How to create a file with file holes?


File holes are the empty spaces in file, which, however, doesn't take up any disk space and contains null bytes. Therefore, the file size is larger than its actual size on disk.

However, I don't know how to create a file with file holes for experimenting with.

Use the dd command with a seek parameter.

dd if=/dev/urandom bs=4096 count=2 of=file_with_holes
dd if=/dev/urandom bs=4096 seek=7 count=2 of=file_with_holes

That creates you a file with a nice hole from byte 8192 to byte 28671.

Here's an example, demonstrating that indeed the file has holes in it (the ls -s command tells you how many disk blocks are being used by a file):

$ dd if=/dev/urandom bs=4096 count=2 of=fwh # fwh = file with holes
2+0 records in
2+0 records out
8192 bytes (8.2 kB) copied, 0.00195565 s, 4.2 MB/s

$ dd if=/dev/urandom seek=7 bs=4096 count=2 of=fwh
2+0 records in
2+0 records out
8192 bytes (8.2 kB) copied, 0.00152742 s, 5.4 MB/s

$ dd if=/dev/zero bs=4096 count=9 of=fwnh # fwnh = file with no holes
9+0 records in
9+0 records out
36864 bytes (37 kB) copied, 0.000510568 s, 72.2 MB/s

$ ls -ls fw*
16 -rw-rw-r-- 1 hopper hopper 36864 Mar 15 10:25 fwh
36 -rw-rw-r-- 1 hopper hopper 36864 Mar 15 10:29 fwnh

As you can see, the file with holes takes up fewer disk blocks, despite being the same size.

If you want a program that does it, here it is:

#include <unistd.h>
#include <sys/types.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <fcntl.h>

int main(int argc, const char *argv[])
    char random_garbage[8192]; /* Don't even bother to initialize */
    int fd = -1;
    if (argc < 2) {
        fprintf(stderr, "Usage: %s <filename>\n", argv[0]);
        return 1;
    fd = open(argv[1], O_WRONLY | O_CREAT | O_TRUNC, 0666);
    if (fd < 0) {
        perror("Can't open file: ");
        return 2;
    write(fd, random_garbage, 8192);
    lseek(fd, 5 * 4096, SEEK_CUR);
    write(fd, random_garbage, 8192);
    return 0;