Tahoe-LAFS Magic Folder Frontend

  1. Introduction
  2. Configuration
  3. Known Issues and Limitations With Magic-Folder


The Magic Folder frontend synchronizes local directories on two or more clients, using a Tahoe-LAFS grid for storage. Whenever a file is created or changed under the local directory of one of the clients, the change is propagated to the grid and then to the other clients.

The implementation of the “drop-upload” frontend, on which Magic Folder is based, was written as a prototype at the First International Tahoe-LAFS Summit in June 2011. In 2015, with the support of a grant from the Open Technology Fund, it was redesigned and extended to support synchronization between clients. It currently works on Linux and Windows.

Magic Folder is not currently in as mature a state as the other frontends (web, CLI, SFTP and FTP). This means that you probably should not rely on all changes to files in the local directory to result in successful uploads. There might be (and have been) incompatible changes to how the feature is configured.

We are very interested in feedback on how well this feature works for you, and suggestions to improve its usability, functionality, and reliability.


The Magic Folder frontend runs as part of a gateway node. To set it up, you must use the tahoe magic-folder CLI. For detailed information see our Magic-Folder CLI design documentation. For a given Magic-Folder collective directory you need to run the tahoe magic-folder create command. After that the tahoe magic-folder invite command must used to generate an invite code for each member of the magic-folder collective. A confidential, authenticated communications channel should be used to transmit the invite code to each member, who will be joining using the tahoe magic-folder join command.

These settings are persisted in the [magic_folder] section of the gateway’s tahoe.cfg file.


enabled = (boolean, optional)

If this is True, Magic Folder will be enabled. The default value is False.

local.directory = (UTF-8 path)

This specifies the local directory to be monitored for new or changed files. If the path contains non-ASCII characters, it should be encoded in UTF-8 regardless of the system’s filesystem encoding. Relative paths will be interpreted starting from the node’s base directory.

You should not normally need to set these fields manually because they are set by the tahoe magic-folder create and/or tahoe magic-folder join commands. Use the --help option to these commands for more information.

After setting up a Magic Folder collective and starting or restarting each gateway, you can confirm that the feature is working by copying a file into any local directory, and checking that it appears on other clients. Large files may take some time to appear.

The ‘Operational Statistics’ page linked from the Welcome page shows counts of the number of files uploaded, the number of change events currently queued, and the number of failed uploads. The ‘Recent Uploads and Downloads’ page and the node log may be helpful to determine the cause of any failures.

Known Issues and Limitations With Magic-Folder

This feature only works on Linux and Windows. There is a ticket to add support for Mac OS X and BSD-based systems (#1432).

The only way to determine whether uploads have failed is to look at the ‘Operational Statistics’ page linked from the Welcome page. This only shows a count of failures, not the names of files. Uploads are never retried.

The Magic Folder frontend performs its uploads sequentially (i.e. it waits until each upload is finished before starting the next), even when there would be enough memory and bandwidth to efficiently perform them in parallel. A Magic Folder upload can occur in parallel with an upload by a different frontend, though. (#1459)

On Linux, if there are a large number of near-simultaneous file creation or change events (greater than the number specified in the file /proc/sys/fs/inotify/max_queued_events), it is possible that some events could be missed. This is fairly unlikely under normal circumstances, because the default value of max_queued_events in most Linux distributions is 16384, and events are removed from this queue immediately without waiting for the corresponding upload to complete. (#1430)

The Windows implementation might also occasionally miss file creation or change events, due to limitations of the underlying Windows API (ReadDirectoryChangesW). We do not know how likely or unlikely this is. (#1431)

Some filesystems may not support the necessary change notifications. So, it is recommended for the local directory to be on a directly attached disk-based filesystem, not a network filesystem or one provided by a virtual machine.

The private/magic_folder_dircap and private/collective_dircap files cannot use an alias or path to specify the upload directory. (#1711)

If a file in the upload directory is changed (actually relinked to a new file), then the old file is still present on the grid, and any other caps to it will remain valid. Eventually it will be possible to use Garbage Collection in Tahoe to reclaim the space used by these files; however currently they are retained indefinitely. (#2440)

Unicode filenames are supported on both Linux and Windows, but on Linux, the local name of a file must be encoded correctly in order for it to be uploaded. The expected encoding is that printed by python -c "import sys; print sys.getfilesystemencoding()".

On Windows, local directories with non-ASCII names are not currently working. (#2219)

On Windows, when a node has Magic Folder enabled, it is unresponsive to Ctrl-C (it can only be killed using Task Manager or similar). (#2218)