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What is python-btrfs?

python-btrfs is a Python 3 library that provides ways to interact programmatically with an online btrfs file system.

It provides a pure python shadow implementation of data structures used in btrfs together with convenient wrappers around the collection of kernel functions that are available in the btrfs kernel API.

Using them, we can examine the secret inner world of a btrfs file system for educational purposes.

Where do I get it?

Your favourite GNU/Linux distro probably has it packaged as either python-btrfs or python3-btrfs package.

This git repository with source code can also directly be used with python 3. No dependencies other than the python standard library are needed.

Should I be using this?

The target audience for using the library is system administrators and developers who want to discover more about the internals of a btrfs file system, or want to create adjusted monitoring or administration tools that are optimized for their specific use cases.

Of course, it's python, so, this is for who prefers programming python over programming C for quickly building fun stuff.

I have a broken file system, can I repair it using python-btrfs?

python-btrfs does not directly access disk storage, it only uses functions available in the kernel interface, using system calls. This also means that python-btrfs can not be used to repair a broken filesystem whenever the running Linux kernel cannot properly mount it.

What can I do with python-btrfs?

Using it allows one to take a peek behind the curtains of the regular functionality provided by the btrfs-progs programs and the libbtrfsutil C and Python library.

You can basically do anything that btrfs-progs or libbtrfsutil can do with an online file system. However, at the same time we're operating on a bit lower abstraction level. However again, that allows us to also be creative and make optimized utilities for our own special use cases.

An example is the btrfs-balance-least-used program that you can find in the bin directory. It's a modified algorithm for using btrfs balance to compact allocated space (i.e. defragment free space) as fast and efficient as possible by taking the usage ratio of the individual allocations of raw disk space into account.

Show me some example code!

Let's for example have a look at the equivalent of the btrfs fi df / command:

>>> import btrfs
>>> with btrfs.FileSystem('/') as fs:
...     for space in fs.space_info():
...         print(space)
Data, single: total=839.01GiB, used=838.47GiB
System, DUP: total=8.00MiB, used=112.00KiB
Metadata, DUP: total=4.00GiB, used=2.38GiB
GlobalReserve, single: total=512.00MiB, used=0.00B

Well, that was easy! But, say, instead of this text, you want to create a pie chart out of it. Now, instead of writing a horrible program that parses back the text output of the btrfs fi df command, we can access the values directly.

>>> spaces = fs.space_info()
>>> len(spaces)

The space_info() function calls the SPACE_INFO kernel function, which returns a list of SpaceInfo objects. By feeding one of those to the pretty printer in the utils module, we can see all contents. The attributes are directly accessible in our code:

>>> btrfs.utils.pretty_print(spaces[0])
flags: Data, single
total_bytes: 839.01GiB
used_bytes: 838.50GiB

>>> spaces[0].flags
>>> btrfs.utils.block_group_flags_str(spaces[0].flags)
>>> spaces[0].total_bytes

So, using these values, we could create a nice picture using an imaging library.

More examples!

The bin and examples directory in the source code contain an example collection of programs that are built using the library.


Reference documentation of the stable API of the library is written in Sphinx autodoc format. An online version of the HTML documentation is also available.

In general, the btrfs.FileSystem object, shown above, is the best starting point for exploring available functionality.

Tutorial style documentation will be added in the future.


The python-btrfs library itself is licensed under the LGPL-3.0.

Example scripts in the bin directory are licensed under the MIT License (Expat). Feel free to use all the ideas and code from them to build new stuff using python-btrfs!