If you have a Synology NAS that supports BTRFS (mostly the intel based NASes) and that you decided to use BTRFS, there are a couple of shared folders automatically created for you (like the “homes” or “video”) but they don’t have the “compression” option set, and trying to edit the shared folder in the administration GUI does not help, the check box is grayed out, meaning it is not possible.
BTRFS compression is quite “clever”. It has some heuristics that evaluate if a file is worth being compressed or not so it won’t try to compress the 1GB video of your toddlers playing together which is a waste of time given that the compression achieved might not be visible. But anyway, even if BTRFS is “clever” it does not mean that if you have a folder named video that you should consider using compression. Simply just don’t do it.
For folders with mixed data like “homes” (which is the shared folder for all user home directory) you might have wished Synology would have activated the compression. Or if you forgot to tick the check box once creating the volume, you might want to change it. But there is a way to change that. It is not guaranteed that it won’t break your NAS, especially if you do execute the wrong command, but if you don’t mind the risk then follow on.
BTRFS allows you to change the option on a live system without troubles. However, existing data on the shared folder won’t be compressed after activating the option, you would need to copy again the existing data to take benefits for it or defragment it using the compression option (-c see man btrfs-filesystem), however depending on your amount of data this might take a while.
To do it, you will need to activate SSH remote connection (try to limit it to your local LAN and do not open it to the internet unless you know what you are doing). You will need to connect via SSH using the administrator account (admin by default, but you would be wise to change the default name). I trust you know how to activate SSH on your NAS box, if not I would recommend you don’t try to do the rest of this article, ask someone who might know it! From a Linux or macOS (OS X) system, just open a terminal and type:
$ ssh <admin>@<hostname>
(and replace admin by the correct user account and hostname by your NAS hostname or IP address)
On Windows, you could use putty and achieve a similar fate.
Once connected, you need to know your BTRFS volume path:
$ mount -t btrfs
/dev/mapper/vg1-volume_1 on /volume1 [...]
In the above example, it is /volume1. Now you should have a BTRFS subvolume (think of it as a BTRFS internal sub partition which Synology uses to define shared folders) called “homes” (or whatever other shared folder you would like to tweak):
$ sudo btrfs subvolume list /volume1
ID 259 gen 1688 top level 257 path homes
ID 264 gen 1686 top level 257 path video
So here we have made sure that the “homes” shared folder is located on /volume1/homes. Now let us check its properties:
$ sudo btrfs property get /volume1/homes
Here we can confirm that compression is not set (note that compression was not set as a mount option, nor at the volume root). To activate is, you need to create the “compression” property, you can choose either zlib or lzo. The former compress better but is slower, the latter is fast but as much lower compression ratio. I personnaly choose lzo:
$ sudo btrfs property set /volume1/homes compression lzo
You can use again the previous command to get the properties for the volume and see if it was set. Now you can copy your files to the shared folder, and BTRFS will try to compress them if it thinks it makes sense.