I'm trying to free up some disk space - if I do a df -h, I have a filesystem called /dev/mapper/vg00-var which says its 4G, 3.8G used, 205M left.

That corresponds to my /var directory.

If I descend into /var and do du -kscxh *, the total is 2.1G

2.1G + 200M free = 2.3G... So my question is, where is the remaining 1.7G ?

  • What does du -shx /var say?
    – Kyle Smith
    Apr 16, 2012 at 11:31
  • 1
    You could also have deleted files that have open file handles. The OS won't release the space until the handles are closed, but you won't see them with "du". You can run "lsof /var |grep deleted" (or something similar) to see those. This would actually not be a surprising finding in, say, /var/log, if the logs are rotated but the logging process isn't HUP'ed in the right way.
    – cjc
    Apr 16, 2012 at 11:33
  • I had been deleting some log files that had gone crazy, it seemed as though they hadn't been rotating, but anyway, I had a one word email from a friend 'reboot' - figured he was being sarcastic but apparently not :) I have found my disk space again.... disaster averted (for now).
    – Codecraft
    Apr 16, 2012 at 11:40
  • @Codecraft Yeah, rebooting will definitely clear any open file handles, although that's sort of like cracking an egg with a hammer.
    – cjc
    Apr 16, 2012 at 11:48
  • @cjc as long as I get at the yolky goodness...! Any suggestions on how I could clear open file handles without hammering my egg?
    – Codecraft
    Apr 16, 2012 at 11:56

1 Answer 1


You probably have some deleted big log file, database file or something similar lying around, waiting for the process holding the file releasing it.

In Linux, a file deletion simply unlinks the file. It actually gets deleted when there's no file handles connected to that file anymore. So, if you have a 2 GB log file which you delete manually with rm, the disk space will not be freed until you restart syslog daemon (or send HUP signal to it).


lsof -n | grep -i deleted

and see if you have any deleted zombie files still floating around.

  • I didn't get to running your command, but what you said appeared to be bang on - I had been manually killing some logs-gone-crazy, and in the end, a reboot caused the disk space to be recalculated and show correctly.
    – Codecraft
    Apr 16, 2012 at 11:42
  • It worked for us with Apache logs filling up the /var/log/apache/ directory. So you may not have to restart your whole server, nor syslog, just the service you'll find in the output of the command above.
    – Yvan
    Sep 30, 2014 at 14:08
  • Just had this ourselves. We had the tomcat6 catalina.out not get caught by logrotate, do we deleted it when it reached 4Gb and fixed logrotate. Weeks later we wondered why the 4Gb hadn't come back. That lsof command showed we had a lot of tomcat files pending deletion. Restarting tomcat and suddenly we have tonnes of space back!
    – Nick
    Mar 10, 2016 at 9:31
  • Finally an answer that worked for me. PostgreSQL had crashed and left open connections to 400GiB (!!!) of unlinked files on a 1TiB disk. Restarting Postgres fixed it.
    – sudo
    Apr 9, 2017 at 3:26

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