Installer with ZFS or BTRFS?

I’ve been stalking and reading older forum posts about using Manjaro with ZFS or BTRFS on the root partition(s) and I’d like to ask – without sounding entitled – is there a rough timeline on adding installer options/steps that allow us to set up ZFS / BTRFS root partition(s)?

Ideally I’d like to be able to capture a snapshot before sudo pacman -Syu (I plan to run a server that gets updated weekly) and then boot into the snapshot if the update had problems.

I am aware that I can tinker with that manually but (a) I’d like to avoid it if possible for now due to not much free time and energy, and (b) I am not in a rush and can wait. So something like “yeah, expect it by XMas” or “spring 2022 at the earliest” will help me make a decision whether to wait, tinker with it myself, or just say screw it and use the normal installation and make network Borg backups to my NAS (which won’t help with a failed system update but oh well, one has to re-learn how to boot and repair a botched upgraded Linux at one point, right?).

Amazing work by the way. Downloaded the new installers 3 days ago and already used the live distributions on 4 machines already to gather hardware data and do various tests / benchmarks. Everything worked like a charm without exception! Thank you.

I don’t know about zfs, but to the best of my knowledge, btrfs is already supported in the current installer.

Your mileage may vary. :man_shrugging:

1 Like

BTRFS as root is available and with timeshift + timeshift-autosnap it will create snapshots before any upgrade process. It works on my main machine very well. And with grub-btrfs, it will also create bootable snapshot entries.

ZFS is not recommend to use as root device due its external module, which needs to be updated on every kernel upgrade (DKMS). At least i never done this.


I had to abandon my plans to use ZFS, as it was a headache to setup, and I feared breakage in future updates, plus on top of that, I experienced much better performance from XFS. (The same is likely to be true with EXT4 or BTRFS out-performing ZFS as a root filesystem for desktop Linux).

Even as an exclusive “home” or “data” partition required loops to jump through. (The Arch Wiki has a typo / incorrect information that still hasn’t been corrected to this day.)

  • If you want simplified speed and performance, with something familair? XFS or EXT4

  • Do you want to leverage snapshots via Timeshift’s backup/restore feature, as well as use other nifty features such as inline compression? BTRFS

  • Do you have a dedicated NAS storage server? ZFS is awesome!

As it stands now, I still think ZFS has a ways to go to be consider a safe and reliable default for a Linux desktop distro.


One of its problems ─ as was mentioned by @megavolt ─ is the fact that zfs is not licensed under the GPL but under the CDDL, which is not compatible with the GPL. As such, its driver module cannot legally be included in the upstream kernel, which means that the use of zfs in a GNU/Linux system will always require DKMS.


And two bootloaders refind and grub support btrfs-snapshots at boot.

  • grub-btrfs
  • refind-btrfs

I have successfully installed Manjaro 21.1.2 with BTRFS a couple of times.


  • The PC I am currently on runs BTRFS on an encrypted partition, using an encrypted home too.
  • Snapshots entries get automatically added to the GRUB menu after any system update, though I have not yet used any of them atm.

In my opinion it works just out of the box and it seems quite well managed and proposed. HTH!


@Aragorn unfortunately, until the legal issues become a thing of the past, it seems like this is the fate of ZFS on desktop Linux. :confused:

It works fine for dedicated NAS servers, for example, since they have a specific role (storing your files), and have less frequent system updates. The NAS developers/maintainers won’t arbitrarily update the kernel and risk causing breakage between the ZFS module and kernel.

Case in point: TrueNAS SCALE. A NAS appliance that runs on Linux (Debian) in which everything is ZFS-based, even the boot-pool.

What about OpenZFS? It is independent from Oracle?
Is it worse than Oracle ZFS?

OpenZFS merges the efforts of ZFS on Linux (ZoL), among others, and is the codebase used in modern Linux distros and TrueNAS SCALE.

The same issues with CDDL vs GPL apply.

“Oracle” ZFS is a misnomer, and a dead weight. Oracle acquires. They do not innovate nor improve.

it seems the Ubuntu guys have resolved the legal issues. I have been running my server on ZFS for several years, was on DKMS initially but it changed to in kernel a while ago.

You sure it’s in-kernel? On Manjaro / Arch, you can use the DKMS version or the prebuilt module (that has to be built against each kernel update by the package maintainers.)

This means you needn’t build it every time, but it’s still not part of the kernel. The same is true with the proprietary nvidia drivers, for example.

it is a “a native kernel module.” according to ZFS - Ubuntu Wiki
I’ll have to double check any signs of DKMS during my next update
in any case, I have never had any issues during updates. root is not on ZFS though.

Nope, it is still a DKMS:

Yes a DKMS is “a native kernel module.”, but the legal issue is that it cannot be included as module inside the kernel, so you have to optionally add it with a DKMS.

Thanks for clarifying @megavolt

Thank you, haven’t ran the installer anytime soon so I can’t remember the options so I am assuming you are correct and I’ll just pick BTRFS when I setup one of my spare laptops Soon™. Didn’t know about grub-btrfs, that’s very handy and I’ll use it from now on.

This topic was automatically closed 2 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.