Puzzled by the contrast between EXT4 and Btrfs? You’re not alone. Let’s start with an important note: some Operating Systems (OS) cannot work with specific file systems. Now, let us compare these two standard file systems so we can understand what sets them apart from each other.

In this article, I’ll dive into the differences between the two and discuss when it might make sense to use one over the other.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of comparing Btrfs and Ext4, let’s briefly provide some background on each filesystem.

What is Btrfs?

Btrfs, also known as “B-tree filesystem,” was introduced in 2007 as a GPL-licensed filesystem for Linux. It is a modern filesystem that aims to provide advanced features such as improved storage capacity, fault tolerance, and easy management.

Some of the key features of Btrfs include:

  • Copy-on-write: Btrfs uses a copy-on-write (CoW) mechanism, which means that when you write to a file, the filesystem creates a new copy of the data rather than overwriting the existing data. This helps prevent data loss during a power failure or system crash.
  • Snapshots: Btrfs allows you to take snapshots of your filesystem, which can be useful for backup purposes or rolling back changes in case of a problem.
  • Subvolumes: Btrfs allows you to create subvolumes within your filesystem, which can help organize your data and isolate different parts of your filesystem from one another.
  • Online defragmentation: Btrfs supports online defragmentation, which means you can defragment your filesystem while it is still in use.

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What is Ext4?

Ext4, on the other hand, is the fourth extended filesystem for Linux and has been around since 2008. It is a widely used filesystem known for its stability and performance.

Some of the key features of Ext4 include:

  • Extents: Ext4 uses extents to improve performance by reducing the metadata required to track files.
  • Online resize: Ext4 supports online resizing, which means you can change the size of your filesystem while still in use.
  • Journaling: Ext4 uses a journaling system to help protect against data loss in the event of a system crash.

Btrfs vs Ext4: Performance

Now that we have a basic understanding of Btrfs and Ext4 let’s delve into some of the key differences between the two filesystems. One crucial aspect to consider when choosing a filesystem is performance.

So, how do Btrfs and Ext4 compare in terms of performance?

In general, Ext4 tends to have better performance than Btrfs due to its use of extents and its more efficient handling of metadata. Ext4 is also a more mature filesystem, which means it has had more time to iron out performance issues.

However, it’s worth noting that Btrfs has made significant performance improvements over the years and is constantly being optimized. In some cases, Btrfs may outperform Ext4, particularly when handling large files or directories.

Btrfs vs Ext4: Features

In addition to performance, there are several other features to consider when choosing between Btrfs and Ext4.

As mentioned earlier, one of the key features of Btrfs is its support for copy-on-write, snapshots, and subvolumes. These features can be handy for specific use cases, such as backup and disaster recovery.

Ext4, on the other hand, does not have as many advanced features as Btrfs. However, it does offer online resizing and journaling, which can be helpful in certain situations.

One area where Btrfs stands out is in its support for storage pooling and RAID. Btrfs allows you to create storage pools using multiple devices, which can be helpful in optimizing storage capacity and performance. It also supports various RAID levels, including RAID 0, RAID 1, and RAID 10. This can be useful for improving data redundancy and fault tolerance.

Ext4 does not have built-in support for storage pooling or RAID, but it can be used with external software or hardware to achieve similar results.

Btrfs vs Ext4: Compatibility

Another important aspect to consider when choosing a filesystem is compatibility. It’s worth noting that Btrfs is not as widely supported as Ext4, and it may not be compatible with all hardware and software. This can be a concern for some users, particularly those who need to ensure compatibility with a specific platform or application.

Ext4, on the other hand, is a well-established filesystem widely supported by hardware and software vendors. It is also the default filesystem for many Linux distributions, which means it is more likely to be compatible with your system.

When to Use Btrfs?

Given the differences between Btrfs and Ext4, when might it make sense to use Btrfs?

Here are a few situations where Btrfs might be a good fit:

  • You need advanced features such as copy-on-write, snapshots, and subvolumes.
  • You want to create a storage pool or use RAID for improved performance and fault tolerance.
  • You have a lot of large files or directories that you need to manage efficiently.
  • You are using a modern Linux distribution that supports Btrfs.

When to Use Ext4?

On the other hand, there are also situations where Ext4 might be a better choice than Btrfs.

Here are a few examples:

  • You need a stable and reliable filesystem with good performance.
  • You need compatibility with a specific platform or application.
  • You are using an older Linux distribution that does not support Btrfs.


Btrfs and Ext4 are both excellent filesystems with their own unique set of features and benefits. Btrfs offers advanced features such as copy-on-write, snapshots, and subvolumes, as well as support for storage pooling and RAID. Ext4 is known for its stability and performance and is widely supported by hardware and software vendors.

Ultimately, Btrfs and Ext4 will depend on your specific needs and use case. Both filesystems are excellent options, and you can’t go wrong with either one.

Tim Miller

Tim has always been obsessed with computers his whole life. After working for 25 years in the computer and electronics field, he now enjoys writing about computers to help others. Most of his time is spent in front of his computer or other technology to continue to learn more. He likes to try new things and keep up with the latest industry trends so he can share them with others.

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