Root on ZFS

It is possible to set up Chimera with root filesystem on ZFS. For most part, the process is identical to regular installation, with disk preparation and some post-installation steps differing.

In order to understand this part of the handbook, you should first understand how regular Chimera installations work.


The live ISO images already come with ZFS support by default. Therefore, you do not have to do anything as far as preparation goes.

For device-specific images, you will want to create a removable media with Chimera (typically an SD card), boot it and install ZFS in there.

If you are using an LTS kernel, Chimera typically comes with binary ZFS modules for installation.

For the generic LTS kernel:

# apk add linux-lts-zfs-bin

For the generic stable kernel:

# apk add linux-stable-zfs-bin

For Raspberry Pi:

# apk add linux-rpi-zfs-bin

If you have your own kernel, or a kernel without ZFS binary modules, you can try managing the ZFS modules via CKMS:

# apk add zfs-ckms

Keep in mind that ZFS managed through CKMS will need to build its kernel modules from source, which may take time, especially on slow devices. It may also not be compatible with every kernel at source level.

CKMS and prebuilt modules do not conflict. If you have prebuilt modules installed for a kernel, CKMS will not attempt to build it for that kernel.

You may have to modprobe the zfs module afterwards to be able to use the filesystem.


The main problem is that most bootloaders do not understand ZFS. GRUB does understand it, but only a fairly old version with a limited feature set.

There are multiple ways around this:

  1. Using a separate limited pool for /boot
  2. Using a separate /boot partition with ext4 or another FS
  3. On EFI systems, combining your /boot with the ESP

For this example, we will be assuming an EFI system and we will put /boot in its own partition. In this arrangement, you will create 3 partitions:

  1. The ESP (vfat)
  2. The /boot (ext4 or some other)
  3. The pool

On a BIOS or OpenPOWER system, you would not need the ESP. The exact layout is dependent on the target system.

In any case, an example pool setup would look like this, assuming a hard drive at /dev/sda and the above layout:

# mkdir /media/root
# zpool create -o ashift=12 -O acltype=posixacl -O canmount=off -O dnodesize=auto -O relatime=on -O xattr=sa -O mountpoint=/ -R /media/root rpool /dev/sda3
# zfs create -o canmount=off -o mountpoint=none rpool/ROOT
# zfs create -o canmount=noauto -o mountpoint=/ rpool/ROOT/chimera
# zfs mount rpool/ROOT/chimera

And the other partitions:

# mkfs.vfat /dev/sda1
# mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda2
# mkdir /media/root/boot
# mount /dev/sda2 /media/root/boot
# mkdir /media/root/boot/efi
# mount /dev/sda1 /media/root/boot/efi

After that, install Chimera like normal, as everything else is identical.


You can freely combine ZFS and LUKS. Just keep in mind that when setting up root=, you do not have to care about any of the /dev/mapper stuff, and simply specify the same root= as you would with an unencrypted system.

This is because ZFS is pool-based and the pool will be identified on the mapper devices automatically, just like for any other block device.

You also need to use the initramfs option in your crypttab, see the Disk encryption section.