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The ADvanced Systems Laboratory (ADSL)
Publication abstract

Analyzing the Effects of Disk-Pointer Corruption

Lakshmi N. Bairavasundaram, Meenali Rungta, Nitin Agrawal, Andrea C. Arpaci-Dusseau, Remzi H. Arpaci-Dusseau, Michael M. Swift
Department of Computer Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison


The long-term availability of data stored in a file system depends on how well it safeguards on-disk pointers used to access the data. Ideally, a system would correct all pointer errors. In this paper, we examine how well corruption-handling techniques work in reality. We develop a new technique called type-aware pointer corruption to systematically explore how a file system reacts to corrupt pointers. This approach reduces the exploration space for corruption experiments and works without source code. We use type-aware pointer corruption to examine Windows NTFS and Linux ext3. We find that they rely on type and sanity checks to detect corruption, and NTFS recovers using replication in some instances. However, NTFS and ext3 do not recover from most corruptions, including many scenarios for which they possess sufficient redundant information, leading to further corruption, crashes, and unmountable file systems. We use our study to identify important lessons for handling corrupt pointers.

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