Our server running RHEL 4 apparently ran out of space today. It was working fine and I decided to run a du -s on an unused directory of files to see how much space we would free deleting it. Upon returning from the break room, the server was at:

/dev/hda5 112175876  112175876  0 100% /

How could this be? I know this is a very ambiguous question but we were not doing any sort of heavy data transfer at this time, the only thing that apparently triggered it was my running of the du -s command, which makes no sense at all. This is the drive where / is mounted among other things.

Any insights?

  • Do you know what the usage was before the change, and can you do a du now to find out what location is accounting for the new usage? – Shane Madden Mar 20 '12 at 0:16
  • I can only ballpark the usage before and I would say 25% free. I don't know how I would be able to tell via a du what location was using the space now, this is the entire / filesystem. My question I guess has to do with the fact that it has been seen in the past that files can go missing "off the grid" for instance when drives are dismounted, but files still copied to their /media/____ location for instance. We didn't do anything like that but I wondered if there was something similar. – Lucas Mar 20 '12 at 0:48

If you can still access the server, you can find out the folders which are taking most of the space using a command like:

$ sudo du -sh /*

Filling a partition can happen easily and reasonably quickly. Just have a buggy software that writes continuously to the log file without stopping or sleeping. After a short period of time, you will find your file system full. As a precaution for such a scenario, a separate partition is created for /var.

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