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This is an obscure question, I know. I'm trying to do some performance testing of some disks on a Linux box. I'm getting some inconsistent results, running the same test on the same disk. I know that disks have different performance depending on which part of the disk is being accessed. In particular, reads and writes to the outside of the disk have much higher throughput than reads and writes to the inside part of the disk, due to near-constant data density and constant rotational speed.

I'd like to see if my inconsistencies can be attributed to this geometry-induced variance in throughput. Is it possible, using existing tools, to find out where on the disk a file has been placed?

If not, I suppose I can write something to directly seek, read, and write to the device file itself, bypassing (and destroying) the filesystem, but I'm hoping to avoid that. I'm currently using ext4 on a 3.0 kernel (Arch Linux, if it matters), but I'm interested in techniques for other filesystems as well.

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who says files are in one place ? If they get fragmented (which they usually do) they can end up all over. – Sirex Sep 9 '11 at 6:31
Absolutely. But they're still someplace :-) And in my particular case, writing files to a newly-created filesystem, they're quite likely to be (mostly) unfragmented. – Rick Koshi Sep 9 '11 at 9:24
You can't do this. The best you can get is the LBA block numbers of the files, which don't necessarily correspond to specified physical locations (at least not in a way that you can determine, as drives don't publish this mapping). There are other things, too, for example, blocks 3-5 may be consecutively numbered, but 4 may have been reallocated to a completely different location on the drive because the original sector at 4 was physically damaged, etc. You cannot get the information you are looking for unless the drive manufacturer is willing to give you detailed address specs. – Jason C Jun 11 '14 at 0:42

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You could use debugfs for this:

debugfs -R "stat ~/myfile" /dev/hda1

Change the hard/partition drive accordingly and make sure the drive is unmounted. You will get a list with all the blocks used:

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This is perfect, thanks. I'm not sure why you said to make sure the drive is unmounted, though. According to the manual page, debugfs opens in read-only mode by default, so this command should be completely safe even on an active filesystem. It might provide questionable results if the queried file is being actively changed at the time, of course, but no other problems should result. Have I missed something? – Rick Koshi Sep 9 '11 at 9:03
No, you are right. It's more of a 'best practice' then a must. If you are doing it on an active filesystem, files may change etc. – Bart De Vos Sep 9 '11 at 10:45
The LBA block number does not tell you where the file is physically located on the disk. These days conversion from LBA to physical location is generally not possible, due to the complexity of the physical geometry of modern drives, behind-the-scenes sector reallocations, etc. Generally speaking it's usually a safe bet that for disc-based media lower LBAs are towards the outside of the drive, but that's just because that layout has been typical in the past, back in CHS addressing days. Modern drives don't even publish real CHS geometry any more, because they can't. – Jason C Jun 11 '14 at 0:39

You can use the FIBMAP ioctl, as exemplified here, or using hdparm:

/ $ sudo /sbin/hdparm --fibmap /etc/X11/xorg.conf

 filesystem blocksize 4096, begins at LBA 0; assuming 512 byte sectors.
 byte_offset  begin_LBA    end_LBA    sectors
           0    1579088    1579095          8
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Unfortunately, nothing output by stat is the information I need. Size in bytes and blocks, inode number, permissions... None of these reflect which blocks contain the file's data. As an example, my test files (which are all the same size) all show exactly the same data, except for inode number and access/modification times. – Rick Koshi Sep 9 '11 at 6:37
Yes, you are right, I'm sorry, I didn't read properly. I changed my answer to stg more appropriate. – huitseeker Sep 9 '11 at 7:32
hdparm does indeed give me what I need, and in a somewhat more readable format than debugfs. I had to go find it, though, since it's not installed (on Arch Linux) by default. debugfs is part of e2fsprogs (same package that gives us mkfs and fsck), so is installed by default. – Rick Koshi Sep 9 '11 at 9:22
The LBA does not tell you where the file is physically located on the drive. It is not possible to get information about actual physical mapping of LBAs. – Jason C Jun 11 '14 at 0:43

This thread may give you some insight into ext4 file placement algorithm.

debugfs has a bmap function, which seems to give the data you want. You should be able to give it consecutive blocks of a file and get the physical block numbers.

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Thanks for the pointer to the thread about ext4 file placement. That was enlightening. :-) – Rick Koshi Sep 9 '11 at 9:26
The LBA does not tell you where the file is physically located on the drive. It is not possible to get information about actual physical mapping of LBAs. – Jason C Jun 11 '14 at 0:43

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