Thursday, December 3, 2009

Reclaim Disk Space

Filling a partition to 100% can have an unpleasant effect on your system. When services and other programs cannot write to their log files, or cannot save data in /var, you could be in trouble. These programs won't be able to save their data, and typically quit out (or, in some extreme cases, crash dramatically!). To avoid this, the ext2,ext3 and ext4 filesystems reserve 5% of their capacity for only root processes to use. This is a good idea, but 5% is a lot on large drives - for instance, it's 25GB on a 500GB drive. Also, there is no need to reserve any space on a filesystem not used for root files, such as /home.

The good news is that not only is this 5% not hardcoded into the filesystem, it can be changed on the fly without disturbing the your data and files. Tune2fs is used to tune various parameters of an ext2,ext3 and the new ext4 filesystem. It can be used to change the volume label or the number of mounts between forced execution of fsck and a host of other, more esoteric settings, but the options we are interested in here are -m and -r. The former changes the percentage of filesystem blocks reserved for the root user, while the latter uses an absolute number of blocks.

Example: tune2fs -m 2 /dev/sda1

reduces the reserved area to 2% of the filesystem, which may be more appropriate for if you have a large / or /var filesystem. If you're using a drive of 500GB or larger, this is the best option.

This line of code:

tune2fs -m 0 /dev/sda1

sets the filesystem to have no reserved blocks, a good setting for /home that doesn't need a reserved area for the superuser.


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