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I have made some changes to my /etc/defaults/periodic.conf file to change how it cleans the /tmp dir. Do I need to do anything else such as log-out or reboot to get the system (Mac OS 10.8.4) to see the changes or will the new file changes automatically be used after I save the file?

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I assume you mean /etc/defaults/periodic.conf (aka /private//etc/defaults/periodic.conf)? If so, it's read in by the periodic maintenance scripts each time they run, so the changes should take effect immediately (which actually means the next time maintenance runs, generally next morning at 3:15am).

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Correct. The "periodic" system is just a bunch of scripts fired by a handful of cron jobs. The "configuration", which is really just a shell script that gets executed so that the configuration variables get set with the relevant information, is "read" every time cron fires off one of the periodic jobs. –  Chris S Sep 28 '13 at 2:21

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