The ultimate Linux filesystems benchmark

Having a car accident makes you have a lot of free time.

So I decided to create the ultimate Linux filesystems benchmark, took a spare hard disk I had available and tested all the filesystems writable by my Linux system, a 2.6.33-gentoo-r2 kernel.

For the tests I used bonnie++ as root, with the command line _bonnie++ -d /mnt/iozone/test/ -s 2000 -n 500 -m hpfs -u root -f -b -r 999_.

My Linux system suppots a quite big number of writable filesystems, being: AFFS, BTRFS, ext2, ext3, ext4, FAT16, FAT32, HFS, HFS+, HFSX, HPFS, JFS, NTFS, Reiser, UFS, UFS2, XFS and ZFS.

I will divide the filesystems in “foreign unsupported”, “foreign supported” and “native” filesystems.

A “foreign unsupported” is a filesystem designed and created outside Linux, for another operating system, but it’s lacking features needed by Linux to run flawlessly, like the POSIX permissions, links and so on. These are AFFS, FAT16, FAT32, HFS and HPFS.

A “foreign supported” is a filesystem designed and created outside Linux, for another operating system, but supporting all features needed by Linux to run flawlessly, even if the current Linux implementation do not implement them fully. These are HFS+, HFSX, JFS, NTFS, UFS, UFS2, XFS and ZFS.

A “native” is a filesystem designed by the Linux community of developers, with Linux in mind, and usually never found outside Linux systems. These are BTRFS, ext2, ext3, ext4 and Reiser.

AFFS, or Amiga Fast File System is the old AmigaOS 2.0 filesystem, still in use by AROS, AmigaOS and MorphOS operating systems. It does not support the features required by Linux and is not an option for disks containing anything but data.

BTRFS, or B-Tree File System is a filesystem specifically designed to substitute old Linux native filesystems, including online migration of data from the extX filesystems.

ext2, or Extended 2 File System is an evolution of the original Linux ext filesystem, designed to overcome the limits of the Minix filesystems used in first Linux versions. ext3 is an evolution that added journaling and ext4 is another evolution that changes some structures to newer and faster technologies.

FAT, or File Allocation Table, is the original Microsoft filesystem, introduced with Microsoft Disk BASIC in the 80s and extensively used for data interchange, mobile phones, photo cameras, so on. FAT16 is an evolution of the original FAT (retroactively called FAT12) to allow for bigger disks, and FAT32 is the ultimate evolution introduced in Windows 95 OSR2 to overcome all the limitations. However Microsoft abandoned it in favor of NTFS for hard disks and ExFAT (currently not writeable by Linux) for data interchange.

HFS, or Hierarchical File System, is the original Apple filesystem introduced with Mac OS 5.0. It’s design is heavily influenced by Mac OS design itself, requiring support for resource forks, icon and window position, etc.

HFS+, or Hierarchical File System Plus is an evolution of HFS to modernize it including support for UNIX features, longer file names, multiple alternate data streams (not only the resource forks). Current Linux implementation of HFS+ does not support all features from it, like for example journaling. HFSX is a variant of HFS+ that adds case-sensitive behavior, so that files “foo” and “Foo” are different ones.

HPFS, or High Performance File System is a filesystem designed by Microsoft for OS/2 to overcome the limitations of the FAT filesystem.

JFS, or Journaled File System is a filesystem designed by IBM for AIX, a UNIX variant, and so it supports all the features required by Linux. Really it’s name is JFS2, as JFS is an older AIX filesystem that was deprecated before JFS2 was ported to Linux.

NTFS, or New Technology File System, is a filesystem designed by Microsoft for Windows NT to be the server-perfect filesystem. It was designed to support all features needed by all the operating systems it pretended to serve: OS/2, Mac OS, DOS, UNIX. Write support is not available directly in the Linux kernel but in userspace as NTFS-3G, and it does not implement all the features of the filesystem, neither all those required by Linux.

Reiser filesystem is a filesystem designed by Hans Reiser to overcome the performance problems of the ext filesystems and to add journaling. Its last version, Reiser4, is not supported by the Linux kernel because of reasons outside the scope of this benchmark.

UFS, or UNIX File System, also called BSD Fast File System is a filesystem introduced by the BSD 4 UNIX variant. UFS2 is a revision introduced by FreeBSD to add journaling and overcome some of the limitations. Support for both filesystem has been “experimental” in Linux for more than a decade.

XFS, or eXtended File System, is a filesystem introduced by Silicon Graphics for IRIX, another UNIX variant, to overcome the limitations of their previous filesystem, EFS. Linux’s XFS is slightly different from IRIX’s XFS, however both are interchangeable.

ZFS, or Zettabyte File System, is a filesystem introduced by Sun Microsystems for their Solaris UNIX variant. It introduces a lot of new filesystem design concepts and is still being polished. Support on Linux is provided by an userspace driver and not in the kernel itself.

The tests check the speed to write a 2 Gb file, rewrite it, read it, re-read it randomly, create 500 files, read them and delete them.

AFFS, FAT and HPFS filesystems failed the create/read/delete files test with some I/O error. In their native operating systems they have no problem to create 500 files so it’s a problem in the Linux’s implementation.

The output from Bonnie++ is:

Version 1.96 Sequential Output Sequential Input Random Seeks Sequential Create Random Create
Size Per Char Block Rewrite Per Char Block Num Files Create Read Delete Create Read Delete
K/sec % CPU K/sec % CPU K/sec % CPU K/sec % CPU K/sec % CPU /sec % CPU /sec % CPU /sec % CPU /sec % CPU /sec % CPU /sec % CPU /sec % CPU
AFFS 2000M 6014 2 5065 3 14887 5 115.2 9
Latency 9545ms 10553ms 16000ms 842ms Latency
BTRFS 2000M 26126 11 14151 8 69588 5 35.0 262 500 14 72 55300 99 13 56 14 72 35273 99 8 47
Latency 431ms 626ms 166ms 6071ms Latency 6067ms 1712us 32642ms 6632ms 934us 7227ms
ext2 2000M 27592 4 13381 3 57779 3 424.1 5 500 84 63 401150 99 114 0 98 70 745 99 97 28
Latency 326ms 526ms 23808us 279ms Latency 522ms 214us 31756ms 483ms 8831us 878ms
ext3 2000M 27190 9 13522 3 58337 4 392.0 6 500 177 1 293176 99 129 0 177 1 392430 99 154 0
Latency 754ms 626ms 49656us 193ms Latency 859ms 876us 1200ms 844ms 205us 1497ms
ext4 2000M 28852 5 13832 3 57969 3 366.6 5 500 246 2 281186 99 155 1 246 2 372310 99 202 1
Latency 4026ms 658ms 97049us 183ms Latency 903ms 869us 1061ms 900ms 183us 951ms
FAT16 2000M 28201 6 13317 4 55201 3 354.9 6
Latency 326ms 230ms 103ms 269ms Latency
FAT32 2000M 26065 6 13317 4 54575 3 333.0 6
Latency 326ms 230ms 103ms 269ms Latency
HFS 2000M 28761 5 13272 5 50507 11 324.8 3
Latency 426ms 526ms 16808us 150ms Latency
HFS+ 2000M 28705 3 13201 2 57350 4 472.7 2 500 3864 29 3513 99 5342 96 5338 43 248171 99 7754 67
Latency 426ms 426ms 18678us 281ms Latency 100ms 341ms 3064us 16396us 165us 753us
HFSX 2000M 28805 3 13353 2 57481 4 482.1 2 500 3899 28 3547 99 5451 96 5431 43 255570 99 7859 66
Latency 227ms 410ms 24543us 212ms Latency 152ms 338ms 2542us 14442us 211us 1452us
HPFS 2000M 25198 19 13488 6 47790 11 159.1 4 500 6980 97 216652 99 15720 46 7393 82 329146 99 16662 56
Latency Latency 14546us 1853us 3224us 9178us 180us 1510us
JFS 2000M 28486 4 13855 2 59308 3 546.6 3 500 7836 25 379769 99 2289 8 218 2 392966 99 96 0
Latency 679ms 626ms 34570us 136ms Latency 179ms 316us 747ms 2523ms 558us 67889ms
NTFS-3G 2000M 28324 6 12480 3 55439 5 156.5 1 500 5822 12 11353 18 8403 14 6280 14 13918 18 1025 2
Latency 52838us 127ms 20516us 296ms Latency 130ms 144ms 444ms 108ms 25397us 427ms
Reiser 3.5 2000M 27557 11 13567 4 58166 5 462.2 9 500 1704 10 328480 99 1785 10 1498 9 398475 99 448 3
Latency 626ms 683ms 14264us 164ms Latency 1299ms 657us 1882ms 1269ms 207us 2843ms
Reiser 3.6 2000M 27478 11 13472 4 58109 5 459.7 9 500 1458 8 319832 99 1404 8 1284 7 395686 99 396 3
Latency 626ms 526ms 13669us 202ms Latency 2405ms 672us 2078ms 1424ms 205us 3293ms
UFS 2000M 4484 4 14018 4 57305 7 417.1 8 500 102 86 417263 99 1252 6 103 87 414744 99 176 57
Latency 410ms 567ms 81779us 185ms Latency 488ms 164us 110ms 469ms 537us 497ms
UFS2 2000M 4472 4 13333 3 56329 6 431.9 7 500 100 87 419216 99 1257 6 102 87 418432 99 161 53
Latency 426ms 331ms 100ms 512ms Latency 487ms 185us 111ms 467ms 51us 537ms
XFS 2000M 28707 4 13759 3 55647 4 408.4 5 500 559 5 70286 98 557 4 637 6 110524 99 102 0
Latency 5226ms 530ms 29344us 260ms Latency 1555ms 14286us 1897ms 1421ms 277us 8480ms
ZFS 2000M 19540 3 12844 2 32664 2 152.5 1 500 753 4 37453 10 142 0 781 4 399620 99 51 0
Latency 2562ms 2926ms 261ms 2268ms Latency 2531ms 61859us 2965ms 2800ms 203us 5209ms

The table is quite long so comparing graphs following:


This is the table for a single file sequential writing speed. The UFS and AFFS denote an abnormally slow speed, indicating a big need for optimization.
The fastest ones are, without a big difference, ext4, HFSX and XFS.


This is the table for a single file sequential reading speed. AFFS needs optimization also here.
The fastest one with a big difference is BTRFS and the second fastest one is JFS.

This two tables indicate the speed on writing and reading big files. If this is your intended usage, the recommended ones are BTRFS, ext4, HFSX, HFS+, XFS and JFS.
However if you need the maximum portability between systems, HFS+ is the choice because it’s readable and writable by more operating systems than the others.

The following graphs show a more normal filesystem usage, where a lot of files are created, read and deleted at the same time.


This test shows surprising results. Reiser takes the lead on native filesystems, while even the newest BTRFS is quite behind all the other native ones.
In foreign filesystems, HPFS takes the lead. However, because of HPFS design limitations, the choice is NTFS, even being run on userspace.


In randomly reading 500 files, the results invert. NTFS loses its lead to UFS2. ext3 shows a huge improvement to ext2, and inversely, BTRFS shows a huge lose of performance.


Finally deleting all files, the lead is taken again by HPFS, second by HFS+ and HFSX.

Unless you want to write files and never delete them, the obvious choice is HFS+ or HFSX.

Surprisingly, even not being on its native implementation, HFS+ provides the best combination in all tests.
It supports all of the features required by Linux, gives a good sequential speed, and maintains its speed when handling a big number of files.

The only bad thing is that Linux does not support the journaling. Not a problem if you take care on unmounting it cleanly, without “oops! what happen to the electricity”.  Of course you can always spam the Linux kernel developers so they implement that function of the HFS+ filesystem that exists from 2003, 8 years ago.