Safe offline ext2/ext3/ext4 defragmentation

I have a very large RAID6 array (11TB) with an ext4 partition that, due to particular use cases, has become disgustingly fragmented (~40% non-contiguous according to fsck). Sadly, as much as ext4 is designed to resist fragmentation issues, my partition has been having substantial performance issues.

The ext4 defrag program e4defrag would be an ideal solution to my problems but it is not yet stable enough for production use.

Putting some thought into the matter, I have came up with a technique for defragmenting my partition using only stable tools. My process is very slow and requires substantial periods of downtime but preliminary results are good.

At present, I have 2TB of free space, which means that I can copy files off my fragmented partition and then copy them back to decrease the fragmentation of individual files; alternatively, the application shake can be used to accomplish a similar result. However, the copy/recopy solution will only work if the free space on my partition is not fragmented. Running e2freefrag I found that the free space on my partition is monstrously fragmented.

However, clever use of resize2fs can almost completely defragment the free space of a partition. If you unmount the partition, shrink it to a minimum size and the expand it, the vast majority of the free space will be moved to a contiguous region at the end of the partition.

If the partition is /dev/md1 and is mounted at /mnt/fragmented, your file system can be defragmented with the following set of commands:

$ umount /mnt/fragmented
$ fsck -f /dev/md1
$ resize2fs -M -p /dev/md1
$ resize2fs -p /dev/md1
$ mount /dev/md1 /mnt/fragmented
$ shake -o 0 -S 0 /mnt/fragmented

This will result in some defragmentation of your partition but it is likely that the process will need to be repeated multiple times to achieve a substantial degree of defragmentation.