How to Use ‘fsck’ to Repair Linux File System Errors

Linux Filesystems are responsible for organizing how data is stored and recovered. One way or another, with time, the filesystem may become corrupted and certain parts of it may not be accessible. If your filesystem develops such inconsistency it is recommended to verify its integrity.

This can be completed via a system utility called fsck (file system consistency check), which checks the root file system automatically during boot time or ran manually.

In this article, we are going to review the fsck command and its usage to help you repair Linux disk errors.

When to Use fsck Command in Linux

There are different scenarios when you will want to run fsck. Here are a few examples:

  • The system fails to boot.
  • Files on the system become corrupt (often you may see input/output error).
  • The attached drive (including flash drives/SD cards) is not working as expected.

fsck Command Options

The fsck command needs to be run with superuser privileges or root. You can use it with different arguments. Their usage depends on your specific case. Below you will see some of the more important options:

  • -A – Used for checking all filesystems. The list is taken from /etc/fstab.
  • -C – Show progress bar.
  • -l – Locks the device to guarantee no other program will try to use the partition during the check.
  • -M – Do not check mounted filesystems.
  • -N – Only show what would be done – no actual changes are made.
  • -P – If you want to check filesystems in parallel, including root.
  • -R – Do not check the root filesystem. This is useful only with ‘-A‘.
  • -r – Provide statistics for each device that is being checked.
  • -T – Does not show the title.
  • -t – Exclusively specify the Linux filesystem types to be checked. Types can be comma-separated lists.
  • -V – Provide a description of what is being done.

Run fsck Command to Repair Linux File System Errors

In order to run fsck, you will need to ensure that the partition you are going to check is not mounted. For the purpose of this article, I will use my second drive /dev/sdb mounted in /mnt.

Here is what happens if I try to run fsck when the partition is mounted.

# fsck /dev/sdb
Run fsck on Mounted Partition
Run fsck on Mounted Partition

To avoid this unmount the partition using.

# umount /dev/sdb

Then fsck can be safely run with.

# fsck /dev/sdb
Run fsck on Linux Partition
Run fsck on Linux Partition

Understanding fsck Exit Codes

After running fsck, it will return an exit code. These codes can be seen in fsck’s manual by running:

# man fsck

0      No errors
1      Filesystem errors corrected
2      System should be rebooted
4      Filesystem errors were left uncorrected
8      Operational error
16     Usage or syntax error
32     Checking canceled by user request
128    Shared-library error            

Fsck Repair Linux Filesystem

Sometimes more than one error can be found on a filesystem. In such cases, you may want fsck to automatically attempt to correct the errors. This can be done with:

# fsck -y /dev/sdb

The -y flag, automatically “yes” to any prompts from fsck to correct an error.

Similarly, you can run the same on all filesystems (without root):

$ fsck -AR -y 

How to Run fsck on Linux Root Partition

In some cases, you may need to run fsck on the root partition of your system. Since you cannot run fsck while the partition is mounted, you can try one of these options:

  • Force fsck upon system boot
  • Run fsck in rescue mode

We will review both situations.

Force fsck Upon System Boot

This is relatively easy to complete, the only thing you need to do is create a file called forcefsck in the root partition of your system. Use the following command:

# touch /forcefsck

Then you can simply force or schedule a reboot of your system. During the next bootup, the fsck will be performed. If downtime is critical, it is recommended to plan this carefully, since if there are many used inodes on your system, fsck may take some extra time.

After your system boots, check if the file still exists:

# ls /forcefsck

If it does, you may want to remove it in order to avoid fsck on every system boot.

Run fsck in Rescue Mode

Running fsck in rescue mode requires a few more steps. First, prepare your system for reboot. Stop any critical services like MySQL/MariaDB etc and then type.

# reboot

During the boot, hold down the shift key so that the grub menu is shown. Select “Advanced options”.

Grub Advance Options
Grub Advanced Options

Then choose “Recovery mode”.

Select Linux Recovery Mode
Select Linux Recovery Mode

In the next menu select “fsck”.

Select fsck Utility
Select fsck Utility

You will be asked if you wish to have your / filesystem remounted. Select “yes”.

Confirm Root Filesystem
Confirm Root Filesystem

You should see something similar to this.

Running fsck Filesystem Check
Running fsck Filesystem Check

You can then resume normal boot, by selecting “Resume”.

Select Normal Boot
Select Normal Boot

In this tutorial, you learned how to use fsck and run consistency checks on different Linux filesystems. If you have any questions about fsck, please do not hesitate to submit them in the comment section below.

Marin Todorov
I am a bachelor in computer science and a Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator. Currently working as a Senior Technical support in the hosting industry. In my free time I like testing new software and inline skating.

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38 thoughts on “How to Use ‘fsck’ to Repair Linux File System Errors”

  1. Thank you for this. I used the first option of fsck command and it seems to have worked like a charm.

    I appreciate your contributing to the community.

  2. When I typed fsck /dev/SDA -a, it showed me this,

    fsck from util-linux 2.38.1
    fsck.ext2: Bad magic number in super-block while trying to open /dev/SDA
    /dev/SDA :
    the super-block could not be read or does not describe a valid ext2/ext3/ext4 filesystem.  

    If the device is valid and it really contains an ext2/ext3/ext4 filesystem (and if not swap or ufs or something else), then the superblock is corrupt, and you might try running e2fsck with an alternate superblock:

    # e2fsck -b 8193 or e2fsck -b 32768  

    Found a dos partition table in /dev/SDA.

    When I try to run the e2fsck commands it gave, it shows sh: syntax error: unexpected newline.

    And then when I try to unmount /dev/SDA it can’t unmount because it’s an invalid argument?

    I’m a total beginner at Linux and I really don’t know what to do now

    • Capitalization and spelling matter on the shell. Device names are never capitalized (so sda, not SDA). unmount should be umount, too.

  3. I updated to the newest version of Ubuntu, now it will not boot. I get the BusyBox black screen and when I used the exit command, here’s the output:

    /init: line 866: logsave: not found
    Failure: File system check of the root filesystem failed
    The root filesystem in /dev/sda6 requires a manual fsck

    But when I attempt to do so, I get a text file busy error.

    How can I fix this?

  4. Good morning, happy new year to you.

    Thank you for the article and your time spent on this website your time spent doing this is very much appreciated by me. I am using a laptop and ran a disk check using the smart control application which stated errors were found.

    Although I deleted the partition and reformatted the drive the errors remained which made me curious about error checking and cyclic redundancy checks which lead me to do a little research on physical drive checks and more detailed analysis.

    Doing searching online drove me here and to the FSCK command which even though I had wiped the drive still showed a wealth of errors (As I ran it without the -y flag initially), your article provided some clarity I was missing and made me wonder if some of these errors are reached because there is still junk data left on the drive because I have not low-level formatted it.

    So now I am running the command as 'sudo fsck -y -c /dev/sdb'

    Now it will search for errors, fix them as found, and display ongoing progress… Which begs the question… If I low-level formatted this drive by overwriting it with zero, would these errors then be wiped free? And if that is true, then the error that may still be found would be from smart control querying the device bios to see if it’s detected possible hardware failure (As the drive would now be wiped completely clean of any software issues) which means that fsck is really only untangling crosslinked files/sectors/clusters, etc.

    Forgive the stupid questions, I am not well educated on computer drives from a hardware perspective, or a read/write/data perspective so I am aware I’m ignorant and most articles I’ve read only give so much in-depth information.

    In any case, I am going to let this command run in its entirety and see what the outcome is. Thank you for your time. Thank you for the article.

  5. Does Linux (ubuntu) install run fsck before installing? or format automatically “note” the problematic sectors on the new partitions? I try to install Ubuntu and always ran into disc problems How to force a correction before the install?


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