1. In general, how can we clean /tmp for freeing up the space taken by non-needed files?

    Note that I once made a mistake by deleting everything under /tmp, and then after rebooting, my Ubuntu was broken. I guess it broke the OS by deleting some system or programs' temporary files created in /tmp and still in use. So now I ask what is some safe way to remove nonneeded files created by some programs? (I can recognize unneeded files created directly by myself, such as a file copied by me into /tmp, but not those not created directly by me even though ls may show my name as the creater).

  2. In particular, I ran a program called pdfbeads, it created some very big file(s) in /tmp (I suspect the file is /tmp/magick-HMwXHfQo which is 1.2GB),and then my / partition for/tmp ran out of space and the program aborted.

    Now my / partition is still filled up. How can I clean /tmp for freeing up the space taken by non-needed files?

OS: Ubuntu 12.04

  • Rebooting the machine should take care of stopping the services and then restart them accordingly.
    – Ramesh
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 4:04
  • Thanks, solution without rebooting?
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 4:08
  • From a quick glance most people look to see how long the files have been in the directory & delete things that haven't been used in 4 days now if you are using this on a server that is constantly running certain programs which use the /tmp directory this could cause problems. This has some explanation, but tmpreaperlooks like it has a better way of checking to see if any file is being used at the time. Link here
    – No Time
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 4:26
  • 1
    /tmp/magick-* are usually temporary files created by IM (imagemagick). If IM exits with error those files will not be automatically removed so you'll have to remove them manually. Other than that, see the question linked by @NoTime. Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 4:27
  • If /tmp is a tmpfs mount, turn on the atime mount option, and delete files with an atime more than 24 hours ago.
    – phemmer
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 5:07

1 Answer 1


Rebooting the system or restarting the failed services should solve the problem. There is probably no way to "repair" a running process which is missing its tmp file.

If you reboot the system often then you may just delete all (old) files in /tmp on boot. Otherwise you may use tools like tmpreaper.

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