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     sa — SCSI Sequential Access device driver


     device sa


     The sa driver provides support for all SCSI devices of the sequential access class that are
     attached to the system through a supported SCSI Host Adapter.  The sequential access class
     includes tape and other linear access devices.

     A SCSI Host adapter must also be separately configured into the system before a SCSI
     sequential access device can be configured.


     The sa driver is based around the concept of a “mount session”, which is defined as the
     period between the time that a tape is mounted, and the time when it is unmounted.  Any
     parameters set during a mount session remain in effect for the remainder of the session or
     until replaced.  The tape can be unmounted, bringing the session to a close in several ways.
     These include:

     1.   Closing a `rewind device', referred to as sub-mode 00 below.  An example is /dev/sa0.

     2.   Using the MTOFFL ioctl(2) command, reachable through the ‘offline’ command of mt(1).

     It should be noted that tape devices are exclusive open devices, except in the case where a
     control mode device is opened.  In the latter case, exclusive access is only sought when
     needed (e.g., to set parameters).


     Bits 0 and 1 of the minor number are interpreted as ‘sub-modes’.  The sub-modes differ in
     the action taken when the device is closed:

     00    A close will rewind the device; if the tape has been written, then a file mark will be
           written before the rewind is requested.  The device is unmounted.

     01    A close will leave the tape mounted.  If the tape was written to, a file mark will be
           written.  No other head positioning takes place.  Any further reads or writes will
           occur directly after the last read, or the written file mark.

     10    A close will rewind the device.  If the tape has been written, then a file mark will
           be written before the rewind is requested.  On completion of the rewind an unload
           command will be issued.  The device is unmounted.


     SCSI tapes may run in either ‘variable’ or ‘fixed’ block-size modes.  Most QIC-type devices
     run in fixed block-size mode, where most nine-track tapes and many new cartridge formats
     allow variable block-size.  The difference between the two is as follows:

     Variable block-size: Each write made to the device results in a single logical record
     written to the tape.  One can never read or write part of a record from tape (though you may
     request a larger block and read a smaller record); nor can one read multiple blocks.  Data
     from a single write is therefore read by a single read.  The block size used may be any
     value supported by the device, the SCSI adapter and the system (usually between 1 byte and
     64 Kbytes, sometimes more).

     When reading a variable record/block from the tape, the head is logically considered to be
     immediately after the last item read, and before the next item after that.  If the next item
     is a file mark, but it was never read, then the next process to read will immediately hit
     the file mark and receive an end-of-file notification.

     Fixed block-size: Data written by the user is passed to the tape as a succession of fixed
     size blocks.  It may be contiguous in memory, but it is considered to be a series of
     independent blocks.  One may never write an amount of data that is not an exact multiple of
     the blocksize.  One may read and write the same data as a different set of records.  In
     other words, blocks that were written together may be read separately, and vice-versa.

     If one requests more blocks than remain in the file, the drive will encounter the file mark.
     As there is some data to return (unless there were no records before the file mark), the
     read will succeed, returning that data.  The next read will return immediately with a value
     of 0.  (As above, if the file mark is never read, it remains for the next process to read if
     in no-rewind mode.)


     By default, the driver will NOT accept reads or writes to a tape device that are larger than
     may be written to or read from the mounted tape using a single write or read request.
     Because of this, the application author may have confidence that his wishes are respected in
     terms of the block size written to tape.  For example, if the user tries to write a 256KB
     block to the tape, but the controller can handle no more than 128KB, the write will fail.
     The previous FreeBSD behavior, prior to FreeBSD 10.0, was to break up large reads or writes
     into smaller blocks when going to the tape.  The problem with that behavior, though, is that
     it hides the actual on-tape block size from the application writer, at least in variable
     block mode.

     If the user would like his large reads and writes broken up into separate pieces, he may set
     the following loader tunables.  Note that these tunables WILL GO AWAY in FreeBSD 11.0.  They
     are provided for transition purposes only.

         This variable, when set to 1, will configure all sa devices to split large buffers into
         smaller pieces when needed.

         This variable, when set to 1, will configure the given sa unit to split large buffers
         into multiple pieces.  This will override the global setting, if it exists.

     There are several sysctl(8) variables available to view block handling parameters:

         This variable allows the user to see, but not modify, the current I/O split setting.
         The user is not permitted to modify this setting so that there is no chance of behavior
         changing for the application while a tape is mounted.

         This variable shows the maximum I/O size in bytes that is allowed by the combination of
         kernel tuning parameters (MAXPHYS, DFLTPHYS) and the capabilities of the controller that
         is attached to the tape drive.  Applications may look at this value for a guide on how
         large an I/O may be permitted, but should keep in mind that the actual maximum may be
         restricted further by the tape drive via the SCSI READ BLOCK LIMITS command.

         This variable shows the maximum I/O size supported by the controller, in bytes, that is
         reported via the CAM Path Inquiry CCB (XPT_PATH_INQ).  If this is 0, that means that the
         controller has not reported a maximum I/O size.


     The handling of file marks on write is automatic.  If the user has written to the tape, and
     has not done a read since the last write, then a file mark will be written to the tape when
     the device is closed.  If a rewind is requested after a write, then the driver assumes that
     the last file on the tape has been written, and ensures that there are two file marks
     written to the tape.  The exception to this is that there seems to be a standard (which we
     follow, but do not understand why) that certain types of tape do not actually write two file
     marks to tape, but when read, report a `phantom' file mark when the last file is read.
     These devices include the QIC family of devices.  (It might be that this set of devices is
     the same set as that of fixed block devices.  This has not been determined yet, and they are
     treated as separate behaviors by the driver at this time.)


     The sa driver supports a number of parameters.  The user can query parameters using “mt
     param -l” (which uses the MTIOCPARAMGET ioctl) and the user can set parameters using “mt
     param -s” (which uses the MTIOCPARAMSET ioctl).  See mt(1) and mtio(4) for more details on
     the interface.

     Supported parameters:

     sili   The default is 0.  When set to 1, it sets the Suppress Incorrect Length Indicator
            (SILI) bit on tape reads.  Tape drives normally return sense data (which contains the
            residual) when the application reads a block that is not the same length as the
            amount of data requested.  The SILI bit suppresses that notification in most cases.
            See the SSC-5 spec (available at, specifically the section on the READ(6)
            command, for more information.

            The default is 0.  By default, the sa driver reports entering Programmable Early
            Warning, Early Warning and End of Media conditions by returning a write with 0 bytes
            written, and errno set to 0.  If eot_warn is set to 1, the sa driver will set errno
            to ENOSPC when it enters any of the out of space conditions.

            This is a read-only parameter, and is set to 1 if the tape drive supports protection

            If protection is supported, set this to the desired protection method supported by
            the tape drive.  As of SSC-5r03 (available at, the protection method values

            0    No protection.

            1    Reed-Solomon CRC, 4 bytes in length.

            2    CRC32C, 4 bytes in length.

            Length of the protection information, see above for lengths.

            If set to 1, enable logical block protection on writes.  The CRC must be appended to
            the end of the block written to the tape driver.  The tape drive will verify the CRC
            when it receives the block.

            If set to 1, enable logical block protection on reads.  The CRC will be appended to
            the end of the block read from the tape driver.  The application should verify the
            CRC when it receives the block.

            If set to 1, enable logical block protection on the RECOVER BUFFERED DATA command.
            The sa driver does not currently use the RECOVER BUFFERED DATA command.


     The sa driver supports all of the ioctls of mtio(4).


     /dev/[n][e]sa[0-9]  general form:
     /dev/sa0            Rewind on close
     /dev/nsa0           No rewind on close
     /dev/esa0           Eject on close (if capable)
     /dev/sa0.ctl        Control mode device (to examine state while another program is accessing
                         the device, e.g.).


     The sa driver supports injecting End Of Media (EOM) notification to aid application
     development and testing.  EOM is indicated to the application by returning the read or write
     with 0 bytes written.  In addition, when EOM is injected, the tape position status will be
     updated to temporarily show Beyond of the Programmable Early Warning (BPEW) status.  To see
     BPEW status, use the MTIOCEXTGET ioctl, which is used by the “mt status” command.  To inject
     an EOM notification, set the

     sysctl variable to 1.  One EOM notification will be sent, BPEW status will be set for one
     position query, and then the driver state will be reset to normal.


     mt(1), cam(4)


     The sa driver was written for the CAM SCSI subsystem by Justin T. Gibbs and Kenneth Merry.
     Many ideas were gleaned from the st device driver written and ported from Mach 2.5 by Julian

     The owner of record for many years was Matthew Jacob.  The current maintainer is Kenneth


     This driver lacks many of the hacks required to deal with older devices.  Many older SCSI-1
     devices may not work properly with this driver yet.

     Additionally, certain tapes (QIC tapes mostly) that were written under FreeBSD 2.X are not
     automatically read correctly with this driver: you may need to explicitly set variable block
     mode or set to the blocksize that works best for your device in order to read tapes written
     under FreeBSD 2.X.

     Partitions are only supported for status information and location.  It would be nice to add
     support for creating and editing tape partitions.