I have a raid drive mounted here:


And certain directories like this one:


when I run


w/ or w/o any flags, terminal doesn't return anything. It does not return an empty directory listing. It simply goes to the next line and sits there blank with no prompt coming up. I cannot CTRL-C out of it. I have to close this terminal instance and start over.

At first I thought it was something to do with the ls command, but its pointing to /bin/ls and I can ls other directories just fine.

Also, running this

find /data/somedir/somesubdir

immediately finds all the files just as expected.


dmesg doesn't appear to be spitting out any errors that I see. My raid is at /dev/sda5 so if I do

dmesg | grep sda

I get

sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] 1953083392 512-byte hardware sectors (999979 MB)
sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Write Protect is off
sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Mode Sense: 23 00 00 00
sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Write cache: enabled, read cache: disabled, doesn't support DPO or FUA
sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] 1953083392 512-byte hardware sectors (999979 MB)
sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Write Protect is off
sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Mode Sense: 23 00 00 00
sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Write cache: enabled, read cache: disabled, doesn't support DPO or FUA
 sda: sda1 sda2 sda3 sda4 <<7>libata version 2.21 loaded.
 sda5 >
sd 0:0:0:0: [sda] Attached SCSI disk
EXT3 FS on sda3, internal journal
EXT3 FS on sda5, internal journal
EXT3 FS on sda2, internal journal
EXT3 FS on sda1, internal journal

Nothing out of the ordinary.

Also, my 3ware raid controller shows all disks as OK status and doesn't show any reports of any issues with them.

There doesn't appear to be any server compromise.


ps auxww | grep somesubdir

returns only the grep process for that directory.


I did try leaving the command for upwards of an hour and no result. I was at a loss for what to do next so I went ahead and restarted the server. The problem no longer persists although it does take 10 sec or so to get a directory listing in that subdirectory. I have no idea what the problem was before.

  • Is that ps auxww while the ls is hung there?
    – Bill Weiss
    Mar 15, 2010 at 16:27
  • Try this: ls /data/somedir/somesubdir/ &, then ps auxww | grep somesubdir. Take that PID and do strace -p (pid). What's it say? Hit ^c to break out of the strace.
    – Bill Weiss
    Mar 15, 2010 at 19:44

5 Answers 5


Apart from the suggestions above, I've also seen this problem when there is a very large number of files in the directory you're listing, which amy be causing the file system to run out of inodes. If this is a possibility, try just leaving the ls command to see if it completes after a while.

  • +1 I think this could be the case too Mar 15, 2010 at 16:29
  • Check that you have dir_index enabled on filesystem: sudo dumpe2fs /dev/sda1|grep 'Filesystem features' If it is not enabled, then: 1. backup 2. umount the filesystem 3. tune2fs -O dir_index /dev/.... 4. e2fsck -D /dev/.... Mar 15, 2010 at 18:05

Your disks are probably in trouble. You could try this:

Terminal 1$ ls /data/somedir/somesubdir/
Terminal 2$ ps auxww | grep somesubdir

If the status of your ls is D, that means it's waiting for the disk to do something. Look in dmesg for status messages, and look into SMART if you're not already using it to see how healthy those disks are.

Why does find work ok? Because it doesn't do a stat() on each file. That indicates that the directory is ok, but one or more of the files is on a damaged section of disk (or something similar).


ls without any flags will return nothing if the directory is empty. You need at least ls -a if you want to see anything in the event of the directory being empty.

If the directory isn't empty, it's possible you've got a corrupted filesystem - run fsck to check. If the filesystem is okay and the directory isn't empty, next up is to question ls - perhaps your copy of ls has been replaced in a very primitive form of rootkit?

  • +1 I'm thinking corrupted file system, or something to that effect. Could also be out of inodes (as someone else mentioned).
    – Chris S
    Mar 15, 2010 at 17:31
  • How would being out of inodes cause this problem? A lot of inodes in that directory would take longer to do the ls, but that isn't the same as being almost out.
    – Bill Weiss
    Mar 15, 2010 at 19:45

Try to figure out where it is hanging by running

strace ls $DIR

Maybe there's a file with a name, which contains a sequence of bytes which block your terminal. You can sometimes unblock a blocked terminal sending Ctrl-Q keyboard shortcut (Ctrl-S blocks it).

Try to do /bin/ls -N | less -S and look if there's any file name with suspicious or control characters. Less would show this characters as hex-codes in angle brackets, for example <BF>.

Existence of a file with characters with a code lower than 32 (from <01> to <1F>) may be a sign of system compromise. Or a memory management bug in some program which create files there.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .