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And why should I pick one instead of the other?

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Might be good as community wiki, and expanded to included other filesystems. –  nedm Jun 8 '09 at 4:46
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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Taken from: Linux Filesystem Primer

EXT2

  • Recommended to move to EXT3
  • Not Journaled
  • POSIX access control

EXT2 file system is the predecessor to the EXT3 file system. EXT2 is not journaled, and hence is not recommended any longer (customers should move to EXT3).

EXT3

  • Most popular Linux file system, limited scalability in size and number of files
  • Journaled
  • POSIX extended access control

EXT3 file system is a journaled file system that has the greatest use in Linux today. It is the "Linux" File system. It is quite robust and quick, although it does not scale well to large volumes nor a great number of files. Recently a scalability feature was added called htrees, which significantly improved EXT3's scalability. However it is still not as scalable as some of the other file systems listed even with htrees. It scales similar to NTFS with htrees. Without htrees, EXT3 does not handle more than about 5,000 files in a directory.

ReiserFS

  • Best performance and scalability when number of files is great and/or files are small
  • Journaled
  • POSIX extended access controls

The Reiser File System is the default file system in SUSE Linux distributions. Reiser FS was designed to remove the scalability and performance limitations that exist in EXT2 and EXT3 file systems. It scales and performs extremely well on Linux, outscaling EXT3 with htrees. In addition, Reiser was designed to very efficiently use disk space. As a result, it is the best file system on Linux where there are a great number of small files in the file system. As collaboration (email) and many web serving applications have lots of small files, Reiser is best suited for these types of workloads.

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anything about ext4? –  Andrea Ambu May 21 '09 at 9:09
    
Maybe add some pro's an con's to each filesystem. For example, ext2 is the easiest to recover lost files from. On ext2 it is possible to undelete files, which is no longer possible on ext3. –  jns May 21 '09 at 10:22
    
I'd like to hear about the pros and cons of xfs and jfs -- I know xfs predates ext3 but it looks like it has some good features in the vein of zfs but native to Linux. I use jfs on my home desktop, and it's definitely fast, but I'd like to know what I'm giving up vs. ext3/4. –  nedm Jun 8 '09 at 4:44
    
Reiser has not been the default in SUSE for some time now. –  Rodger Oct 24 '10 at 10:41
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ext3 is the standard filesystem used by operating systems based on the linux kernel.

ext4 is an "advanced" version of ext3 with various improvements, basically an upgrade to the ext3 format.

ReiserFS is another filesystem common to linux systems, but with some ongoing codebase issues whereby it periodically tries to kill your wife.

ext3 is the most common format.

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To assist you with the "Why" part of your question, the Linux Gazette did an article comparing many of the filesystems used in Linux. I found the article useful although due to it's age it does lack information on "ext4".

Benchmarking Filesystems

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Well, ReiserFS (and if you are up for patching your kernel, Rieser4) have some advantages, especially with small files. Unfortunately it seems they will never make it into the kernel.

At this point, I'd run ext4, unless I was paranoid, in which case I'd run ext3.

In the future, I'd run BTRFS, but that is still in alpha, it should pick up much of the niftyness of the Rieser file systems and ZFS (far and away the most interesting production file system, but not for Linux (though you can use it with FUSE)).

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It is pretty interesting what you would do, could you say why you'd do that? –  Andrea Ambu Jun 10 '09 at 17:33
    
File systems are build to solve problems, and which so you want your problems to match theirs. XFS has a bunch of neat features for large files (and at least on IRIX, things like guarantied bandwidth for specific files, etc), ReiserFS handles more than 65k files/links in one dir (very few handle that), it can still function with millions of files in a single directory. Reiser4 adds data logging and transactions with no performance hit. ext4 improves on the Linux standard (and thus works everywhere). ZFS has end to end checksuming, and much else. BtrFS lets Linux catch up with ZFS and Reiser. –  Ronald Pottol Jun 14 '09 at 21:48
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You Should go with XFS or EXT4

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ReiserFS (Reiser3 / type 82 on cfdisk) is best for /var. ext4 is best for /home and if you want to change the partition size later then you need to look into LVM.

Don't use ext2 except for /boot and ext3 is a fine all-arounder, like Mario in Mario Kart.

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