Is it possible to convert btrfs to ext4 without losing data? I'm experiencing a very low speed on read/write operations on btrfs.

4 Answers 4


I'm just going on the available tools, not experience or documentation. You might want to test this with a partition (even just an image) you don't mind losing if it all goes wrong. Don't attempt this without taking a backup.

btrfs-convert has a roll-back function to undo a conversion. I'm not sure if this works for partitions that weren't converted to btrfs with btrfs-convert.

  1. Start by unmounting the filesystem. If it's essential to the system, boot into a LiveCD.

  2. Install btrfs-tools

    sudo apt-get install btrfs-tools
  3. Roll back the conversion

    sudo btrfs-convert -r /dev/sdXn
  • 6
    Note, that this will only work with converted filesystems and only if you haven't deleted the snapshot of the original ext3/4 filesystem.
    – htorque
    Apr 21, 2011 at 15:19
  • Thank you but unfortunately this doesn't work for a btrfs partition not converted from other file systems. H guess I have to reinstall.
    – mFat
    Apr 23, 2011 at 4:14
  • 11
    Be aware that this will discard any changes made on the filesystem since you converted it. It will be restored to the contents of the ext2/3 filesystem as it was before you converted.
    – poolie
    Jan 27, 2012 at 9:07

As far as I know you cannot convert btrfs to any other filesystem.

  • 1
    not true if you converted ext to btrfs! you would have a snapshot to roll back the changes
    – Fookatchu
    Mar 21, 2014 at 17:55
  • 2
    so it is true: you cannot convert - but restore or roll back to the previous state.
    – Cybot
    Dec 22, 2022 at 14:57

I did this using a system with multiboot distros (Ubuntu on ext4, Xubuntu on btrfs). Running Ubuntu, I have taken the Xubuntu btrfs home partition, and archived it using fsarchiver. I was then able to restore it, again using fsarchiver, to a different partition and specify ext4 filesystem type. That seemed to work okay.

Still in Ubuntu, I mounted the Xubuntu root partition on /mnt, and edited /mnt/@/etc/fstab to change the mount for /home to point to the new ext4 partition, changing both the UUID and the fs type, and deleting the subvolume data. I saved the file, and rebooted into Xubuntu.

There was an error in booting, and booting halted. The error was that I had another partition I wanted to mount to my ~/Documents directory which failed. I selected to manually fix the problem. It turns out that my root partition mounted okay as ext4, but when I did a list command I got

#ls /home

So the original btrfs subvolume structure was still there in the ext4 filesystem. I issued the command

mount --bind /home/@home /home

I then pressed ctrl-D to continue booting, and Xubuntu continued booting and everything came up fine. I haven't done it yet, as I'm still on this initial boot, but I'm certain I could put that bind command in my fstab file. Or perhaps I could have left the subvolume info in the fstab entry, I don't know.

What I will do instead, however (this is off-topic), is take a more mature instance of a /home (ext4) partition for Xubuntu from another computer and use that instead. I've already proven that this will work.


**The solution that works in all cases, is of course to copy everything from the root partition to a directory on another partition (assuming you have one with enough free space), reformat / as ext4, copy back. I just did that, and hit a few issues so I thought I'd write a little howto:

  • Boot on a rescue USB key, mount both partitions (let's say /mnt for the real root partition, and /dest for the partition serving as a temporary destination)
  • Beware that you should mount the BTRFS subvolumes too (I didn't do that, and I lost all of /var, /opt, /root...). The best way is probably to do the usual chroot dance (mount --bind /dev /mnt/dev; mount --bind /sys /mnt/sys; mount --bind /proc /mnt/proc; chroot /mnt) and then mount -a -t btrfs so that the subvolumes described in /etc/fstab are all mounted.
  • Exit the chroot or use another TTY (Ctrl+Alt+F2), and launch the copy, like cp -a /mnt /dest
  • Reformat the partition:
  • umount /mnt
  • mkfs.ext4 /dev/*the_root_device*
  • mount /dev/*the_root_device* /mnt
  • Copy back the data with cp -a /dest/mnt/* /mnt And now (in the chroot) don't forget to
  • edit /etc/fstab to remove all subvolumes, change the filesystem type from btrfs to ext4, and update the UUID (see the output of blkid, or switch to a label like LABEL=rootfs after doing tune2fs -L rootfs /dev/*the_root_device*)
  • mkinitrd or dracut, and recreate the bootloader (I use another distro so I don't have the exact command for this step on ubuntu). Cross fingers and reboot. Finally, remember to clean up the /dest copy in the temporary destination.**

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