Ext4 vs Btrfs Filesystems – Which one should you choose?

Ext4 Vs Btrfs

Choosing the suitable filesystem can sometimes be confusing, especially on specific operating systems.

Today, we’re comparing Ext4 vs Btrfs filesystems in Linux. There are a lot of different file systems in Linux, like Ext4, Btrfs, ZFS, and XFS, and even though each has its unique set of capabilities, the debate mostly comes down to Btrfs vs Ext4 because they’re more commonly used. Both Btrfs and Ext4 have their advantages.

In this module, we will have a look at these two file systems in detail and help you choose which one to go with during your next Installation.

Ext4 vs Btrfs – Comparison Table

Here, we have compared both the file systems with respect to some standard parameters :

Maximum Partition Size1 EiB16 EiB
Maximum File Size16 TiB16 EiB
Maximum Filename Length255 Characters255 Characters
Journaling Support
Copy-On-Write Support
FS Level Compression

Difference between Ext4 vs Btrfs filesystems on Linux

With the comparison table out of the way, let’s get right into it!

Ext4 Overview

Ext4 is the fourth version of the Ext(Extended) File System for Linux and is probably the most well-known file system for Linux out there. Ext4 is the default system for most Distros. Ext4 has some scalability and performance issues when dealing with large or fragmented files or directories.

It is backward-compatible with older versions of Ext File systems like Ext3. It is a journaling file system.

Ext4 Features

  • File system size: Ext4 supports file systems upto 1 exbibyte (2^60 bytes) in size.
  • Ext4 File size: Ext4 can support files up to 16 tebibytes (16 * 2^40 bytes) in size.
  • Backward compatibility: Ext4 is backward compatible with ext3 and ext2.
  • Performance: Ext4 can improve reliability, performance, and capacity.
  • Journal and Metadata checksums: Ext4 uses journaling for checksums to improve reliability.
  • Timestamps: Ext4 adds intervals down to nanoseconds to timestamps.
  • Case-insensitive mode: Ext4 can be used in case-insensitive mode to increase the performance of applications and games running in Wine.
  • Stripe geometry: The -E option of mkfs.ext4 can be used to specify stripe geometry.

Btrfs Overview

Btrfs, aka B-Tree file system, is a modern CoW(Copy-On-Write) File System. It is upcoming in popularity and is the default file system for many modern Distros like Garuda Linux. btrfs has been the default filesystem for SuSE Linux Server and is becoming the preferred filesystem for many other Linux distributions, including RedHat’s Fedora Linux.

The reason why Btrfs is increasingly gaining popularity is that it enables pooling, snapshots, and check-sums, among other things.

Btrfs Features

  • File system size: Btrfs supports file systems up to 16 exbibytes (2^64 bytes) in size, offering vast scalability for storage needs.
  • File size: Btrfs allows for individual file sizes of up to 16 exbibytes, providing flexibility for handling large and complex data sets.
  • Backward compatibility: Btrfs is designed with backward compatibility in mind, ensuring seamless integration with older file systems and preserving data continuity.
  • Performance: Btrfs is geared towards enhancing overall system performance, delivering improvements in speed, reliability, and storage capacity.
  • Journal and Metadata checksums: Btrfs uses checksums for both metadata and data, which are used for data integrity and help detect and fix errors.
  • Case-insensitive mode: supports a case-insensitive mode that allows users to interact with the file system without considering distinctions between uppercase and lowercase letters in filenames. This feature is particularly beneficial for enhancing the performance of applications and games, especially those running in compatibility layers like Wine.
  • Stripe geometry: stripe geometry refers to the configuration of data striping in a RAID setup. When using Btrfs in a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) configuration, you can define the stripe geometry, specifying how data is distributed across multiple disks.
  • Deduplication: Btrfs supports deduplication at the file system level.

Which one is the better choice?

Both the file systems have their own Pros and Cons. Ext4 is very old and stable and is thus used as the default file systems in Linux. It also supports FreeBSD which Btrfs doesn’t. It also has journaling support which is an important fail safe practice in case of a power failure.

However, Btrfs also has some attractive features like built in RAID support, FS Level Screenshot capabilities and compression, and more optimized file storing capabilities. It is to be noted that Btrfs is often a bit slower than Ext4 but the bulk of modern functionalities which it provides still make it the preferred File System for modern desktop users.


Thus, in this module, we discussed the two most prominent file systems in Linux. You can choose either depending upon your requirements: the old, reliable Ext4 or the new, more dynamic Btrfs as per your requirements.