QMail and SoftUpdates

Gary Corcoran garycor at comcast.net
Fri May 21 09:53:53 PDT 2004

Steve Byan wrote:

>> => Even if the OS crashes, as long as power is supplied to the drive,
>> => its firmware should finish writing the data from its cache to the
>> => disk media, no? And therefore, as long as one has a stable power
>> => source, e.g. running off a UPS, there really isn't any great risk
>> => from on-drive write caches, is there?
>> =
>> =No. Unlike SCSI disks, ATA disks will toss their write-cache on a
>> =reset. When the system crashes and the BIOS starts rebooting, guess
>> =what it issues to the ATA disks? Yep, a reset.
> I checked with my BIOS source, and I got this wrong. After a crash, the 
> BIOS is usually entered as a result of the crash-code (panic(), in the 
> case of *BSD) invoking a hard reset by writing to the reset bit of I/O 
> port 92. This causes a reset of the hardware, which includes the PCI bus 
> and the ATA disks as well as the CPU.

I haven't crashed a FreeBSD box in quite a while :), but isn't
there a 15 second (or more?) delay, after a panic, before
the FreeBSD code auto-reboots (i.e. restarts the BIOS)?  In
which case I would expect the on-disk caches to have been
flushed to the media before the BIOS gets control and resets

>> So with ATA write-cache
>> =enabled, your filesystem is likely to be toast after a crash, as well
>> =as after a power failure.
>> Is not this only of concern if the power is restored and the BIOS resets
>> the disks _before_ they flush their write caches? I'd expect them to do
>> that (the flushing) within seconds anyway, no?
> I'm confused by your reference to the restoration of power in your 
> question. If you lose power to the whole system, then it's game over. 
> Are you suggesting that the disks might be powered separately from the 
> CPU and motherboard, and that the CPU might lose power and then regain 
> it while the disks are still powered? I don't know of any systems that 
> are designed that way.
> The primary case I was discussing was the case where the system has 
> power, but the OS crashes. Yes, if the disks manage to win the race by 
> flushing their write cache before the hard reset is issued by the crash 
> code, then everything is fine. However, the disks don't know that the 
> system is crashing; in general there's no flush command issued to the 
> disks. (I haven't looked at FreeBSD source, but comments on this list 
> made a few years back lead me to believe that panic() doesn't issue 
> flush cache commands to ATA disks.) I think the panic code quite soon 
> after getting control, and the disks flush their write cache rather 
> lazily, rather than eagerly. So if the ATA disks are getting a lot of 
> write traffic, it's likely that you will lose the race, and there will 
> be data in the write cache that has not made it to the media at the time 
> that the disk is reset.

More information about the freebsd-fs mailing list