Posts Tagged ‘logical volumes’

Extend /boot from within a Linux system

Saturday, March 27th, 2021

This is a tricky one. In order to resize /boot, which is, commonly the first partition, you need to push forward the beginning of the next partition. This is not an easy task, especially if you are not using LVM – then you have to use external partitioning modification tools, like PQMagic (if it still exists, who knows?), or other such offline tools.

However, if you are using LVM, there is a (complex) trick to it. We need to evict some of the first few PEs, resize the partition to begin at a new location, and then re-sign (and restore) the LVM meta-data in a way which will reflect the relative change in data blocks position (aka – the new PEs). To have some additional grasp of LVM and its meta-data, I recommend you read my article here.

Also, and this is an important note – you cannot change an open (in-use) partition on systems prior to RHEL 8 (on which I have not tested my solution just yet) – meaning – you can change the partition layout on the disk, but the kernel will not refresh that information and would not act accordingly until reboot.

If you have not tried this before, or not sure about all the details in this post, I urge you to use a VM for testing purposes. A failure in this process might leave your data inaccessible, and you do not want that.

So, we have a complex set of tasks:

  • If there is some empty space somewhere on the LVM PV, migrate the first X blocks out.
  • Export the LVM meta-data so we could edit it afterwards
  • Recreate the partition (delete and recreate) with a new starting location
  • (here comes the tricky part) – sign the partition’s updated beginning with LVM meta-data, with the updated relative block locations.


  • The disk partition layout is /boot as /dev/sda1 and LVM PV on /dev/sda2
  • The LVM VG name is ‘VG’
  • We are using modern dracut-capable system, such as RHEL/CentOS version 6 and above (not tested on version 8 yet)
  • We use basic (msdos) partition layout and not GPT

Clear 500MB for further use, if not enough free space in PV:

In order to do so, we will need 500MB of free space in our PV. If space is an issue, you can easily clean up space from the swap space, by stopping swap, reducing the LV size, signing swap with ‘mkswap’ and starting swap again. This is in a nutshell, and I will not go further into it.

Move the first 500MB out of the beginning of the PV:

We need to do some math. The size of a single PE is defined in the LVM VG settings. By default it is 4MB today, and it can be checked using ‘vgdisplay’ command. Look for the field ‘PE Size’. So – 500MB is 125 PEs. So our command would be:

pvmove --alloc anywhere /dev/sda2:0-124

Which will migrate the first 125 PEs starting at position 0 to 124 away somewhere in the VG.

Export LVM meta-data to a file, and edit it for future handling:

vgcfgbackup -f /tmp/vg-orig.txt VG 

This command will create a file called /tmp/vg-orig.txt which will contain the original VG meta-data copy. We will clone this file and edit it:

cp /tmp/vg-orig.txt /tmp/vg.txt

Now comes the more complex part. We need to adjust the meta-data file to reflect the relative change in the block location. We will edit the new /tmp/vg.txt file. Initially – find the block describing ‘pv0’, which is the first PV in your VG (and maybe the only one), and verify that ‘pv0’ is the correct device, by verifying the ‘device’ directive in this block.
Now comes the harder part – Each LV block in the meta-data file has a sub-section describing disk segments. These blocks describe the relative location of the LV in the PVs. I have already pointed at my article describing the meta-data file and how to read it. The task is to find the ‘stripes’ directive in each LV sub-segment, and reduce the amount of PEs – in our case – 125. It needs to be done for all LVs which reside on our ‘pv0’ – one after the other. An example would look like this:

lvswap { ### Another LV
			id = "E3Ei62-j0h6-cGu5-w9OB-l9tU-0Qf5-f09bvh"
			status = ["READ", "WRITE", "VISIBLE"]
			flags = []
			creation_host = "localhost.localdomain"
			creation_time = 1594157749	# 2019-01-01 08:42:29 +0000
			segment_count = 1

			segment1 {
				start_extent = 0  ### Tee LE of the LV. On LEs - later ###
				extent_count = 94	# 2.9375 Gigabytes

				type = "striped"
				stripe_count = 1	# linear

				stripes = [
					# Was: "pv0", 1813. Now:
					"pv0", 1688 ### reduced 125 PEs ###

Copy the resulting file /tmp/vg.txt (after double-checking it!) to /boot. We will use /boot later on to re-sign the PV meta-data.

Recreate the partition:

Another tricky part. You cannot just resize a partition, or at least – without the tool (parted, fdisk – depending on your OS version) attempting to resize the over-layer, and failing to do so. Most tools do not allow changes to the size of the partitions at all, so we will need to delete and recreate the partition layout. Now, depending if you are using GPT or msdos partition, your tools might vary, but in this case, I handle only msdos partition layout, so the tools will be in accordance. Other tools can apply for GPT layout, and the process, in general, will work on GPT as well.

So – we will backup the partition layout before we change it. The command ‘sfdisk’ will allow us to do so, so we can call

sfdisk -d /dev/sda > /boot/original-disk-layout.txt

I am leaving quite a lot of stuff on /boot partition, because this partition is not a member of the LVM volume group, and will remain, mostly, unaffected during our process. You can use an external USB disk, or any other non-LVM partition, as long as you verify you can access it from within the boot process, directly from initrd/initramfs, or dracut. /boot is, commonly, accessible from within the boot process.

Now we modify the partition layout. To do so, I recommend to document the original start point of the two interesting partitions – /boot (usually /dev/sda1) and our PV (in this example: /dev/sda2). I prefer using ‘sector’ directives. An example would be:

parted -s /dev/sda "unit s p"

It is common, for modern Linux systems, to have /boot starting at sector 2048 (which is 1MB into the disk). This is due to block alignment, however, I will not discuss this here. The interesting part is the size of a sector (commonly 512b, but can be 4K for ‘advanced format’ disks), so we will be able to calculate the new partitions starting positions and sizes.

Now, using ‘parted’ we need to remove the 2nd partition (in my example, note. It might vary on your setup) and recreate it at a newer location – 125PEs further, or 500MB further, or 1024000 sectors ahead. So, if our starting sector is 411648(s), then we will have to create the partition starting at sector 1435648 (=411648+1024000), with the original ending location. Don’t forget to set this partition to LVM. Assuming you have saved the starting point of the partition in the variable StartOfPart, and the original ending in EndOfPart, your command would look like this:

parted -s /dev/sda "unit s rm 2 mkpart primary $(( StartOfPart + 1024000 )) ${EndOfPart} set 2 lvm on"

Now, we need to recreate the /boot partition (partition #1 in my example) to include the new size. Again – we need to document its beginning, and now recreate it. Assuming we have kept the same variables as before, the command would look like this:

parted -s /dev/sda "unit s rm 1 mkpart primary ${StartOfPart} $(( EndOfPart + 1024000 - 1 )) set 1 boot on"

The kernel will not update the new partitions sizes because they are in use. We will need a reboot, however – when we reboot (do not do that just yet), we will no longer have access to our LVM. This is because it will not have meta-data anymore, and we will need to recreate it.

Prepare a script to place in /boot, called which will hold the following lines:

sed -i 's/locking_type = 4/locking_type = 0/g' /etc/lvm/lvm.conf
lvm pvcreate -u ${PVID} --restorefile /mnt/vg.txt /dev/sda2
lvm vgcfgrestore -f /mnt/vg.txt VG

You need to save the PVID for /dev/sda2 and replace this value in this script. This is the field ‘PV UUID’ in the output of the command:

pvdisplay /dev/sda2

Some more explanations: The device in our example is /dev/sda2 (change it to match your device name), and the VG name is ‘VG’ (again – change to match your setup). This script needs to be placed on /boot and be made executable.

Before our reboot:

We need to verify the following files exist on our /boot:

  • vg.txt
  • original-disk-layout.txt

If any of these files is missing, you will not be able to boot, you will not be able to recover your system, and you will not be able to access the data there ever again!

I also recommend you keep your original-disk-layout.txt file somewhere external. If you have made a partitioning mistake and changed the beginning of /boot, you will not have access to /boot and all its files, and having this file elsewhere (on external disk, for example) will help you recover the partition layout quickly and with no frustration.

Now comes another risky part: reboot and get into recovery shell used by GRUB. See my article here to understand how to enter recovery shell. If you have a different OS version, your boot arguments might differ. An external boot media (like RHEL/CentOS recovery boot, or Ubuntu live) could also suffice to complete the task, but it is preferred to use the GRUB recovery console to reduce the change of some unknown automatic task or detection process doing stuff for you.

We need to break the boot sequence in the pre-mount phase. We will have a minimal shell on which we need to run the following commands:

mkdir /mnt
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt

We are mounting /dev/sda1 (our /boot) on /mnt, which we have just created. Then we call the script we have created before. It will use LVM recovery commands to re-sign the PV on /dev/sda2, and then recover the VG meta-data using our modified meta-data file, describing a new relative positions of LVs.

When done, assuming no problems happened there, just umount /mnt and reboot. The system should boot up successfully, however, /boot will not have the designated size just yet.

Extending /boot :

The partition /dev/sda1 is of the updated size now, however, the filesystem is not. You can verify that using ‘fdisk -l /dev/sda’ of ‘parted -s /dev/sda unit s p’ or any other command. If this is not the case, then check your process.

Extending the filesystem depends on the type of filesystem. You can run ‘df -hPT /boot’ to identify the filesystem type. If it is XFS, use the command:

xfs_growfs /boot

If the filesystem is of type ext3 or ext4, use

resize2fs /dev/sda1

Other filesystems will require different tools, and since I cannot cover it all, I leave it to you. This is an online process, and as soon as it is over, the new size will show in the ‘df’ command.


If, for some reason, the disk partitioning or PV re-signing failed, and the system cannot boot, you can use the original-disk-layout.txt file in /boot to recover the original disk layout. Boot into GRUB rescue mode as shown above, and run:

mkdir /mnt
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt
sfdisk -f /dev/sda < /mnt/original-disk-layout.txt

If your /boot is inaccessible, and the file original-disk-layout.txt was kept on an external storage, you can use a live Ubuntu, or any other live system to run the ‘sfdisk’ command as shown above to recover /dev/sda original partitioning layout.

Bottom line:

This is a possible, although complex, task, and you should practice it on a VM, with disk snapshots before you attempt to kill production servers. Leave me a comment if it worked, or if there is anything I need to add or correct in this post. Thanks, and good luck!

Hot-resize disks on Linux

Monday, April 6th, 2020

After major investigations around, I came to the conclusion that a full guide describing the procedure required for online disk resize on Linux (especially – expanding disks). I have created a guide for RHEL5/6/7/8 (works the same for Centos or OEL or ScientificLinux – RHEL-based Linux systems) which takes into account the following four scenarios:

  • Expanding a disk where there is a filesystem directly on disk (no partitioning used)
  • Expanding a disk where there is LVM PV directly on disk (no partitioning used)
  • Expanding a disk where there is a filesystem on partition (a single partition taking all the disk’s space)
  • Expanding a disk where there is an LVM PV on partition (a single partition taking all the disk’s space)

All four scenarios were tested with and without use of multipath (device-mapper-multipath). Also – notes about using GPT compared to MBR are given. The purpose is to provide a full guideline for hot-extending disks.

This document does not describe the process of extending disks on the storage/virtualisation/NAS/whatever end. Updating the storage client configuration to refresh the disk topology might differ in various versions of Linux and storage communication methods – iSCSI, FC, FCoE, AoE, local virtualised disk (VMware/KVM/Xen/XenServer/HyperV) and so on. Each connectivity/OS combination might require different refresh method called on the client. In this lab, I use iSCSI and iSCSI software initiator.

The Lab

A storage server running Linux (Centos 7) with targetcli tools exporting 5GB (or more) LUN through iSCSI to Linux clients running Centos5, Centos6, Centos7 and Centos8, with the latest updates (5.11, 6.10, 7.7, 8.1). See some interesting insights on iSCSI target disk expansion using linux LIU (targetcli command line) in my previous post.

The iSCSI clients all see the disk as ‘/dev/sda’ block device. When using LVM, the volume group name is tempvg and the logical volume name is templv. When using multipath, the mpath name is mpatha. On some systems the mpath partition would appear as mpatha1 and on others as mpathap1.

iSCSI client disk/partitions were performed like this:


* Filesystem on disk

mkfs.ext3 /dev/sda
mount /dev/sda /mnt

* LVM on disk

pvcreate /dev/sda
vgcreate tempvg /dev/sda
lvcreate -l 100%FREE -n templv tempvg
mkfs.ext3 /dev/tempvg/templv
mount /dev/tempvg/templv /mnt</pre><p></p>

* Filesystem on partition

parted -s /dev/sda "mklabel msdos mkpart primary 1 -1"
mkfs.ext3 /dev/sda1
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt

* LVM on partition

parted -s /dev/sda "mklabel msdos mkpart primary 1 -1 set 1 lvm on"
pvcreate /dev/sda1
vgcreate tempvg /dev/sda1
lvcreate -l 100%FREE -n templv tempvg
mkfs.ext3 /dev/tempvg/templv
mount /dev/tempvg/templv /mnt


* Filesystem on disk

mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda
mount /dev/sda /mnt

* LVM on disk

pvcreate /dev/sda
vgcreate tempvg /dev/sda
lvcreate -l 100%FREE -n templv tempvg
mkfs.ext4 /dev/tempvg/templv
mount /dev/tempvg/templv /mnt

* Filesystem on partition

parted -s /dev/sda "mklabel msdos mkpart primary 1 -1"
mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda1
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt

* LVM on partition

parted -s /dev/sda "mklabel msdos mkpart primary 1 -1 set 1 lvm on"
pvcreate /dev/sda1
vgcreate tempvg /dev/sda1
lvcreate -l 100%FREE -n templv tempvg
mkfs.ext4 /dev/tempvg/templv
mount /dev/tempvg/templv /mnt


* Filesystem on disk

mkfs.xfs /dev/sda
mount /dev/sda /mnt

* LVM on disk

pvcreate /dev/sda
vgcreate tempvg /dev/sda
lvcreate -l 100%FREE -n templv tempvg
mkfs.xfs /dev/tempvg/templv
mount /dev/tempvg/templv /mnt

* Filesystem on partition

parted -a optimal -s /dev/sda "mklabel msdos mkpart primary 1 -1"
mkfs.xfs /dev/sda1
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt

* LVM on partition

parted -a optimal -s /dev/sda "mklabel msdos mkpart primary 1 -1 set 1 lvm on"
pvcreate /dev/sda1
vgcreate tempvg /dev/sda1
lvcreate -l 100%FREE -n templv tempvg
mkfs.xfs /dev/tempvg/templv
mount /dev/tempvg/templv /mnt

Some variations might exist. For example, use of ‘GPT’ partition layout would result in a parted command like this:

parted -s /dev/sda "mklabel gpt mkpart ' ' 1 -1"

Also, for multipath devices, replace the block device /dev/sda with /dev/mapper/mpatha, like this:

parted -a optimal -s /dev/mapper/mpatha "mklabel msdos mkpart primary 1 -1"

There are several common tasks, such as expanding filesystems – for XFS, using xfs_growfs <mount target> ; for ext3fs and ext4fs using resize2fs <device path>. Same goes for LVM expansion – using pvresize <device path>, followed by lvextend command, followed by the filesystem expanding command as noted above.

The document layout

The document will describe the client commands for each OS, sorted by action. The process would be as following:

  • Expand the visualised storage layout (storage has already expanded LUN. Now we need the OS to update to the change)
  • (if in use) Expand the multipath device
  • (if partitioned) Expand the partition
  • Expand the LVM PV
  • Expand the filesystem


For each OS/scenario/mutipath combination, we will format and mount the relevant block device, and attempt an online expansion.

Operations following disk expansion

Expanding the visualised storage layout

For iSCSI, it works quite the same for all OS versions. For other transport types, actions might differ.

iscsiadm -m node -R

Expanding multipath device

If using multipath device (device-mapper-multipath), an update to the multipath device layout is required. Run the following command (for all OSes)

multipathd -k"resize map mpatha"

Expanding the partition (if disk partitions are in use)

This is a bit complicated part. It differs greatly both in the capability and the commands in use between different versions of operation systems.

Centos 5/6

Online expansion of partition is impossible, except if used with device-mapper-multipath, in which case we force the multipath device to refresh its paths to recreate the device. It will result in an I/O error if there is only a single path defined. For non-multipath setup, a umount and re-mount is required. Disk partition layout cannot be read while the disk is in use.

* Without Multipath

fdisk /dev/sda # Delete and recreate the partition from the same starting point
partprobe # Run when disk is not mounted, or else it will not refresh partition size

* With Multipath

fdisk /dev/mapper/mpatha # Delete and recreate the partition from the same starting point
multipathd -k"reconfigure" # Sufficient for Centos 6
multipathd -k"remove path sda" # Required for Centos 5
multipathd -k"add path sda" # Required for Centos 5
# Repeat for all sub-paths of expanded device
Centos 7/8

* Without Multipath

fdisk /dev/sda # Delete and recreate partition from the same starting point. Sufficient for Centos 8
partx -u /dev/sda # Required for Centos 7

* with Multipath

fdisk /dev/mapper/mpatha # Delete and recreate the partition from the same starting point. Sufficient for Centos 8
kpartx -u /dev/mapper/mpatha # Can use partx 

Expanding LVM PV and LV

pvresize DEVICE
Device can be /dev/sda ; /dev/sda1 ; /dev/mapper/mpatha ; /dev/mapper/mpathap1 ; /dev/mapper/mpatha1 – according to the disk layout and LVM choice.
lvextend -l +100%FREE /dev/tempvg/templv

Expanding filesystem

* For ext3fs and ext4fs

resize2fs DEVICE

Device can be /dev/sda ; /dev/sda1 ; /dev/mapper/mpatha ; /dev/mapper/mpathap1 ; /dev/mapper/mpatha1 – according to the disk layout and LVM choice.

* For xfs

xfs_growfs /mnt

Additional Considerations


On most Linux versions (For Centos – up and including version 7) the command ‘fdisk’ is incapable of handling GPT partition layout. If using GPT partition layout, use of gdisk is recommended, if it exists for the OS. If not, parted is a decent although somewhat limited alternative.

gdisk command can also modify a partition layout (at your own risk, of course) from MBR to GPT and vice versa. This is very useful in saving large data migrations where legacy MBR partition layout was used on disks which are to be expanded beyond the 2TB limits.

GPT backup table is located at the end of the disk, so when extending a GPT disk, it is require to repair the GPT backup table. Based on my lab tests – it is impossible to both extend the partition and repair the GPT backup table location in a single call to gdisk. Two runs are required – one to fix the GPT backup table, and then – after the changes were saved – another to extend the partition.

Storage transport

I have demonstrated use of iSCSI software initiator on Linux. Different storage transport exist – each may require its own method of ‘notifying’ the OS of changed storage layout. See RedHat’s article about disk resizing (RHN access required). This article explains how to refresh the storage transport for a combination of various transports and RHEL versions. and sub-versions.

Linux LVM performace measurement

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

Modern Linux LVM offers great abilities to maintain snapshots of existing logical volumes. Unlike NetApp “Write Anywhere File Layout” (WAFL), Linux LVM uses “Copy-on-Write” (COW) to allow snapshots. The process, in general, can be described in this pdf document.

I have issues several small tests, just to get real-life estimations of what is the actual performance impact such COW method can cause.

Server details:

1. CPU: 2x Xion 2.8GHz

2. Disks: /dev/sda – system disk. Did not touch it; /dev/sdb – used for the LVM; /dev/sdc – used for the LVM

3. Mount: LV is mounted (and remains mounted) on /vmware


1. No snapshot, Using VG on /dev/sdb only:

# time dd if=/dev/zero of=/vmware/test.2GB bs=1M count=2048
2048+0 records in
2048+0 records out

real 0m16.088s
user 0m0.009s
sys 0m8.756s

2. With snapshot on the same disk (/dev/sdb):

# time dd if=/dev/zero of=/vmware/test.2GB bs=1M count=2048
2048+0 records in
2048+0 records out

real 6m5.185s
user 0m0.008s
sys 0m11.754s

3. With snapshot on 2nd disk (/dev/sdc):

# time dd if=/dev/zero of=/vmware/test.2GB bs=1M count=2048
2048+0 records in
2048+0 records out

real 5m17.604s
user 0m0.004s
sys 0m11.265s

4. Same as before, creating a new empty file on the disk:

# time dd if=/dev/zero of=/vmware/test2.2GB bs=1M count=2048
2048+0 records in
2048+0 records out

real 3m24.804s
user 0m0.006s
sys 0m11.907s

5. Removed the snapshot. Created a 3rd file: