File systems are hard to test — Learning from XFStests

Naohiro Aota, Kenji Kono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Modern file systems, such as ext4, btrfs, and XFS, are evolving and enable the introduction of new features to meet ever-changing demands and improve reliability. File system developers are struggling to eliminate all software bugs, but the operating system community points out that file systems are a hotbed of critical software bugs. This paper analyzes the code coverage of xfstests, a widely used suite of file system tests, on three major file systems (ext4, btrfs, and XFS). The coverage is 72.34%, and the uncovered code runs into 23,232 lines of code. To understand why the code coverage is low, the uncovered code is manually examined line by line. We identified three major causes, peculiar to file systems, that hinder higher coverage. First, covering all the features is difficult because each file system provides a wide variety of file-system specific features, and some features can be tested only on special storage devices. Second, covering all the execution paths is difficult because they depend on file system configurations and internal on-disk states. Finally, the code for maintaining backward-compatibility is executed only when a file system encounters old formats. Our findings will help file system developers improve the coverage of test suites and provide insights into fostering the development of new methodologies for testing file systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-279
Number of pages11
JournalIEICE Transactions on Information and Systems
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Feb


  • Code coverage
  • File system
  • Software test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence


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