20.8. Labeling Disk Devices

During system initialization, the FreeBSD kernel creates device nodes as devices are found. This method of probing for devices raises some issues. For instance, what if a new disk device is added via USB? It is likely that a flash device may be handed the device name of da0 and the original da0 shifted to da1. This will cause issues mounting file systems if they are listed in /etc/fstab which may also prevent the system from booting.

One solution is to chain SCSI devices in order so a new device added to the SCSI card will be issued unused device numbers. But what about USB devices which may replace the primary SCSI disk? This happens because USB devices are usually probed before the SCSI card. One solution is to only insert these devices after the system has been booted. Another method is to use only a single ATA drive and never list the SCSI devices in /etc/fstab.

A better solution is to use glabel to label the disk devices and use the labels in /etc/fstab. Because glabel stores the label in the last sector of a given provider, the label will remain persistent across reboots. By using this label as a device, the file system may always be mounted regardless of what device node it is accessed through.


glabel can create both transient and permanent labels. Only permanent labels are consistent across reboots. Refer to glabel(8) for more information on the differences between labels.

20.8.1. Label Types and Examples

Permanent labels can be a generic or a file system label. Permanent file system labels can be created with tunefs(8) or newfs(8). These types of labels are created in a sub-directory of /dev, and will be named according to the file system type. For example, UFS2 file system labels will be created in /dev/ufs. Generic permanent labels can be created with glabel label. These are not file system specific and will be created in /dev/label.

Temporary labels are destroyed at the next reboot. These labels are created in /dev/label and are suited to experimentation. A temporary label can be created using glabel create.

To create a permanent label for a UFS2 file system without destroying any data, issue the following command:

# tunefs -L home /dev/da3


If the file system is full, this may cause data corruption.

A label should now exist in /dev/ufs which may be added to /etc/fstab:

/dev/ufs/home /home ufs rw 2 2


The file system must not be mounted while attempting to run tunefs.

Now the file system may be mounted:

# mount /home

From this point on, so long as the geom_label.ko kernel module is loaded at boot with /boot/loader.conf or the GEOM_LABEL kernel option is present, the device node may change without any ill effect on the system.

File systems may also be created with a default label by using the -L flag with newfs. Refer to newfs(8) for more information.

The following command can be used to destroy the label:

# glabel destroy home

The following example shows how to label the partitions of a boot disk.

Example 20.1. Labeling Partitions on the Boot Disk

By permanently labeling the partitions on the boot disk, the system should be able to continue to boot normally, even if the disk is moved to another controller or transferred to a different system. For this example, it is assumed that a single ATA disk is used, which is currently recognized by the system as ad0. It is also assumed that the standard FreeBSD partition scheme is used, with /, /var, /usr and /tmp, as well as a swap partition.

Reboot the system, and at the loader(8) prompt, press 4 to boot into single user mode. Then enter the following commands:

# glabel label rootfs /dev/ad0s1a GEOM_LABEL: Label for provider /dev/ad0s1a is label/rootfs # glabel label var /dev/ad0s1d GEOM_LABEL: Label for provider /dev/ad0s1d is label/var # glabel label usr /dev/ad0s1f GEOM_LABEL: Label for provider /dev/ad0s1f is label/usr # glabel label tmp /dev/ad0s1e GEOM_LABEL: Label for provider /dev/ad0s1e is label/tmp # glabel label swap /dev/ad0s1b GEOM_LABEL: Label for provider /dev/ad0s1b is label/swap # exit

The system will continue with multi-user boot. After the boot completes, edit /etc/fstab and replace the conventional device names, with their respective labels. The final /etc/fstab will look like this:

# Device Mountpoint FStype Options Dump Pass# /dev/label/swap none swap sw 0 0 /dev/label/rootfs / ufs rw 1 1 /dev/label/tmp /tmp ufs rw 2 2 /dev/label/usr /usr ufs rw 2 2 /dev/label/var /var ufs rw 2 2

The system can now be rebooted. If everything went well, it will come up normally and mount will show:

# mount /dev/label/rootfs on / (ufs, local) devfs on /dev (devfs, local) /dev/label/tmp on /tmp (ufs, local, soft-updates) /dev/label/usr on /usr (ufs, local, soft-updates) /dev/label/var on /var (ufs, local, soft-updates)

Starting with FreeBSD 7.2, the glabel(8) class supports a new label type for UFS file systems, based on the unique file system id, ufsid. These labels may be found in /dev/ufsid and are created automatically during system startup. It is possible to use ufsid labels to mount partitions using /etc/fstab. Use glabel status to receive a list of file systems and their corresponding ufsid labels:

% glabel status Name Status Components ufsid/486b6fc38d330916 N/A ad4s1d ufsid/486b6fc16926168e N/A ad4s1f

In the above example, ad4s1d represents /var, while ad4s1f represents /usr. Using the ufsid values shown, these partitions may now be mounted with the following entries in /etc/fstab:

/dev/ufsid/486b6fc38d330916 /var ufs rw 2 2 /dev/ufsid/486b6fc16926168e /usr ufs rw 2 2

Any partitions with ufsid labels can be mounted in this way, eliminating the need to manually create permanent labels, while still enjoying the benefits of device name independent mounting.

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