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I have a list of directories that I'd like to delete. However when I do them all at one, load spikes on the box. Does anyone have an example of a script that would wait until load was under a certain level before proceeding with the deletion (interation of the loop)

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Better still, use ionice.

ionice -c3 ./deletion-script

This'll cause your delete command only to run when the disk IO is free, so it has the lowest priority. Cyberciti has a nice little article on all the variants you have, and how to use them.

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Tried it - still caused load to spike. Its a very busy box. – ckliborn Sep 27 '12 at 21:40
Do you have cPanel? cPanel has a binary called cpuwatch designed for exactly this, but I haven't stumbled across a free equivalent. – Jay Sep 27 '12 at 21:43
You should check cpulimit daemon ( – lik Sep 27 '12 at 21:47
It sometimes helps to use both "nice" and "ionice" on top of each other. Depends a bit of the exact flavor of Unix and the specifics of the system you are running, but if it works in your case it would be a quick and dirty easy solution. – Tonny Sep 27 '12 at 21:50
@lik cpuwatch allows you to specify a load average values, which is a little different to cpulimit which is more about cpu time. – Jay Sep 27 '12 at 21:54

ionice is probably the best/simplest solution, but its only really delaying the inevitable and potentially just mean prolonged medium load versus a short run of high load.

There is a good write up here on a systematic controlled approach.

Changing the io scheduler, removing journals, atime and diratime are also contributory factors. There is also a different deletion binary fastrm , you can find the man here

Don't try this at home

A while ago, we were testing faster deletion methods of deletion for terabytes of data. In the end it actually proved quicker to start a rm or mv then interrupt the process with ^c. Then restart the machine with a forced fsck - which then would clean up the inodes and free up the subsequent space on the file system.

It worked surprisingly well and far quicker than a traditional delete - but I would never ever do it on a production system. Ever.

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Note: ionice only works with the default CFQ scheduler. – ewwhite Sep 27 '12 at 21:51

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