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I have recently had an incident in which my /var/mail/spool/ file grew to the size of 32G (yes, that is gigabytes), completely filling its system partition (/dev/sda2) and most of what I saw inside were Hibernate messages.

When I tried to restart my laptop, I got an error message from the GUI saying that the system was unable to start. Then I went into the recovery mode (command-line only) and was able to shell into the system. I did some du investigation and found the above described anomaly. I deleted the file and then was able to log into X11 (KDE Desktop) fine.

My question is: Why does X11 on Fedora 16 rely on non-boot device for startup? Can it be configured to only use the boot device or is X11 considered almost like any other application? I would like to be able to at least get inside my D.E. even if all other disk partitions are unusable but the boot partition is.


Disk size management

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What partitions do you have? X11 doesn't care about /boot, in fact you can run your whole system with /boot unmounted. Did you mean the root filesystem instead of the “boot device”? Do you have a separate /var? That's hardly ever useful, and a lot of programs do need to write to /var. – Gilles Oct 31 '12 at 22:53
/dev/sda1 99150 79569 14461 85% /boot. i thought all booting business took place there – amphibient Nov 1 '12 at 12:23
/boot only contains the bootloader and the kernel. Everything that's done under Linux comes from outside /boot. Please edit your question to post all your partitions (output of df or of mount), you've only posted one that doesn't matter. – Gilles Nov 1 '12 at 12:36
up vote 1 down vote accepted

If a filesystem fills up, that can cause all sort of grief. The graphical environment uses space for temporary files in /tmp and /var/tmp, in /var/log the system keeps logs (and if there isn't space it will cause problems). And so on. You should be able to log in in rescue mode (single-user mode, boot with kernel argument 1) and clean up.

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