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This is something I used to do a lot on Windows, but after my recent fiasco I want to make sure. Is it safe to do

sudo rm -rf /tmp/*


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Is this is an ever running server, or a desktop machine with daily shutdown? – user unknown Apr 13 '11 at 17:29
up vote 11 down vote accepted

In general, no.

If it's filling up with junk, you may want to look at what software isn't cleaning up after itself.

You can also use find to identify files which haven't been modified or accessed in a long time that are probably safe to delete.

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Concur with the chorus of 'no' here, and the addendum that most linux distros automatically clean out /tmp/ on startup. While this doesn't necessarily help if we're talking about a no-reboots-EVER server here, one possibility might be running find ./ -type f -atime 14 -exec rm {} \; every week or so to delete any plain file that hasn't been accessed at all in the past two weeks... – Shadur Apr 13 '11 at 11:32
find ./ -type f -atime 14 -delete with gnu-find – user unknown Apr 13 '11 at 17:30
@user this of course assume that /tmp isn't using the current kernel defaults which is relatime only update when the file is modified, or noatime. In which case atime isn't going to be remotely helpful. – xenoterracide Apr 17 '11 at 8:27

The real answer is - it depends. /tmp may be used by applications that require lockfiles or temporary logs to be present in order to run, or it may not. There may be symlinks in there...not sure what for, but it's always possible.

You should really look at what is in there before you decide to remove it. doing an rf -rf * on anything is inherently dangerous.

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On my system, logfiles go to /var/log, lockfiles to /var/lock. – user unknown Apr 13 '11 at 17:27
@user sure, for system daemons... this doesn't necessarily mean that there aren't locks or logs for a users application in /tmp because the normal user can't write to /var/log|lock I have a shell script that writes a lock to /tmp – xenoterracide Apr 17 '11 at 8:27

No. For example, if you have a MySQL database running on your computer that will kill its socket, or if you are using emacs as a server that will kill the server process. There are many other cases where it is not safe to remove these files. The best thing to do is to write a script which checks the date of the file and only removes it if it is old.

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Please use tmpreaper.

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But you could a ramdisk for the /tmp dir then it would be empty after every reboot of the system. And as a side effect your system may become a little big faster.

Google has a lot on info on tmpfs and/or ramfs.

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Is it not common to clear /tmp automatically on restart? Gentoo does, and I think Ubuntu does, but it's been a while since I used it – Michael Mrozek Apr 13 '11 at 17:11
No I don't think the Debian derived distros like Ubuntu does it (right now anyway). But it is quite easy to add this if you like it. – Johan Apr 13 '11 at 18:31
Ubuntu Matty (or whatever the current release is called) does. But if you don't reboot your machine regularly, it won't happen. – Rob Apr 13 '11 at 21:53
Ok, did not check the current. I'm using the LTS track right now. – Johan Apr 14 '11 at 6:25
Ubuntu does, and every Linux I tested before, did: Knoppix, Peanut, Halloween, Red Hat, SuSe. Why would it make the system faster? What exactly would be faster? Calculations, disk access, networking, boot up? – user unknown Apr 17 '11 at 10:23

I would like to ask why you want to delete files in /tmp? Is it because it is filling up, or is it for privacy reasons? If it's a space issue, it may be due to a badly behaved application, or it may be that it needs to be on a larger partition. If privacy, there are other alternatives, such as using encrypted filesystems that you may want to consider.

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