Get More Space Out of Your ext3 Partition

I have just discovered that ext3 defaults to reserving 5% of its partition exclusively for root, as a precaution measure that your system does not get FUBAR when you use it for your root partition. I have a 230GB external USB disk that I use for all my big storage requirements, downloaded stuff, backups etc. Due to this reservation I had 11.5GB of unusable disk space, thankfully this is easy to fix:

Replace sdf1 with your partition name. You don’t even have to unmount your disk. Voilá, 11.5 GB more space for free :-) Here is the output of df -h as proof:



If you like this, you might also be interested in How to change Ubuntu forced fsck.

Update: The free space limitation is also used to prevent fragmentation. So if you set the limit to zero and operate on a very full harddisk for a while, your filesystem might slow down.


  1. anon says:

    this is awesome!! i was wondering why the data on my 500 gig drive wouldnt fit back on the same drive once it was changed from ntfs to ext3. mystery solved.. :)

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  3. Nemilar says:

    Very awesome find! I can’t believe I never knew about this. In my particular case, I just reduced the reserved blocks to 3% (-m 3), which gives me a few extra gigs.

    Thanks for the post!

  4. MistaED says:

    Yeah I wouldn’t recommend doing this at all. That reserved space is to reduce disk file fragmentation so if you fill it up then your filesystem will be very fragmented if it is always full. Please update your blog saying this so not everyone makes it 0% :)

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