Making use of loop devices on Linux

This post is about the loop devices on Linux.

The loop devices are a possibility under Linux to mount regular files. It is often used to mount an iso image, but it can also be used to play with Raid, LVM, or a file system.

To use the loop devices it is mandatory to load the loop module: ”modprobe loop”. This will create the loop devices /dev/loop0, /dev/loop1, etc.

Remark: work inside a tmpfs like /dev/shm to gain speed when running tests.

Creating a file-system out of a file, plus being able to mount it, works as follow:
  1. Create a file of a hundred mega-bytes:
    • dd bs=1M count=100 if=/dev/zero of=output
  2. Format the file:
    • mkfs.ext2 output
  3. Mount the file with a loop device:
    • mkdir loop-mount
    • mount -o loop output loop-mount
    • When using the option ”-o loop” the first available loop device is taken. It is possible to select the loop device to use by giving the option ”-o loop=/dev/loop0”.
To check that the device is perfectly mounted, run ”mount”. It displays a line like that one:
/dev/shm/output on /dev/shm/loop-mount type ext2 (rw,loop=/dev/loop0)
It is possible to create files and directories within loop-mount, then unmount the device and remount it back.

Using loop devices is very convenient when training with Raid for instance. To create usable devices for a Raid, it works as for a file-system, except that instead of mounting the file as a loop device they must be setup with the tool ”losetup” that is part of the Linux utilities. In fact, it is not possible to prepare devices for a Raid that are already mounted, and losetup makes a loop device in /dev/ ready to be mounted in a way that it is possible to run ”mount /dev/loop0 mount-point” instead of ”mount -o loop file mount-point”.

Preparing a Raid5 works as follow:
  1. Create 3 files:
    • dd bs=1M count=100 if=/dev/zero of=0
    • dd bs=1M count=100 if=/dev/zero of=1
    • dd bs=1M count=100 if=/dev/zero of=2
  2. Format the files:
    • mkfs.ext2 0
    • mkfs.ext2 1
    • mkfs.ext2 2
  3. Setup loop devices:
    • losetup /dev/loop0 0
    • losetup /dev/loop1 1
    • losetup /dev/loop2 2
  4. Prepare the Raid5 device:
    • mdadm --create --verbose /dev/md0 --level=5 --raid-devices=3 /dev/loop0 /dev/loop1 /dev/loop2
  5. Mount the Raid5 device:
    • mount /dev/md0 mount-point


  1. yo cool thanks

  2. No point in running mkfs on the three files. The raid will merge them into one block device. You have to run mkfs AFTER joining the raid.

    losetup /dev/loop0 0
    losetup /dev/loop1 1
    losetup /dev/loop2 2

    mkfs.ext2 /dev/md0

    mount /dev/md0 /mnt/mountpoint

    1. If I remember correctly, at that time I ran into an error with losetup if the regular file wasn't passed through mkfs. Indeed, it works fine without.

      Thanks for your comment :)

  3. How to delete or remove/reverse this to free space on disk?