and,
of course, the man was quite puzzled when he found out
that such things as non-Windows non-Mac personnal
computer exists. They then discussed the subject of
defragmenting a partition, and Di Cosmo asked him
whether he found more efficient, in real life, to sort
documents in mixed up stacks and tidy up once a week,
or to always use a clean way of keeping everything
handy. By the end of the trip the man was quite
disappointed that his system did not feature the

   More generally speaking, except FAT and a few other
obsolete filesystems, most modern fs always keep their
fragmentation level under a given percentage. They
don't even try to get zero-fragmentation as this is
expensive and not interesting anyway, and they avoid
fragmenting file by using well-known algorithms for
general problems, and fs-specific ones for other
considerations (see for example how Reiserfs handles
small files, which is interesting as there are plenty
of them in Unix systems).

   If you're building a brand new system, use
Reiserfs. It's very stable (though still marked
experimental), GPLed, very efficient, and features
journalling (see the HOWTO for the meaning of this


"The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind" (Bob Dylan)

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