very slow deletions on ext3 USB drive

Fred Roller froller at
Fri Sep 18 15:31:29 UTC 2009

Karl Auer wrote:
> Hullo all.
> I have a hard disk, 250Gb or so, in an external USB 2.0 HDD enclosure.
> The disk is now full. Specifically, it is full of old backups. Each
> backup is in its own directory, and there are about 45 directories at
> the top level. Each directory contains about 300,000 files and
> directories, mostly very small. The files are pretty evenly distributed
> through the directories and subdirectories. The disk is an ext3
> filesystem.
> I now want to recycle the drive and start filling it up with new
> backups. So I have started deleting the old backups. I don't want to
> delete ALL the backups - just the oldest ones - so I can't just reformat
> the disk.
> Problem is, it is taking literally hours to remove each backup
> directory. Why is this so? Is there any faster way than "rm -fr" to
> remove a directory? Should I use a different filesystem type next time?
> The only wrinkle here is that the backup directories were created using
> rsynch, hard linking to identical files rather than copying them anew.
> But that is a simple link count - I can't see it adding *this* much pain
> to a simple deletion!
> Clues?
> Regards, K.
Lot of good suggestions, this may help:


"Life is like linux, simple.  If you are fighting it you are doing something wrong."

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