18.11. File System Snapshots

Contributed by Tom Rhodes.

FreeBSD offers a feature in conjunction with Soft Updates: file system snapshots.

UFS snapshots allow a user to create images of specified file systems, and treat them as a file. Snapshot files must be created in the file system that the action is performed on, and a user may create no more than 20 snapshots per file system. Active snapshots are recorded in the superblock so they are persistent across unmount and remount operations along with system reboots. When a snapshot is no longer required, it can be removed using rm(1). While snapshots may be removed in any order, all the used space may not be acquired because another snapshot will possibly claim some of the released blocks.

The un-alterable snapshot file flag is set by mksnap_ffs(8) after initial creation of a snapshot file. unlink(1) makes an exception for snapshot files since it allows them to be removed.

Snapshots are created using mount(8). To place a snapshot of /var in the file /var/snapshot/snap, use the following command:

# mount -u -o snapshot /var/snapshot/snap /var

Alternatively, use mksnap_ffs(8) to create the snapshot:

# mksnap_ffs /var /var/snapshot/snap

One can find snapshot files on a file system, such as /var, using find(1):

# find /var -flags snapshot

Once a snapshot has been created, it has several uses:

The frozen /var is now available through /mnt. Everything will initially be in the same state it was during the snapshot creation time. The only exception is that any earlier snapshots will appear as zero length files. To unmount the snapshot, use:

# umount /mnt
# mdconfig -d -u 4

For more information about softupdates and file system snapshots, including technical papers, visit Marshall Kirk McKusick's website at http://www.mckusick.com/.

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