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zpool set cachefile=/etc/zfs/zpool.cache says:

enable zfs-import-cache.service
disable zfs-import-scan.service
enable zfs-mount.service
enable zfs-share.service
enable zfs-zed.service

Step 1: Prepare The Install Environment

1.1 Boot the Debian GNU/Linux Live CD. Login with the username user and password live.

1.2 Optional: Start the OpenSSH server in the Live CD environment:

If you have a second system, using SSH to access the target system can be convenient.

$ sudo sed -i "s/PasswordAuthentication no/PasswordAuthentication yes/g" \
$ sudo service ssh restart
Hint: You can find your IP address with ip addr show scope global | grep inet. Then, from your main machine, connect with ssh user@IP.

1.3 Become root:

$ sudo -i
1.4 Add contrib archive area:

echo "deb stretch main contrib" > /etc/apt/sources.list

apt update

1.5 Install ZFS in the Live CD environment:

apt install --yes debootstrap gdisk linux-headers-$(uname -r)

apt install --yes zfs-dkms

Step 2: Disk Formatting

2.1 If you are re-using a disk, clear it as necessary:

If the disk was previously used in an MD array, zero the superblock:

apt install --yes mdadm

mdadm --zero-superblock --force /dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SATA_disk1

Clear the partition table:

sgdisk --zap-all /dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SATA_disk1

2.2 Partition your disk:

Run this if you need legacy (BIOS) booting:

sgdisk -a1 -n2:34:2047 -t2:EF02 /dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SATA_disk1

Run this for UEFI booting (for use now or in the future):

sgdisk -n3:1M:+512M -t3:EF00 /dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SATA_disk1

Run these in all cases:

sgdisk -n1:0:0 -t1:BF01 /dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SATA_disk1

Always use the long /dev/disk/by-id/* aliases with ZFS. Using the /dev/sd* device nodes directly can cause sporadic import failures, especially on systems that have more than one storage pool.


ls -la /dev/disk/by-id will list the aliases.
Are you doing this in a virtual machine? If your virtual disk is missing from /dev/disk/by-id, use /dev/vda if you are using KVM with virtio; otherwise, read the troubleshooting section.
2.3 Create the root pool:

zpool create -o ashift=12 \

  -O atime=off -O canmount=off -O compression=lz4 -O normalization=formD \
  -O mountpoint=/ -R /mnt \
  rpool /dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SATA_disk1-part1


The use of ashift=12 is recommended here because many drives today have 4KiB (or larger) physical sectors, even though they present 512B logical sectors. Also, a future replacement drive may have 4KiB physical sectors (in which case ashift=12 is desirable) or 4KiB logical sectors (in which case ashift=12 is required).
Setting normalization=formD eliminates some corner cases relating to UTF-8 filename normalization. It also implies utf8only=on, which means that only UTF-8 filenames are allowed. If you care to support non-UTF-8 filenames, do not use this option. For a discussion of why requiring UTF-8 filenames may be a bad idea, see The problems with enforced UTF-8 only filenames.
Make sure to include the -part1 portion of the drive path. If you forget that, you are specifying the whole disk, which ZFS will then re-partition, and you will lose the bootloader partition(s).

The root pool does not have to be a single disk; it can have a mirror or raidz topology. In that case, repeat the partitioning commands for all the disks which will be part of the pool. Then, create the pool using zpool create ... rpool mirror /dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SATA_disk1-part1 /dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SATA_disk2-part1 (or replace mirror with raidz, raidz2, or raidz3 and list the partitions from additional disks). Later, install GRUB to all the disks. This is trivial for MBR booting; the UEFI equivalent is currently left as an exercise for the reader.
The pool name is arbitrary. On systems that can automatically install to ZFS, the root pool is named rpool by default. If you work with multiple systems, it might be wise to use hostname, hostname0, or hostname-1 instead.
Step 3: System Installation

3.1 Create a filesystem dataset to act as a container:

zfs create -o canmount=off -o mountpoint=none rpool/ROOT

On Solaris systems, the root filesystem is cloned and the suffix is incremented for major system changes through pkg image-update or beadm. Similar functionality for APT is possible but currently unimplemented. Even without such a tool, it can still be used for manually created clones.

3.2 Create a filesystem dataset for the root filesystem of the Debian system:

zfs create -o canmount=noauto -o mountpoint=/ rpool/ROOT/debian

zfs mount rpool/ROOT/debian

zpool set bootfs=rpool/ROOT/debian rpool

With ZFS, it is not normally necessary to use a mount command (either mount or zfs mount). This situation is an exception because of canmount=noauto.

3.3 Create datasets:

zfs create -o setuid=off rpool/home

zfs create -o mountpoint=/root rpool/home/root

zfs create -o canmount=off -o setuid=off -o exec=off rpool/var

zfs create -o com.sun:auto-snapshot=false rpool/var/cache

zfs create rpool/var/log

zfs create rpool/var/spool

zfs create -o com.sun:auto-snapshot=false -o exec=on rpool/var/tmp

If you use /srv on this system:

zfs create rpool/srv

If this system will have games installed:

zfs create rpool/var/games

If this system will store local email in /var/mail:

zfs create rpool/var/mail

If this system will use NFS (locking):

zfs create -o com.sun:auto-snapshot=false \

         -o mountpoint=/var/lib/nfs                 rpool/var/nfs

The primary goal of this dataset layout is to separate the OS from user data. This allows the root filesystem to be rolled back without rolling back user data such as logs (in /var/log). This will be especially important if/when a beadm or similar utility is integrated. Since we are creating multiple datasets anyway, it is trivial to add some restrictions (for extra security) at the same time. The setting is used by some ZFS snapshot utilities to exclude transient data.

3.4 Install the minimal system:

chmod 1777 /mnt/var/tmp

debootstrap stretch /mnt

zfs set devices=off rpool

The debootstrap command leaves the new system in an unconfigured state. An alternative to using debootstrap is to copy the entirety of a working system into the new ZFS root.

Step 4: System Configuration

4.1 Configure the hostname (change HOSTNAME to the desired hostname).

echo HOSTNAME > /mnt/etc/hostname

vi /mnt/etc/hosts

Add a line: HOSTNAME
or if the system has a real name in DNS: FQDN HOSTNAME
Hint: Use nano if you find vi confusing.

4.2 Configure the network interface:

Find the interface name:

ip addr show

vi /mnt/etc/network/interfaces.d/NAME

auto NAME
iface NAME inet dhcp
Customize this file if the system is not a DHCP client.

4.3 Bind the virtual filesystems from the LiveCD environment to the new system and chroot into it:

mount --rbind /dev /mnt/dev

mount --rbind /proc /mnt/proc

mount --rbind /sys /mnt/sys

chroot /mnt /bin/bash --login

Note: This is using --rbind, not --bind.

4.4 Configure a basic system environment:

vi /etc/apt/sources.list # Add contrib archive area:

deb stretch main contrib
deb-src stretch main contrib

ln -s /proc/self/mounts /etc/mtab

apt update

apt install --yes locales

dpkg-reconfigure locales

Even if you prefer a non-English system language, always ensure that en_US.UTF-8 is available.

dpkg-reconfigure tzdata

apt install --yes gdisk linux-headers-$(uname -r) linux-image-amd64

4.5 Install ZFS in the chroot environment for the new system:

apt install --yes zfs-dkms zfs-initramfs

4.6 Install GRUB

Choose one of the following options:

4.6a Install GRUB for legacy (MBR) booting

apt install --yes grub-pc

4.6b Install GRUB for UEFI booting

apt install dosfstools

mkdosfs -F 32 -n EFI /dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SATA_disk1-part3

mkdir /boot/efi

echo PARTUUID=$(blkid -s PARTUUID -o value \

  /dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SATA_disk1-part3) \
  /boot/efi vfat defaults 0 1 >> /etc/fstab

mount /boot/efi

apt install --yes grub-efi-amd64

4.7 Set a root password


Step 5: GRUB Installation

5.1 Verify that the ZFS root filesystem is recognized:

grub-probe /

5.2 Refresh the initrd files:

update-initramfs -u -k all

update-initramfs: Generating /boot/initrd.img-3.16.0-4-amd64
5.3 Optional (but highly recommended): Make debugging GRUB easier:

vi /etc/default/grub

Uncomment: GRUB_TERMINAL=console
Save and quit.
Later, once the system has rebooted twice and you are sure everything is working, you can undo these changes, if desired.

5.4 Update the boot configuration:


Generating grub configuration file ...
Found linux image: /boot/vmlinuz-3.16.0-4-amd64
Found initrd image: /boot/initrd.img-3.16.0-4-amd64
5.5 Install the boot loader

5.5a For legacy (MBR) booting, install GRUB to the MBR:

grub-install /dev/disk/by-id/scsi-SATA_disk1

Installing for i386-pc platform.
Installation finished. No error reported.
Do not reboot the computer until you get exactly that result message. Note that you are installing GRUB to the whole disk, not a partition.

If you are creating a mirror, repeat the grub-install command for each disk in the pool.

5.5b For UEFI booting, install GRUB:

grub-install --target=x86_64-efi --efi-directory=/boot/efi \

  --bootloader-id=debian --recheck --no-floppy

5.6 Verify that the ZFS module is installed:

ls /boot/grub/*/zfs.mod

Step 6: First Boot

6.1 Snapshot the initial installation:

zfs snapshot rpool/ROOT/debian@install

In the future, you will likely want to take snapshots before each upgrade, and remove old snapshots (including this one) at some point to save space.

6.2 Exit from the chroot environment back to the LiveCD environment:


6.3 Run these commands in the LiveCD environment to unmount all filesystems:

mount | grep -v zfs | tac | awk '/\/mnt/ {print $3}' | xargs -i{} umount -lf {}

zpool export rpool

6.4 Reboot:


6.5 Wait for the newly installed system to boot normally. Login as root.

6.6 Create a user account:

zfs create rpool/home/YOURUSERNAME


cp -a /etc/skel/.[!.]* /home/YOURUSERNAME


6.7 Add your user account to the default set of groups for an administrator:

usermod -a -G audio,cdrom,dip,floppy,netdev,plugdev,sudo,video YOURUSERNAME

Step 7: Configure Swap

7.1 Create a volume dataset (zvol) for use as a swap device:

zfs create -V 4G -b $(getconf PAGESIZE) -o compression=zle \

  -o logbias=throughput -o sync=always \
  -o primarycache=metadata -o secondarycache=none \
  -o com.sun:auto-snapshot=false rpool/swap

You can adjust the size (the 4G part) to your needs.

The compression algorithm is set to zle because it is the cheapest available algorithm. As this guide recommends ashift=12 (4 kiB blocks on disk), the common case of a 4 kiB page size means that no compression algorithm can reduce I/O. The exception is all-zero pages, which are dropped by ZFS; but some form of compression has to be enabled to get this behavior.

7.2 Configure the swap device:

Choose one of the following options. If you are going to do an encrypted home directory later, you should use encrypted swap.

7.2a Create an unencrypted (regular) swap device:

Caution: Always use long /dev/zvol aliases in configuration files. Never use a short /dev/zdX device name.

mkswap -f /dev/zvol/rpool/swap

echo /dev/zvol/rpool/swap none swap defaults 0 0 >> /etc/fstab

7.2b Create an encrypted swap device:

echo cryptswap1 /dev/zvol/rpool/swap /dev/urandom \

  swap,cipher=aes-xts-plain64:sha256,size=256 >> /etc/crypttab

systemctl daemon-reload

systemctl start systemd-cryptsetup@cryptswap1.service

echo /dev/mapper/cryptswap1 none swap defaults 0 0 >> /etc/fstab

7.3 Enable the swap device:

swapon -av

Step 8: Full Software Installation

8.1 Upgrade the minimal system:

apt dist-upgrade --yes

8.2 Optional: Disable log compression:

As /var/log is already compressed by ZFS, logrotate’s compression is going to burn CPU and disk I/O for (in most cases) very little gain. Also, if you are making snapshots of /var/log, logrotate’s compression will actually waste space, as the uncompressed data will live on in the snapshot. You can edit the files in /etc/logrotate.d by hand to comment out compress, or use this loop (copy-and-paste highly recommended):

for file in /etc/logrotate.d/* ; do

if grep -Eq "(^|[^#y])compress" "$file" ; then
    sed -i -r "s/(^|[^#y])(compress)/#/" "$file"

8.3 Reboot:


Step 9: Final Cleanup

9.1 Wait for the system to boot normally. Login using the account you created. Ensure the system (including networking) works normally.

9.2 Optional: Delete the snapshot of the initial installation:

$ sudo zfs destroy rpool/ROOT/debian@install
9.3 Optional: Disable the root password

$ sudo usermod -p '*' root
9.4 Optional (not recommended):

If you prefer the graphical boot process, you can re-enable it now. It will make debugging boot problems more difficult, though.

$ sudo vi /etc/default/grub
Comment out GRUB_TERMINAL=console
Save and quit.

$ sudo update-grub

Rescuing using a Live CD

Boot the Live CD and open a terminal.

Become root and install the ZFS utilities:

$ sudo -i

apt inst