Littlefs – A little fail-safe filesystem designed for microcontrollers

Littlefs – A little fail-safe filesystem designed for microcontrollers


A little fail-safe filesystem designed for microcontrollers.

   | | |     .---._____
  .-----.   |          |
--|o    |---| littlefs |
--|     |---|          |
  '-----'   '----------'
   | | |

Power-loss resilience – littlefs is designed to handle random power
failures. All file operations have strong copy-on-write guarantees and if
power is lost the filesystem will fall back to the last known good state.

Dynamic wear leveling – littlefs is designed with flash in mind, and
provides wear leveling over dynamic blocks. Additionally, littlefs can
detect bad blocks and work around them.

Bounded RAM/ROM – littlefs is designed to work with a small amount of
memory. RAM usage is strictly bounded, which means RAM consumption does not
change as the filesystem grows. The filesystem contains no unbounded
recursion and dynamic memory is limited to configurable buffers that can be
provided statically.


Here’s a simple example that updates a file named boot_count every time
main runs. The program can be interrupted at any time without losing track
of how many times it has been booted and without corrupting the filesystem:

#include "lfs.h"

// variables used by the filesystem
lfs_t lfs;
lfs_file_t file;

// configuration of the filesystem is provided by this struct
const struct lfs_config cfg={
    // block device operations
    .read =user_provided_block_device_read,
    .prog =user_provided_block_device_prog,
    .sync =user_provided_block_device_sync,

    // block device configuration

// entry point
int main(void) {
    // mount the filesystem
    int err=lfs_mount(&lfs, &cfg);

    // reformat if we can't mount the filesystem
    // this should only happen on the first boot
    if (err) {
        lfs_format(&lfs, &cfg);
        lfs_mount(&lfs, &cfg);

    // read current count
    uint32_t boot_count=0;
    lfs_file_open(&lfs, &file, "boot_count", LFS_O_RDWR | LFS_O_CREAT);
    lfs_file_read(&lfs, &file, &boot_count, sizeof(boot_count));

    // update boot count
    boot_count +=1;
    lfs_file_rewind(&lfs, &file);
    lfs_file_write(&lfs, &file, &boot_count, sizeof(boot_count));

    // remember the storage is not updated until the file is closed successfully
    lfs_file_close(&lfs, &file);

    // release any resources we were using

    // print the boot count
    printf("boot_count: %dn", boot_count);


Detailed documentation (or at least as much detail as is currently available)
can be found in the comments in lfs.h.

littlefs takes in a configuration structure that defines how the filesystem
operates. The configuration struct provides the filesystem with the block
device operations and dimensions, tweakable parameters that tradeoff memory
usage for performance, and optional static buffers if the user wants to avoid
dynamic memory.

The state of the littlefs is stored in the lfs_t type which is left up
to the user to allocate, allowing multiple filesystems to be in use
simultaneously. With the lfs_t and configuration struct, a user can
format a block device or mount the filesystem.

Once mounted, the littlefs provides a full set of POSIX-like file and
directory functions, with the deviation that the allocation of filesystem
structures must be provided by the user.

All POSIX operations, such as remove and rename, are atomic, even in event
of power-loss. Additionally, file updates are not actually committed to
the filesystem until sync or close is called on the file.

Other notes

Littlefs is written in C, and specifically should compile with any compiler
that conforms to the C99 standard.

All littlefs calls have the potential to return a negative error code. The
errors can be either one of those found in the enum lfs_error in
lfs.h, or an error returned by the user’s block device operations.

In the configuration struct, the prog and erase function provided by the
user may return a LFS_ERR_CORRUPT error if the implementation already can
detect corrupt blocks. However, the wear leveling does not depend on the return
code of these functions, instead all data is read back and checked for

If your storage caches writes, make sure that the provided sync function
flushes all the data to memory and ensures that the next read fetches the data
from memory, otherwise data integrity can not be guaranteed. If the write
function does not perform caching, and therefore each read or write call
hits the memory, the sync function can simply return 0.


At a high level, littlefs is a block based filesystem that uses small logs to
store metadata and larger copy-on-write (COW) structures to store file data.

In littlefs, these ingredients form a sort of two-layered cake, with the small
logs (called metadata pairs) providing fast updates to metadata anywhere on
storage, while the COW structures store file data compactly and without any
wear amplification cost.

Both of these data structures are built out of blocks, which are fed by a
common block allocator. By limiting the number of erases allowed on a block
per allocation, the allocator provides dynamic wear leveling over the entire

                   | A'| B'|         |
                   |   |   |->       |
                   |   |   |         |
                .----'   '--------------.
       A       v                 B       v
      .--------.--------.       .--------.--------.
      | C'| D'|         |       | E'|new|         |
      |   |   |->       |       |   | E'|->       |
      |   |   |         |       |   |   |         |
      '--------'--------'       '--------'--------'
      .-'   '--.                  |   '------------------.
     v          v              .-'                        v
.--------.  .--------.        v                       .--------.
|   C    |  |   D    |   .--------.       write       | new E  |
|        |  |        |   |   E    |       ==>        |        |
|        |  |        |   |        |                   |        |
'--------'  '--------'   |        |                   '--------'
                         '--------'                   .-'    |
                         .-'    '-.    .-------------|------'
                        v          v  v              v
                   .--------.  .--------.       .--------.
                   |   F    |  |   G    |       | new F  |
                   |        |  |        |       |        |
                   |        |  |        |       |        |
                   '--------'  '--------'       '--------'

More details on how littlefs works can be found in and

  • – A fully detailed dive into how littlefs works.
    I would suggest reading it as the tradeoffs at work are quite interesting.

  • – The on-disk specification of littlefs with all the
    nitty-gritty details. May be useful for tooling development.


The littlefs comes with a test suite designed to run on a PC using the
emulated block device found in the bd directory.
The tests assume a Linux environment and can be started with make:


The littlefs is provided under the BSD-3-Clause license. See for more information. Contributions to this project
are accepted under the same license.

Individual files contain the following tag instead of the full license text.

SPDX-License-Identifier:    BSD-3-Clause

This enables machine processing of license information based on the SPDX
License Identifiers that are here available:

Related projects

  • littlefs-fuse – A FUSE wrapper for littlefs. The project allows you to
    mount littlefs directly on a Linux machine. Can be useful for debugging
    littlefs if you have an SD card handy.

  • littlefs-js – A javasc

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These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and thoughts, you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching