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Ubuntu 16.04 will be out soon and it seems ZFS will be natively supported. I have used ext4 for years but have read some of the newer file-systems (like the still fairly experimental btrfs) will have nifty features like better support for solid state drives (how the ssd is written to and read so as to prolong drive life).

I have read the upsides to using ZFS in a RAID configuration due to the file integrity features.

If not using RAID, are there any real benefits to using ZFS on a single solid state drive for normal OS use?

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There is no installer support for 16.04 with ZFS, so you won't be able to create a bootable ZFS-only system just right now using the installer. I'd generally recommend ZFS for multi-drive configurations; a single SSD with ZFS may not be as performant as ext4.

It is my personal opinion that ZFS is far more robust than btrfs, and it is my preferred choice for large data storage, mainly because of useful features such as compression, snapshots, cloning, send/receive, easy VDEV configuration, flexible raid options and a lot more.

See also:

  • So, it's the same situation as before, but now, instead of adding a PPA, you can get ZFS from main? :( Can we do that in a live system and then use GParted or ZFS' tools to do partitioning before starting the installer? – muru Apr 18 '16 at 12:51
  • @muru: This is how you get zfs on root for 16.04: github.com/zfsonlinux/pkg-zfs/wiki/… – emk2203 Apr 18 '16 at 15:30
  • The difference is that ZFS will be provided as part of the distro rather from a PPA, and will be supported as part of the LTS. As the maintainer in Ubuntu I have also ensured it passes a lot of regression tests for all our supported 64 bit architectures before we push out updates. – Colin Ian King Apr 18 '16 at 16:18
  • @ColinIanKing: Absolutely correct. I took it for granted that one should install from the distro and only follow the modified migration procedure to get zfs on root. I use zfs for years, and I am very happy to see it officially supported. Please keep up the good work! – emk2203 Apr 18 '16 at 16:46
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To install zfs on root, you need to follow the procedure outlined on github for the moment, since the installer cannot use zfs for the moment. Make sure that you don't use the zfsonlinux ppa, but just the official packages from 16.04LTS.

Why should you do it? While it's correct that ext4 is faster, with zfs you gain the ability to make snapshots, even automatically with zfs-auto-snapshot, and can use these snapshots to make a complete rollback of the system and boot from them.

For me, this advantage outweighs the slight impact in speed. Snapshots can also be used via zfs send and receive to a remote system, which makes backups a breeze.

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There are disadvantages of using ZFS with implementations of OpenZFS at the time of writing besides booting, another one is missing encryption. eCryptfs works on ZFS like almost everywhere else and is recommended over LUKS, but it has disadvantages like reducing the maximum filename length if used with filename encryption. The ZFS competitor btrfs is also missing encryption in it's feature set and EXT4's encryption wasn't very user-friendly the last time I checked. As a reminder, if you are looking for a purely flash optimized file system there is F2FS and the Arch Wiki states that it is possible to install on an F2FS root if you have a separate boot partition (or store kernels and GRUB modules on the EFI system partition), the Ubuntu installer doesn't support it though, so you need a workaround: Installing Ubuntu 14.04 on a F2FS partition

(Yes, I consider using encryption and use of long filenames as normal use.)

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