Ask Ubuntu is a question and answer site for Ubuntu users and developers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have been using Ubuntu's encrypted home folder system for some time now and have not really noticed any slowdowns except in two specific cases.

  1. When I run du -s in my home folder, it takes several times longer than when doing it on the same data on an unencrypted partition.
  2. When entering a folder containing >1000 images in Krusader, it takes 10-20 seconds before Krusader shows the files (it is completely unresponsive during that time).

Both seem to have to do with accessing several thousands of files without really reading any of their data, which seems to mean that the system will have to traverse lots and lots of inodes. I can't see why this would be slower on ecryptfs than when not using encryption though since this should still be IO-bound rather than CPU-bound even if the inodes are all encrypted.

Does anyone have any ideas?

share|improve this question
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Here's why, based on an explanation by one of the lead Canonical developers:

  • Getting a list of all filenames in a directory requires decoding, parsing and decrypting the lower filenames.

  • The stat() calls from du cause a lookup, which requires allocating an eCryptfs inode, reading part of the lower file metadata, checking to make sure it is an eCryptfs file and then parsing out the unencrypted file size to set the eCryptfs inode's i_size field. Keep in mind that reading the metadata from the lower filesystem involves reading a page into the lower filesystem's page cache.

Put simply, the problem is not I/O rate, but IOPs -- huge numbers of IOPs!

eCryptFS is getting better as it evolves: compare the Phoronix benchmarks of 9.10 vs. 11.10.

You may want to consider dm-crypt, which has historically been faster and still seems to have an edge.

share|improve this answer
Thanks, will probably look into dm-crypt when I do my next reinstall. Doing backups of my encrypted home (which contains the android source code tree => 20GB of small files) tends to take ages... – Leo May 18 '12 at 10:18
Switched over to dm-crypt and must say that the performance difference is quite noticeable. Normal day to day work in directories containing hundreds of files goes markedly faster with dm-crypt. – Leo Oct 25 '12 at 11:39

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.