Data corruption occurs when one or more device errors (indicating one or more missing or damaged devices) affects a top-level virtual device. For example, one half of a mirror can experience thousands of device errors without ever causing data corruption. If an error is encountered on the other side of the mirror in the exact same location, corrupted data is the result.
Data corruption is always permanent and requires special consideration during repair. Even if the underlying devices are repaired or replaced, the original data is lost forever. Most often, this scenario requires restoring data from backups. Data errors are recorded as they are encountered, and they can be controlled through routine pool scrubbing as explained in the following section. When a corrupted block is removed, the next scrubbing pass recognizes that the corruption is no longer present and removes any trace of the error from the system.
The following sections describe how to identify the type of data corruption and how to repair the data, if possible.
ZFS uses checksums, redundancy, and self-healing data to minimize the risk of data corruption. Nonetheless, data corruption can occur if a pool isn't redundant, if corruption occurred while a pool was degraded, or an unlikely series of events conspired to corrupt multiple copies of a piece of data. Regardless of the source, the result is the same: The data is corrupted and therefore no longer accessible. The action taken depends on the type of data being corrupted and its relative value. Two basic types of data can be corrupted:
Pool metadata – ZFS requires a certain amount of data to be parsed to open a pool and access datasets. If this data is corrupted, the entire pool or portions of the dataset hierarchy will become unavailable.
Object data – In this case, the corruption is within a specific file or directory. This problem might result in a portion of the file or directory being inaccessible, or this problem might cause the object to be broken altogether.
Data is verified during normal operations as well as through a scrubbing. For information about how to verify the integrity of pool data, see Checking ZFS File System Integrity.