Migrate BTRFS setup to a new (bigger or equal) disk: The dirty way

Imagine you are in the situation where your btrfs disk is getting filled up, or is just about to fail or you just want to install a bigger HD, or even better: You are migrating to a SSD disk setup.

Migrating partitions with traditional filesystems such as ext4, or FAT32 is easy, since you just have to format a partition on the new disk with the same type and just

cp -a /mnt/source /mnt/destination

Being /mnt/source your mountpoint for the old disk partition and /mnt/destination the new one.

But with btrfs, the thing gets a little more complicated, since the contents of those partitions are not just plain and simple files and folders: You have subvolumes, snapshots, etc… and they behave in a special way or have specific commands to manage them.

There is a solution, a fast solution, in case you wan to migrate without all the fuss of replicating the subvolumes, use btrfs send and receive, etc….

You can just add the new disk’s partition to the btrfs pool, getting a raid1 data structure, then reduce the data structure to raid0 and finally, removing the old disk from the array.

First, create the new btrfs partition on the new disk, I’m going to assume /dev/sda2 is the btrfs partition on the old disk, while /dev/sdb2 is the btrfs partition on the new one.

First, we create the btrfs partition:

mkfs.btrfs /dev/sdb2

Then, we add the partition to our array: Let’s suppose you mounted /dev/sda2 on /mnt, we would add the new partition like so:

btrfs device add /dev/sdb2 /mnt

You will be warned by a message saying all the data on /dev/sdb2 will be destroyed, and this is because everything on this partition, including the UUID, will be identical to what you had on the original one at /dev/sda2

Afterwards, we have to convert the data structure to raid0:

btrfs balance start -dconvert=raid0 -mconvert=raid0 -sconvert=raid0 /mnt -f

We will probably get a warning if we don’t specify the “-f” option: BTRFS does not like to have single system data structures if you have more than one disk, but it’ll be fine.

NOTE: These operations might take a long time to complete, depending on the amount of data on your brtfs partitions(s)

Finally, once the balance concludes, you can remove the “old” disk’s partition:

btrfs device delete /dev/sda2 /mnt

Btrfs will take a really long time on this final step, since it has to move every chunk of data remaining on /dev/sda2 over to /dev/sdb2, but once you’re done, you can safely reboot and remove the old disk.

I must say again, this is a “dirty” and not so elegant method, but it does the job and is the best way in case you are in a rush or the subvolume/snapshot structure is way too complicated. Keep in mind the new partition must be same size or bigger than the old one for this to work without problems.

Enjoy!

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