Root drive is running out of disk space. How can I free up space?

  • I'm using Ubuntu 11.04 and I want to free up some space in my root directory, which is overloaded. I especially want to change the path used for installing applications (they are getting installed directly to the root drive).

    Another consideration is that I'm working on a MySQL database server. The server is installed in the root directory itself, so I don't want to risk losing any data.

    Please give me some tips to help sort out this problem.

  • Recently I faced similar situation. Too many applications got installed and they started using my root mount space. I am listing out few steps which I followed and hoping that you could also use the same.

    1. Clean apt-get cache. Following command will remove all downloaded deb files from apt-get cache directory.

      Run this command: sudo apt-get clean

    2. Move /home mount point to different drive. Previously, my home folder was situated on root drive. So I moved my home folder to separate drive. This helped me to release lot of stress from root mount because most of applications store their data in /home/user_name/ folder. Read how to move home folder to separate drive.

    3. Increase size of root partition I know it is very obvious answer. But believe me, our data need changes over the time. I thought 20 GB /root mount would suffice but withing a year I have re-sized my root mount and increased to 50 GB.

    sudo apt-get clean freed up more space than expected, +1

    Beware that `apt-get clean` removes even installed packages. You may want to keep those in case an upgrade fails.

    I cleaned my cache and it cleared up 10 Gb! +1

  • I successfully cleared 3.5 GB by removing old headers and images, using the following command:

    dpkg -l 'linux-*' | sed '/^ii/!d;/'"$(uname -r | sed "s/\(.*\)-\([^0-9]\+\)/\1/")"'/d;s/^[^ ]* [^ ]* \([^ ]*\).*/\1/;/[0-9]/!d' | xargs sudo apt-get -y purge

    You can check what packages will be purged executing the first part of the command:

    dpkg -l 'linux-*' | sed '/^ii/!d;/'"$(uname -r | sed "s/\(.*\)-\([^0-9]\+\)/\1/")"'/d;s/^[^ ]* [^ ]* \([^ ]*\).*/\1/;/[0-9]/!d'


    Other tips didn't help, but this saved me around 5G. Thanks.

    The option `-y` in the apt-get command is not really necessary. If you omit it apt-get will ask you (only once), if all piped packages should be removed. Imho it's better to not use `-y`, it gives you one more possibility to check (besides the second command mentioned above). For me this freed 15GB on the root partition!

    The command `dpkg -l 'linux-*' | sed '/^ii/!d;/'"$(uname -r | sed "s/\(.*\)-\([^0-9]\+\)/\1/")"'/d;s/^[^ ]* [^ ]* \([^ ]*\).*/\1/;/[0-9]/!d' | xargs sudo apt-get -y purge ` tried to remove the currently installed kernel version in my system. Be careful not to make your system unbootable.

    @Antony yaikes! i was about to try this. how can i verify which are ok to delete ?

    @SonicSoul I eventually ended up doing what one of the answers below ( suggests. Basically, ran `uname -r` to find the current kernel and took care not to remove it. If the command provided by `homebrand` to check which packages will be purged does not show the current kernel, then you should be safe running the purge command mentioned by him.

  • Use dpkg-query to find the largest packages and remove the ones you don't need anymore (source):

    dpkg-query --show --showformat='${Package;-50}\t${Installed-Size}\n' | sort -k 2 -n | grep -v deinstall | awk '{printf "%.3f MB \t %s\n", $2/(1024), $1}'

    Now this is a really useful one-liner. Perfect for a quick summary of the biggest install packages. Come to my dotfiles!

  • sudo apt autoclean  # clean /var/cache/apt/archives folder which save packages while install.
    sudo apt autoremove # this command remove unused packages.
    sudo shutdown -rf   # it will restart your PC immediately and check filesystem in next boot.

    You provide no explanations. If someone was to just copy/paste your code, then the system would shut down with no warning, possibly causing a loss of data. Please don't provide commands without any explanation of what they do. -1

    Why the need to check the filesystem?

  • Removing old kernel versions (as suggested already by homebrand) can free up a decent amount of space if you haven't yet got around to doing that.

    There's a number of ways to remove the old kernel versions and a range of different options can be found in the answers posted to: How do I remove old kernel versions to clean up the boot menu?

    My preferred method is mostly this answer from penreturns where it's broken down into fairly simple understandable steps:

    Open terminal and check your current kernel:

    uname -r


    Next, type the command below to view/list all installed kernels on your system.

    dpkg --list | grep linux-image

    Find all the kernels that are lower than your current kernel. When you know which kernel to remove, continue below to remove it.

    Run the command below to remove the kernel you selected.

    sudo apt-get purge linux-image-x.x.x.x-generic

    The answer then says to 'update-grub2' when you're finished purging, which is likely to be out of date now: sudo update-grub should suffice for Ubuntu 14.04 onward. They also then say to 'Reboot your system' (which seems to be so that you can see the cleaned up boot menu) so in this case isn't necessary.

    The grub bootloader menu used to show all the older kernel versions on the main page, but they are now placed out of the way behind a sub-menu. It's much neater but a newcomer to Ubuntu/Linux may not be aware that they are there taking up space.

    As suggested, don't remove the current kernel and it's also advisable to keep the previous kernel version too, just in case you need to roll back to that one.

    There are faster ways to do this, but I prefer the simplicity of this method mainly because I can understand each command along the way:

    "What kernel version am I using? What kernel versions do I have? Okay, purge that one."

    Rinse, repeat, admire the space you've freed up.

    It's fairly easy to copy the name of the specific older kernel you want to remove from the results that dpkg --list | grep linux-image gives you in the terminal, and then use sudo apt-get purge and paste the copied name in.

    Removing 3 or 4 older kernels will usually free up about a GB of space in your root drive.

    In addition to linux-image, you can also also grep for and purge linux-headers

  • When I need make more free space on servers I use this command:

    find / -type f -size +50M -exec du -h {} \; | sort -n

    It finds all files bigger than 50 MB and "du -h" make a better list of files and "sort -n" after pipe make list numerically sorted by file size.

    Depending on how large your system is, this can take some time. Took me 15 mins for about 500 gb on a HDD

  • Following the instructions on the Ubuntu community docs I discovered a massive trash file -- it looked like a backup of /var/log/syslog.1, presumably something was spewing loads of output to syslog...

    The command that found it was:

    sudo find / -size +1G

    And then any large file in a folder called .Trash is probably good to delete...

  • Here is a script I run to free space on root partition

    function myclean {
        ## Show free space
        df -Th | grep -v fs
        # Will need English output for processing
        ## Clean apt cache
        apt-get update
        apt-get -f install
        apt-get -y autoremove
        apt-get clean
        ## Remove old versions of snap packages
        snap list --all | while read snapname ver rev trk pub notes; do
            if [[ $notes = *disabled* ]]; then
                snap remove "$snapname" --revision="$rev"
        ## Set snap versions retain settings
        if [[ $(snap get system refresh.retain) -ne 2 ]]; then snap set system refresh.retain=2; fi
        rm -f /var/lib/snapd/cache/*
        ## Remove old versions of Linux Kernel
        # This one-liner is deprecated since 18.04
        # dpkg -l 'linux-*' | sed '/^ii/!d;/'"$(uname -r | sed "s/\(.*\)-\([^0-9]\+\)/\1/")"'/d;s/^[^ ]* [^ ]* \([^ ]*\).*/\1/;/[0-9]/!d' | xargs apt-get -y purge
        # New 2 lines to remove old kernels
        dpkg --list | grep 'linux-image' | awk '{ print $2 }' | sort -V | sed -n '/'"$(uname -r | sed "s/\([0-9.-]*\)-\([^0-9]\+\)/\1/")"'/q;p' | xargs apt-get -y purge
        dpkg --list | grep 'linux-headers' | awk '{ print $2 }' | sort -V | sed -n '/'"$(uname -r | sed "s/\([0-9.-]*\)-\([^0-9]\+\)/\1/")"'/q;p' | xargs apt-get -y purge
        ## Rotate and delete old logs
        find /var/log -type f -iname *.gz -delete
        sudo journalctl --rotate
        sudo journalctl --vacuum-time=1s
        ## Show free space
        df -Th | grep -v fs

    Edit : New 2 lines old kernels cleaner

    Thanks! "Rotate and delete old logs" clear up several gigs on my drive.

    Nice. Developers may also want to remove their unused docker images: `docker system prune`

    @Pablo A they may look to `/var/crash/*.crash` too

    Since you need `sudo` to call the function, `sudo` within the function seems redundant. Also `vacuum-time=1s` may not always work but I'm not sure because I use vacuum size instead:

  • In Ubuntu, each folder can have its own filesystem. That means you can move any folder onto its own partition, another disk or even on a remote network. This is particularly popular for home directories, since that means you can reinstall Ubuntu without changing your personal settings or loosing any files. It's also popular in networks where users should be able to log onto different machines and still get their personal settings and files. But it is useful in many different cases, such as yours.

    Applications aren't installed into a specific folder, like you seem to suggest. Different parts of the application is placed in different parts of the filesystem. The main program is usually placed in /usr/bin, whereas configuration files are placed in /etc, for instance. In your case, MySQL, the databases themselves are placed somewhere in /var. I think /var/mysql.

    Since /usr and /var are both directories in the root filesystem, they will use the root filesystems space. But as I said, you can move them to different filesystems. In the case of MySQL, you can configure where databases are stored. You could easily move databases to /home/username/.mysql/databases for instance.

  • As of today it's better to use the new feature (since 14.04) to remove older kernel images:

    sudo apt autoremove

    Check out more details: Why doesn't Ubuntu remove old kernels automatically?

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM