'Linux: Using Disk Labels to Counter Storage Device Name Changes'

November 22, 2010 Category: Uncategorized

My router decided to change the device name for some USB storage devices. So /dev/sdc was swapped for /dev/sdd and vice versa. The result was some file system corruption on /dev/sdc, because it was used on a remote system through iSCSI, using a different file system from /dev/sdd.

With regular internal disks, attached with PATA, SATA or SAS, the chances are very small that such an event will occur, but it is possible, especially if you start adding/subtracting disks. With USB devices the risk is substantially bigger.

To prevent your system from mixing up drives because there device names change, use file system labels. All information that follows have been stolen from this location. Since this blog is also my personal notepad, the relevant bits are reproduced here.

There are three steps involved, the third being optional:

  1. add a label to the file system
  2. add the label to /etc/fstab
  3. update grub boot manager (optional)

Add a label to the file system

Setting a label when the file system is created:

mkfs.ext3 -L ROOT /dev/sda1
mkfs.xfs -L BIGRAID /dev/sde

Set label for existing file system


e2label /dev/sda1 PRIMARY_ROOT
e2label /dev/sda1


xfs_admin -L DATA1 /dev/sdf
xfs_admin /dev/sdf

Set label for swap partition

mkswap -L SWAP0 /dev/sdb5

add the label to fstab

Example of contents of fstab:

LABEL=ROOT          /         ext3    defaults        1 1
LABEL=BOOT          /boot     ext3    defaults        1 2
LABEL=SWAP          swap      swap    defaults        0 0
LABEL=HOME          /home     ext3    nosuid,auto     1 2

Update the grub boot manager

title server
root (hd0,0)
  kernel (hd0,0)/vmlinuz ro root=LABEL=SERVER_ROOT0 rhgb quiet
  initrd (hd0,0)/initrd.img