When attempting to resize and old ext4 Partition that was created without the 64bit flag, resize2fs 1.42 will fail if the new size is or exceeds 16TiB.

$ resize2fs -p /dev/mapper/target-device
resize2fs: New size too large to be expressed in 32 bits

I do not want to copy the files to an external medium. I do not want to risk data loss either. How can i resize the volume safely?


You are attempting to resize a filesystem that was created before the -O 64bit option became default. It is possible to upgrade your ext filesystem to 64 bit addresses, allowing it to span significantly greater (1024 PiB instead of 16 TiB) volumes.

Assuming your target device is called /dev/mapper/target-device, this is what you need to do:


  1. This size of volume must be backed by RAID. Regular disk errors will cause harm otherwise.
  2. Still, RAID is not a backup. You must have your valuables stored elsewhere as well.
  3. First resize & verify all surrounding volumes (partition tables, encryption, lvm).
  4. After changing hardware RAID configuration, linux may or may not immediately acknowledge the new maximum size. Check $ cat /proc/partitions and reboot if necessary.

Use a recent stable kernel and e2fsprogs

  1. Make sure (check uname -r) you are running a kernel that can properly handle 64bit ext4 filesystems - you want to use a 4.4.x kernel or later (default Ubuntu 16 and above).
  2. Acquire e2fsprogs of at least version 1.43

    • Ubuntu 16.04 (2016-04-21) was released with e2fsprogs 1.42.12 (2014-08-25)
    • e2fsprogs 1.43 (2016-05-17) is the 1st release capable of upgrading extfs address size.
    • Ubuntu 18.04 (2018-04-26) ships with e2fsprogs 1.44.x (good!)

If you are on 16.04 and cannot upgrade to a newer Ubuntu release, you will have to enable source package support and install a newer version manually:

$ resize2fs
# if this  prints version 1.43 or above, continue to step 1
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install git
$ sudo apt build-dep e2fsprogs
$ cd $(mktemp -d)
$ git clone -b v1.44.2 https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/fs/ext2/e2fsprogs.git e2fsprogs && cd e2fsprogs
$ ./configure
$ make
$ cd resize
$ ./resize2fs
# this should print 1.43 or higher
# if this prints any lower version, panic
# use `./resize2fs` instead of `resize2fs` for the rest of the steps


Step 1: Properly umount the filesystem

$ sudo umount /dev/mapper/target-device

Step 2: Check the filesystem for errors

$ sudo e2fsck -fn /dev/mapper/target-device

Step 3: Enable 64bit support in the filesystem

Consult man tune2fs and man resize2fs - you may with to change some filesystem flags.

$ sudo resize2fs -b /dev/mapper/target-device

On a typical HDD RAID, this takes 4 minutes of high IO & CPU load.

Step 4: Resize the filesystem

$ sudo resize2fs -p /dev/mapper/target-device

If you do not pass a size on the command line, resize2fs assumes "grow to all space available" - this is typically exactly what you want. The -p flag enabled progress bars - but those only display after some initial steps.

On a typical HDD RAID, this takes 4 minutes of high IO & CPU load.

Verify again

Check the filesystem again

$ sudo e2fsck -fn /dev/mapper/target-device

e2fsck of newer versions may suggest to fix timestamps or extent trees that previous versions handled badly. This is not an indication of any serious issue and you may chose to fix it now or later.

If errors occur, do not panic and do not attempt to write to the volume; consult someone with extensive knowledge of the filesystem, as further operations would likely destroy data!

If no errors occur, remount the device:

$ sudo mount /dev/mapper/target-device


You will not need any non-Ubuntu version of e2fsprogs for continued operation of the upgraded filesystem - the kernel supports those for quite some time now. It was only necessary to initiate the upgrade.

For reference, there is a similar error message mke2fs will print if it is asked to create a huge device with inappropriate options:

$ mke2fs -O ^64bit /dev/huge
mke2fs: Size of device (0x123456789 blocks) is too big to be expressed in 32 bits using a blocksize of 4096.
  • 1
    This is correct. I'd like to add that Redhat (thus RHEL, Centos, etc) used to prefer XFS over Ext4 in their installer when partitioning a filesystem over 16TB, and now just prefer XFS outright as the default filesystem. – Diablo-D3 May 31 '16 at 14:13
  • Yes, most older kernels still significant in the RedHat World do not contain stable support for 64bit ext4 yet. Afaik Ubuntu goes with what many linux gurus say, ext4 is to be replaces by btrfs - though ext4 is close to btrfs in features now, i believe btrfs is more elegant in design and maybe even less prone to bugs. – anx Jun 1 '16 at 4:18
  • 2
    btrfs is not ready for production, and may never be ready for production, since Oracle has put development of it on the back burner. My personal opinion is if you need that level of file system complexity, use a tiny 8GB XFS root combined with using ZFS for your actual data storage needs. – Diablo-D3 Jun 2 '16 at 16:37

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