“ZFS on Linux”: The ZFS modules are not loaded. Try running ‘/sbin/modprobe zfs’ as root to load them.

Last Updated: Oct 10, 2021

This article is based on my experience with CentOS 7. If you are running other Linux distributions, please adjust the commands and package names accordingly (e.g., yum –> apt-get).

As of Oct 3, 2019, I cannot get ZFS on Linux running on CentOS 8.

ZFS on Linux is a not robust solution to get ZFS up and running in Linux environments. Unlike FreeBSD, ZFS does not work with the Linux kernel natively. The developers of ZFS on Linux came up a rather crappy solution: By injecting the ZFS into the kernel via DKMS, Linux kernel will understand what is ZFS. It works very well, and it really works with a single assumption: The system will never get updated or rebooted after installing ZFS on Linux. So what will happen after you update the system (e.g., kernel, ZFS on Linux packages) and the system got rebooted? There is a good chance that your ZFS module will not be loaded:

Event What will happen after reboot? What do you need to do?
You update kernel first, then ZFS on Linux afterward
Before Dec 12, 2018: Your system will load the ZFS modules.
Dec 12, 2018 – Dec 2019: Probably not
After Jan 2020: 50/50
Remove the old kernels from DKMS database. Rebuild the ZFS (and SPL if running 0.7.x) modules with the new kernel in the DKMS database.
You update ZFS on Linux first, then kernel afterward If your system boots into the new kernel (which is default), your system WILL NOT load the ZFS modules. Remove and install the ZFS and DKMS packages. Remove the old kernels from DKMS database. Rebuild the SPL and ZFS modules with the new kernel in the DKMS database.
You update ZFS on Linux only. Kernel has not been updated. Your system will load the ZFS modules. Remove the old kernels from DKMS database. Rebuild the SPL and ZFS modules with the new kernel in the DKMS database.
You update kernel only. ZFS on Linux has not been updated. Your system will load the ZFS modules. Remove the old kernels from DKMS database. Rebuild the SPL and ZFS modules with the new kernel in the DKMS database.

There are two steps to rescue your data back. We will start with removing your DKMS module first. If it does not work, we will reinstall the ZFS packages. Also, I am assuming that your system is booted to the new kernel. Please keep in mind that ZFS on Linux does not work with Linux kernel v4 (as of Oct 3, 2019, either via kernel-ml via CentOS 7 or native v4 on CentOS 8). It only works with v3.

If you need to access your data, the easiest way is to boot to the old working kernel. Once you are ready to clean up the problem, boot to the new kernel and follow my instructions below.

Step 1: Clean up and Reinstall DKMS Modules

Most of the time, the ZFS on Linux messes up the DKMS modules after the update. I suggest to clean up and reinstall DKMS modules once again. As of December 12, 2018, the ZFS on Linux will remove all of the DKMS modules for no reason.

First, check your DKMS status. You will need to clean up the DKMS if it is empty (nothing is installed), orphan (library is installed, but none of them is attached to any kernel) or multiple (multiple kernels installed). If it is clean (single kernel only), you may skip this step. If you are using ZFS on Linux ver 0.7.x, your DKMS will contain two modules (zfs and spl). If you are using ver. 0.8.x, your DKMS will contain one module only (zfs).

#dkms status

In general, all you want is only one version of DKMS modoule is installed, and it is attached to one kernel only. If you see multiple versions of DKMS modules, or multiple kernels, that’s bad.

#An example of dirty DKMS status (This is bad):
spl, 0.7.12, 3.10.0-862.14.4.el7: installed (original_module exists) (WARNING! Diff between built and installed module!)
spl, 0.7.12, 3.10.0-957.1.3.el7: installed (original_module exists)
zfs, 0.7.12, 3.10.0-862.14.4.el7: installed (original_module exists) (WARNING! Diff between built and installed module!)
zfs, 0.7.12, 3.10.0-957.1.3.el7: installed (original_module exists)

#An example of empty DKMS status (This is bad):

#An example of DKMS status without kernal (This is bad):
zfs, 0.7.12: added
spl, 0.7.12: added

#An example of clean DKMS status (This is good):
spl, 0.7.12, 3.10.0-957.1.3.el7.x86_64, x86_64: installed
zfs, 0.7.12, 3.10.0-957.1.3.el7.x86_64, x86_64: installed 


spl, 0.7.12, 3.10.0-957.1.3.el7.x86_64, x86_64: installed (original_module exists)
zfs, 0.7.12, 3.10.0-957.1.3.el7.x86_64, x86_64: installed (original_module exists)


zfs, 0.8.3, 3.10.0-1127.el7.x86_64, x86_64: installed (original_module exists)

In my example above, my ZFS on Linux is 0.7.12, my old kernel is 3.10.0-862.14.4.el7, my new kernel is 3.10.0-957.1.3.el7. Your version may be different.

If your situation is something like the following:

Error! Could not locate dkms.conf file.
File: /var/lib/dkms/zfs/0.8.2/source/dkms.conf does not exist.

That means you have multiple versions of dkms-ZFS modules installed in your system. In my case, the 0.8.3 is running, and the old (0.8.2) is still available. Check the folder (/var/lib/dkms/zfs/) to see if any old libraries need to be removed.

#Currently running: dkms ZFS 0.8.3, kernel 3.10.0-1062.18.1.el7.x86_64

cd /var/lib/dkms/zfs/

#ls -al
total 12K
0.8.2 <---- Delete this 0.8.3 kernel-3.10.0-1062.1.2.el7.x86_64-x86_64 -> 0.8.2/3.10.0-1062.1.2.el7.x86_64/x86_64 <---- Delete this kernel-3.10.0-1062.4.1.el7.x86_64-x86_64 -> 0.8.2/3.10.0-1062.4.1.el7.x86_64/x86_64 <---- Delete this kernel-3.10.0-1062.4.3.el7.x86_64-x86_64 -> 0.8.2/3.10.0-1062.4.3.el7.x86_64/x86_64 <---- Delete this kernel-3.10.0-1062.7.1.el7.x86_64-x86_64 -> 0.8.2/3.10.0-1062.7.1.el7.x86_64/x86_64 <---- Delete this kernel-3.10.0-1062.9.1.el7.x86_64-x86_64 -> 0.8.3/3.10.0-1062.9.1.el7.x86_64/x86_64 <---- Delete this

You may want to remove both ZFS and SPL DKMS modules first, then reinstall them:

#If your version is 0.7.x:
sudo dkms remove zfs/0.7.12 --all; 
sudo dkms remove spl/0.7.12 --all; 

#If your version is 0.8.x:
sudo dkms remove zfs/0.8.3 --all; 

Sometimes, you will need to remove the old kernel manually:

sudo dkms remove zfs/0.7.12 -k 3.10.0-862.14.4.el7.x86_64; 
sudo dkms remove spl/0.7.12 -k 3.10.0-862.14.4.el7.x86_64;

Time to reinstall them:

#Don't forget to use the version that matches your system. In my situation, it was 0.7.12 / 0.8.3

sudo dkms --force install spl/0.7.12; 
sudo dkms --force install zfs/0.7.12;

sudo dkms --force install zfs/0.8.3;

Run the DKMS status again. You should see both ZPL and SPL are attached to the new kernel:

#If your version is 0.7.x:
spl, 0.7.12, 3.10.0-957.1.3.el7.x86_64, x86_64: installed
zfs, 0.7.12, 3.10.0-957.1.3.el7.x86_64, x86_64: installed

#If your version is 0.8.x:
zfs, 0.8.3, 3.10.0-1127.el7.x86_64, x86_64: installed

Try to load the ZFS module and import your ZFS data:

sudo /sbin/modprobe zfs
sudo zpool import -a

If everything looks good, you can reboot your system and test to see if the ZFS is loaded automatically or not. Once everything is okay, remove the old kernel from the system.

sudo package-cleanup --oldkernels --count=1 -y

That’s it, you are good to go.

Step 2: Reinstall ZFS packages

If you have tried the first step and it didn’t work. You may want to reinstall the ZFS packages. Here is a typical error message:

You try to import the ZFS data and the system complains:

#zpool import -a
The ZFS modules are not loaded.
Try running '/sbin/modprobe zfs' as root to load them.

So you try to load the ZFS module and the system complains again:

#/sbin/modprobe zfs
modprobe: FATAL: Module zfs not found.
modprobe: ERROR: could not insert 'zfs': Invalid argument

What you need to do is to erase all the ZFS and related packages:

yum erase zfs zfs-dkms libzfs2 spl spl-dkms libzpool2 -y

Please reboot the system. This step is very important.


After that, try to install ZFS again.

yum install zfs -y

If the system complaints about mismatched dependent packages, try to remove the affected packages first and run the installation again.

After the installation, try to start the ZFS module:

/sbin/modprobe zfs
zpool import -a

If the ZFS is up and running, please clean up your DKMS from step 1. If it complains again, please follow the steps below:

  1. Reboot
  2. Clear the cache of the yum repository and try to update the system again. (sudo yum clean all)
  3. Reboot to the latest kernel
  4. Erase the ZFS and related packages, try it again.

Keep in mind that ZFS on Linux is based on DKMS, a very buggy and unreliable platform. Sometimes when you uninstall and install the packages, don’t expect that it will do the same thing as fresh install. Before you send your server to the landfill, try this:

Check the dkms status:

#dkms status
#version 0.7.x
zfs, 0.7.2: added
spl, 0.7.2: added

#version 0.8.x
zfs, 0.8.3: added

If you see this message, that means the ZFS packages have been installed, but the DKMS doesn’t know how to use it. You will need to tell DKMS about it:

#version 0.7.x
dkms --force install zfs/0.7.2
dkms --force install spl/0.7.2

#version 0.8.x
dkms --force install zfs/0.8.3
#Try to start ZFS again.
/sbin/modprobe zfs
zpool import -a

If you already tried it for more than 3 times without any luck, don’t waste your time. You may want to bring the ZFS disks to a different server. The new server should be able to recognize the ZFS disks. For the original server, you can connect to the ZFS disks on the new server via NFS using the original path. That will minimize the impact of changes.

Keep in mind that the ZFS version is very important. The server with newer ZFS version can read the ZFS disks created in older ZFS versions. You can always check the ZFS versions by running the following:

#Get the version of the host:
sudo zfs upgrade -v
sudo zpool upgrade -v

#Get the version of the ZFS disks:
sudo zfs get version
sudo zpool get version

This is pretty much what I need to do on my 60 servers every month. If you are in a similar situation like mine, I guarantee that you will become an expert of fixing this kind of mess after few months. Good luck!

Our sponsors:

14 Replies to ““ZFS on Linux”: The ZFS modules are not loaded. Try running ‘/sbin/modprobe zfs’ as root to load them.”

  1. Martin

    Thank you very much for sharing this! I had to make some minor changes to the above guidelines, but it really helped a lot!

    I had just performed an upgrade running Debian Stretch Backports and that broke everything on one particular box. After having spend several hours I stubled upon your post.


  2. PWSauce

    I think I’m in a worse position than this 🙁 I have upgraded `3.10.0-862.3.3.el7.x86_64` to `3.10.0-957.1.3.el7.x86_64` and have similar issue. This is my first issue with ZFS. I did have grub & kernel update issues, but those were easily resolved by reinstalling.

    $ zpool status
    The ZFS modules are not loaded.
    Try running ‘/sbin/modprobe zfs’ as root to load them.

    $ dkms status

    $ /sbin/modprobe zfs
    modprobe: FATAL: Module zfs not found.

    $ dkms –force install spl/0.7.12;
    Error! Could not find module source directory.
    Directory: /usr/src/spl-0.7.12 does not exist.

    $ dkms –force install zfs/0.7.12;
    Error! Could not find module source directory.
    Directory: /usr/src/zfs-0.7.12 does not exist.

    Will keep searching, but if you’ve come across this I would really appreciate a point in the right direction.

    • Derrick Post author

      I hear you. If you need your data immediately, please reboot to the earlier working kernel. If you want to make it work with your latest kernel (v3, not v4), I will uninstall the ZFS and reinstall all of them. See Step 2 for details.

  3. Chandra

    This blog is helpful. I did patch my system(including ZFS) but kernel wasn’t updated.
    I ran into same issue, step 1 didn’t help, I add to do additions to step 2.
    erased new packages(0.7.12) and its dependencies too. Then reinstalled earlier version(0.7.11). Everything worked great.

    Below are the list of packages.


    • Derrick Post author

      Glad that it works. FYI, since you downgrade to an older version, you may want to disable the auto update (or exclude ZFS from the auto update). Also, I suggest to check which version of ZFS on Linux repository you are using, and they may give different version of packages (/etc/yum.repos.d/zfs.repo). Mine is 7.6 which is the latest one.

      You can install a different version here:
      sudo rpm -Uvh http://download.zfsonlinux.org/epel/zfs-release.el7_6.noarch.rpm

  4. Joe

    I recently ran into this issue when I upgraded my ZFS test server from CentOS 7.3 to CentOS 7.6 (which also upgraded the kernel from 3.10.0-514.26.2.el7.x86_64 to 3.10.0-957.12.2.el7.x86_64). The ZFS on Linux github wiki page has pretty good instructions on this scenario (I think the page is fairly new and didn’t exist when this OP was created):


    In short, I had to update the repo to point to the centos 7.6 branch and then follow the reinstallation instructions here:


    Ended up upgrading from zfs to 0.7.13. Worked like a charm and no data was lost as far as I could tell. Hope this helps someone else out.

  5. Tom

    I upgraded Debian 9 (stretch) to Debian 10 (buster). When booting, I now get the message ”

    Failed to load ZFS modules.
    Manually load the modules and exit.

    BusyBox v1.30.1 (Debian 1:1.30.1-4) built-in shell (ash)

    ‘modprobe zfs’ runs without reporting any error, but does not load the ZFS module. In fact ‘modprobe ‘ runs without an error and does nothing.

    There is no apt or apt-get anywhere (‘find / -iname “*apt*) does not find them.

    There are 6 kernels to boot from available:
    – 4.19.0-5-amd64
    – 4.9.0-9-amd64
    – 4.9.0-8-amd64
    (and each also in “recovery mode”) but none of them works, i.e. I get the same result when booting any of them.

    Any ideas?

    • Derrick Post author

      Sorry I don’t have much experience with Debian. But I will try my best to answer your questions.

      First, I will check if your ZFS on Linux package is the latest version or not (zfs-0.8.1). My experience told me that older version ZFS won’t work with Linux kernel v4. According to the ZFS release notes, the ZFS-0.8.1 supports kernel up to 5.1. Second, I will make sure that the ZFS meta data of your disks are not modified. You can verify this by booting an older version of Debian via USB/LiveCD etc. If the ZFS files are mountable, then we know that the problem is the OS/application. Otherwise you will need to go with a different route.

      Next, I will try the following:

      1.) Make sure that the ZFS / dkms are built correctly for your current kernel. Since you have three installed kernels in your system, you will need to make sure that each of them are build correctly.
      2.) Assuming that the dkms gives no error, then I will try to load the disk:

      #To load the disk
      sudo zpool import -a

      #To show the status of the disk
      sudo zdb

      Hopefully you can import the ZFS.

      3.) If you still can’t import your stuffs, you only have few options left:
      a.) Remove the ZFS and related packages and reinstall them again, or
      b.) Reinstall your Debian, or
      c.) Downgrade your Debian to an earlier version, or
      d.) Keep your current Debian, and load your ZFS disks on a different server with a different version of Debian. Mount those disks via NFS.

      Good luck!


  6. griznog

    You can avoid all this by using the zfs-kmod repo (enable in repo file and disable the dkms repo) and using the precompiled modules. I use that on 100+ CentOS systems and never do more than “yum update.”

  7. Mark Early

    Thank you for posting this article on ZFS “issues” under Linux.

    ZFS installed fine under MacOSX, however my attempts to get ZFS working under Fedora-32 have been singularly unsuccessful, due I believe to a chicken/egg situation mentioned on OpenZFS developer forums: in a new Linux installation of some flavors if the ZFS package is installed, but no existing ZFS devices are found to exist the ZFS dynamic kernel module doesn’t load … so my ZFS package (0.8.4) is installed but until I figure out how to manually load the kernel module (which i haven’t) you can’t create any pools … because ZFS isn’t running…. so it won’t load in the future.

    Hints regarding manually loading the ZFS module would be greatly appreciated. My understanding is Ubuntu gets around this problem by forcing the ZFS module to load or at least the discovery service associated with ZFS even if there isn’t a ZFS filesystem yet. At least then you can use ZFS to create one and get past this issue.

    • Derrick Post author

      I don’t have much success with ZFS on newer Linux kernels (v4 +). I also couldn’t figure out how to make ZFS work in a newer package management system (yum worked, dnf didn’t work). I tried all of these about half a year ago (the ZFS webpage said they supported all of these at that time), but I couldn’t make them work in my environment. In general, the ZFS team is doing okay to support stable / popular system (like CentOS 6/7). For newer system like CentOS 8 / Fedora, your mileage may vary.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *