A friend of mine partitioned his ubuntu system with /usr on a separate partition. That partition is now full. He can't use apt to install new software. Is there anything in /usr that he can safely delete (i.e. delete with rm, not apt-get remove)?

Since he can't install new software he can't install something like dpigs (the tool for checking which packages is taking up space)

6 Answers 6


Have you tried "sudo apt-get clean", "apt-get autoclean", and "apt-get autoremove"? If you use "man apt-get" that will describe what each does and may free some space.

  • 5
    clean only deletes stuff in /var.
    – womble
    Nov 23, 2009 at 14:39
  • 1
    As @womble said, clean only deletes things in /var. However autoremove will delete things in /usr, so it might save something Nov 23, 2009 at 15:30
  • 1
    Whoops...didn't hurt to try it though :-) Looks like autoremove may give wanted results. It may have given some direction in which to look though. Nov 24, 2009 at 12:06
  • On a similar quest, I found sudo apt-get clean to be most effective. apt-get autoclean and apt-get autoremove actually decreased available space. clean released it again. I checked disk space with df -h.
    – RolfBly
    Oct 21, 2014 at 15:25
  • Running apt-get autoremove will remove lingering (older versions) linux-modules in the /usr directory (resulting in freeing up space). May 25, 2023 at 11:34

I had a similar problem. First step was to find the top ten space hogs:

# cd /usr/share
# du -sm * | sort -rn | head -10

/usr/share/doc was 759MB on my system. Space that could be useful for other purposes. With *nix you can move things around without breaking things. In my case I had plenty of free space on /home which was on a different partition:

# mkdir -p /home/share/doc
# mv /usr/share/doc/* /home/share/doc
# rmdir /usr/share/doc
# ln -s /home/share/doc /usr/share/doc 

If you are really desparate, you can always mount an external hard drive and perform a similar relocation process. The thing to watch for in that case is that you don't move anything critical to the system startup to the external drive. /usr/src is another candidate, but I wouldn't move /usr/lib, too risky.

  • /usr/share/doc is the best place to purge. /usr/src can contain locally-built stuff that can't be easily replaced.
    – womble
    Nov 23, 2009 at 14:40
  • 1
    yes, but sometimes it conain vanilla kernel and standard sources what easily can be restored from internet
    – vlad
    Nov 24, 2009 at 11:03
  • 1
    /usr/share/doc is a good one to clean up, however, using apt-get to delete the files would be a better way. Is there some easy way to remove those files using apt? Dec 21, 2009 at 10:28

Another option not explored is to resize the partitions with the gparted livecd. Backup your critical data first though and be prepared to loose the lot just in case. I have done a resize a few times before and not had an issue so it's quite a robust procedure.

Another extension to this is that he could move everything from /usr to another larger partition linking it with a symbolic link to the new location. Then using gparted you can remove the old /usr partition and merge /usr into the other partition.

Personally, I don't see the need to separate partitions for /usr /home etc like the old days. It often results in more issues than it solves (i.e. running out of space). Still, that's just my opinion.


An ugly hack would be to try uninstalling GNOME and get something lightweight instead. Presumably this shall save some space.


I like the solution by CyberFonic best, however when creating the symlink I had to give it the option for 'no dereference' since it's a directory. Otherwise i would get errors when installing anything that tried to add a doc file, since /usr/share/doc wasn't being seen as a directory. I couldn't cd to /usr/share/doc until I did the symlink like so:

sudo ln -sfn /home/usr/share/doc /usr/share/doc

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