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Freeing Disk Space

Disk Usage or Occupied Space

To determine degree of usage of disks and partitions, but not directories, see DiskFull .

Command line tools to see seldom used files

These will not function if file systems are not usually mounted without option strictatime.


The following options are of special interest

See which packages are using the most disk space

Command line

To list packages that take up most of the disk space with aptitude into visual mode, select Views → New Flat Package List (this menu entry is available only after etch version), press l and enter ~i, press S and enter ~installsize, then it will give you nice list to work with. Doing this after upgrading aptitude should give you access to this new feature.

In lenny, aptitude has "why" and "why-not".

 aptitude why package1 

shows why package1 may have been installed.

 aptitude why package1 package2 

tries to work out why installing package1 would drag in package2.

"why-not" looks at conflicts.

These commands only provide one possible explanation. Check /var/log/aptitude for definitive information.

Using aptitude to list uninstalled recommended or suggested packages:

aptitude search '~RBsuggests:~i!~i'

To list upgradeable packages:

aptitude search '~U'

To list manually installed packages:

aptitude search '~i!~M'

To install without recommends but not uninstalling other recommends:

aptitude install -R -o Aptitude::Keep-Recommends=true

To list packages in increasing order of size:

aptitude -F '%I %p' search '~i'|egrep '^[0-9]+[\.,]?[0-9]*[MG]B'|sort -n

Using dpigs (debian-goodies):

dpigs -n50

Using wajig :

wajig size

sorts installed packages by size:

dpkg-query -W --showformat='${Installed-Size} ${Package}\n' | sort -n

Graphical Interface

synaptic, go to installed packages and click on the size column.

Tools to see which directories are using the most disk space

baobab in package gnome-utils

Command line program du of package coreutils

/usr/bin/du --total --summarize --human-readable --one-file-system

Find things to erase

Categorically Expendable Directories



Contents of these directories are only intended to be used in the short term or while a program is running and are generally expendable.




apt-get clean


aptitude clean

Use apt-get autoclean if you want to remove old packages for which you also have the last package.


Things in


are intended to be processed but may be expendable.


Duplicate Handling

When you find duplicates, you can hard link them, if they are on the same file system, or erase duplicates to make them unique.


files you do not want

packages you do not want

Tools to alter files to reduce them

Stripping dbus-daemon exposes a bug in BFD. Executing in find /usr/bin -not -name strip -and -not -name dbus-daemon -execdir strip --strip-unneeded '{}' \;  reduced the size of contents of the directory in a Squeeze installation from 140MB to 120MB.

Do not compress bash or your scripts will crash. Compressed executables may require more memory when run.

Reduce data creation

Use the following line as your /etc/rsyslog.conf configuration file in order to not save logs but output them on virtual terminal 12:

On systems that have been running for some time you might consider stripping out old log files.

Note that localepurge is a package that will strip unwanted language versions from everything you install. If you want a new language in the future you will have to add the locale and then re-install the package.

Compressed File Systems

Application Level / User Space

In Linux

Not ready for general use

The development level of these file systems is such that they are not yet usable for general purpose.

Turn Off Reserved Blocks on ExtFS

By default, ExtFS reserves 5% of the file system for the user 'root' as a safety measure. To turn this off:

tune2fs -r 0 /dev/sda2

This can be done on a mounted filesystem.

Off Line Storage

You may move data to off line storage, such as removable optical disks or disks on an external data bus (such as Firewire or USB).

If you have a read-only source like a write once optical disk, an overlaid unifying file system like aufs or Linux's "union mount" can save changes in a writeable filesystem, saving the user the space of the unchanged portions. The same could be accomplished with a snapshotted filesystem as with Linux Volume Manager (lvm2).

Wish list: