Largefiles extension

<!> This is considered a feature of last resort.

Large binary files tend to be not very compressible, not very "diffable", and not at all mergeable. Such files are not handled well by Mercurial's storage format (Revlog), which is based on compressed binary deltas. largefiles solves this problem by adding a centralized client-server layer on top of Mercurial: largefiles live in a central store out on the network somewhere, and you only fetch the ones that you need when you need them.

1. Status

This extension is distributed with Mercurial 2.0 and later.

Author: Various

2. Overview

The largefiles extension allows for tracking large, incompressible binary files in Mercurial without requiring excessive bandwidth for clones and pulls. Files added as largefiles are not tracked directly by Mercurial; rather, their revisions are identified by a checksum, and Mercurial tracks these checksums. This way, when you clone a repository or pull in changesets, only the largefiles needed to update to the current version are downloaded. This saves both disk space and bandwidth.

First enable the largefiles extension by adding following lines in your config file:

largefiles =

If you are starting a new repository or adding new large binary files, using largefiles for them is as easy as adding '--large' to your hg add command. For example:

$ dd if=/dev/urandom of=thisfileislarge count=2000
$ hg add --large thisfileislarge
$ hg commit -m 'add thisfileislarge, which is large, as a largefile'

When you push a changeset that affects largefiles to a remote repository, its largefile revisions will be uploaded along with the changeset. This ensures that the central store gets a copy of every revision of every largefile. Note that the remote Mercurial must also have the largefiles extension enabled for this to work.

When you pull a changeset that affects largefiles from a remote repository, nothing different from Mercurial's normal behavior happens. However, when you update to such a revision, any largefiles needed by that revision are downloaded if they have never been downloaded before. This means that network access is required to update to a revision you have not yet updated to.

If you already have large files tracked by Mercurial without the largefiles extension, you will need to convert your repository in order to benefit from largefiles. This is done with the 'hg lfconvert' command:

$ hg lfconvert --size 10 oldrepo newrepo

3. Configuration

Enable the largefiles extension by adding following lines in your config file:

largefiles =

By default, in repositories that already have largefiles in them, any new file over 10 MB will automatically be added as largefiles. To change this threshhold, set largefiles.minsize in your Mercurial config file to the minimum size in megabytes to track as a largefile:

minsize = 2

or use the --lfsize option to the add command (also in megabytes):

$ hg add --lfsize 2

The largefiles.patterns config option allows you to specify specific space-separated filename patterns (in hg patterns syntax) that should always be tracked as largefiles:

patterns = **.jpg re:.*\.(png|bmp) content/audio/*

4. Design

This section explains how largefiles works behind the scenes. If you're just adding/modifying/committing/pushing/pulling in a largefiles repo, you shouldn't have to read this section (although it can't hurt). But if you are setting up or administering Mercurial with largefiles, this is essential reading.

4.1. The local store

Each local repository has a local largefiles store in '.hg/largefiles'. When you add a new largefile to a repository, it is first stored here. When largefiles are downloaded from the central store (see below), a copy is saved there. Files in the local store are also hard-linked to the user cache.

4.2. The user cache

The user cache helps to avoid downloading and storing multiple copies of largefiles. When a largefile is needed but does not exist in the local store, Mercurial checks the user cache. If the needed largefile exists, a hard-link is created in the local store.

The cache location is OS dependent:



Windows (Vista and up)


Windows (pre-Vista)

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\largefiles



You can set your user cache to a non-default location by setting largefiles.usercache in your Mercurial config:

usercache = /shared/myusercachedir

The user cache can be deleted at any time to reclaim disk space, but doing so may also result in downloading and storing additional copies of largefiles.

4.2.1. The central store

In a typical setup with a central Mercurial server, the user who serves the central repositories will get a user cache that acts as a central store for all the repositories. This central largefiles store has every past revision of every largefile.

<!> Unlike other user caches, the central store should not be deleted! It may be the only cache that holds a largefile used by an old revision.

<!> When a client repository needs to download a largefile, it'll try to get it from the repository specified as default in the hgrc file. If not specified or incorrect repository is specified, the download will fail. As an alternative, a default path can be set for the specific hg update command:

hg --config paths.default=path-to-repo-with-the-file update

4.3. Implementation details

Each largefile has a standin file in '.hglf/', which is tracked by Mercurial like any other file. The standin contains the SHA-1 hash of the largefile contents. When a largefile is added/removed/copied/renamed/etc the same operation is applied to the standin. Thus the history of the standin is the history of the largefile.

For performance reasons, the contents of a standin are only updated before a commit. Standins are added/removed/copied/renamed from add/remove/copy/rename Mercurial commands but their contents will not be updated. The contents of a standin will always be the hash of the largefile as of the last commit. To support some commands (revert) some standins are temporarily updated, but changed back after the command is finished.

A Mercurial dirstate object tracks the state of the largefiles. The dirstate uses the last modified time and current size to detect if a file has changed without reading the entire contents of the file.

5. See also

There are a number of older extensions for managing large files. This extension is a descendant of the BfilesExtension and is now the recommended way to handle such files. Alternatives are BigfilesExtension and SnapExtension.


LargefilesExtension (last edited 2017-01-10 15:03:55 by CharlesB)