Which file system is best for Ubuntu

File systems are used for data management in permanent storage devices such as Hard disks and SSDs. They are responsible for making decisions for all kinds of files, starting from where they will be accessed to how to manage them properly.

If it hasn’t been much time since you started using Ubuntu, the default file system shouldn’t be causing any problems for you. However, if you’re an advanced user, you may be looking for specific features that are otherwise not available in your file system.

Knowing what your file system does and how it manages to do it can help your system work at optimum performance, depending on what you’re looking for. For this purpose, we’ve written this guide so you can decide which file system is the best for you. All in all, the correct choice just depends on which specific features you’re looking for. Your needs define the file system you should go for.

For this guide, we’ll be referring to file systems for Ubuntu 20.04 LTS; however, there shouldn’t be any compatibility problems for previous versions. With that out of the way, let’s begin!

Understanding some basic terms

When talking about files and file systems, you’ll hear many technical terms get tossed around, such as fragmentation, volumes, etc. Knowing what these terms mean will help you make a better choice for what file system you should be used for Ubuntu.

Here is a list of common terms used when talking about file systems.

Fragmentation refers to the breaking down of a large chunk of the memory block (e.g., a file), which is then scattered across the permanent storage device. This is an inefficient way of storing data, as retrieving these “chunks” of memory is slow when the file is executed again. File systems are often designed to reduce fragmentation.

Volumes refer to specific areas in permanent storage where data is stored. You can make multiple volumes in a single storage device. For example, four volumes of 250 Gigabytes each form a single 1 Terabyte Hard drive.

Journaling is a method used by file systems to keep “logs” on whether a file has successfully been read/written on a permanent storage device. This helps in preventing the corruption of data as the journal keeps tabs on whether the process of reading/writing occurred successfully or not.

Drive pooling refers to grouping two or more drives to create a memory pool. These pools can be used to create virtual drives.

A thread is defined as a sequential flow that controls the process of an application. The CPU and operating system give these threads a processing time. They are executed in an almost parallel manner for a smooth operation of an application.

Snapshot is the process of recording the memory state at its point of capture. It is used to protect data and improve overall efficiency.
Now that we’ve covered some basic terms related to file systems, we can move on to learning about some of the best file systems that Ubuntu has to offer.

1. Ext4

This is the default file system for Ubuntu. If you’re just a regular user looking to use Ubuntu like any other operating system, this file system is for you. The Extended file system 4, or Ext4 for short, is the most recent file system in the Ext series.

Ext4 comes with major improvements and upgrades when compared to the likes of its predecessors. It offers improvements in the areas of defragmentation, ability to incorporate bigger volumes and files. Ext4 also offers backward compatibility for Ext3 and Ext2 file systems.

The advantage of Ext4 over other systems is its excellent reading ability and load time over the other systems. However, it does not have advanced features like transparent compression and is relatively slower in writing files.

You can learn more about the Ext4 file system by clicking here.

2. BtrFS

BtrFS, otherwise known as “B-tree File System”, is considered to be a better solution for an adaptable file system in the long run. This is because the features it provides overwhelm those of Ext4 by a long shot.

It has features like drive pooling, defragmentation using online networks, and enhanced snapshot capability (perhaps the best feature of BtrFS).

BtrFS is superior when it comes to reading and writing large files and databases. It also supports larger drive space than Ext4, which is why most enterprises prefer this system.

Although BtrFS is somewhat unstable compared to the other file systems out there, improvements and updates could make it the default choice for every Linux distribution in the near future.

Click here to find out more about this file system.

3. ReiserFS

If you’re looking for an alternative for Ext4 without compromising on stability, ReiserFS is the file system for you. It provides features that weren’t available in the previous version of Ext. The only drawback of using this file system is that its developers and the Linux community are no longer available due to controversial reasons, so don’t expect any major updates from this file system.

It has a reliable storage management system as compared to outdated systems like XFS.

You can learn more about ReiserFS by clicking here.

4. XFS

Silicon Graphics created XFS for their company’s operating system. The file system was ported to Linux back in 2001. XFS is eerily similar to Ext4. Features like decreased fragmentation and delayed allocation are common between XFS and Ext4.

When it comes to dealing with smaller files, however, XFS isn’t the best option out there. Nevertheless, XFS makes up for its flaws by providing the best support for larger files when compared with its competitors. XFS also supports features for SSDs.

If you’d like to learn more about XFS, click here.

5. ZFS

ZFS (or, in the case of Ubuntu, OpenZFS) is one of the best file systems out there. For Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, OpenZFS is available by default. So, you can avoid the process of installation and directly proceed to load the file system.

Developed by Sun Microsystems, ZFS is a little different from other file systems because it is a file system integrated with a volume manager. ZFS provides many advanced features similar to BtrFS, for example, good volume management, drive pooling, snapshots, etc. ZFS is the default file system used by Ubuntu for managing containers.

It also has the advanced Raid-Z feature that distributes data more reliably and is best for recovering from a disk failure. This feature is not available on ZFS,Ext4, BtrFS, or Reiser.

Click here for more information about this file system.

Which file system is best for you?

Now that we’ve talked about the filesystems available for Ubuntu, we’re led to ask the question, “What file system should you use?”. In all honesty, it depends on user preference. Generally, the default Ext4 should get the job done for most users. However, if you’re looking to use more advanced features, you can choose any other file system specific to your needs.


We hope this guide helped you learn about some of the best file systems that are available for Ubuntu. We also hope that our explanation of the types was informative enough for you to make a sound decision as to which file system best suits your needs.

About the author

Zeeman Memon

Hi there! I'm a Software Engineer by degree, Blogger by skills who loves to write about tech, develop websites & do SEO. You can reach out to me on LinkedIn.