I have a directory /home/foo on a server, and I guess that it is not needed any more.

Unfortunately nobody can tell me if this directory is still needed.


If this directory is still needed, I want to know which process accesses it.

Current Strategy

Watch all file opens below this directory.

Why not inotify

Unfortunately the directory contains a lot of sub-directories, that's why I don't want to use inotify.

  • 1604508 files
  • 287253 sub-directories


How can I watch all file opens below a directory (recursive) tree? I want to know which process access it.


  • /home is an ext4 filesystem.
  • SuSE Linux 12.3. Kernel: 3.7.10

Not duplicate

My question is not a duplicate of Is it possible to find out what program or script created a given file? since ....:

  • I can't use inotify since the directory tree contains too many sub directories.
  • I can't use loggedfs: I can't change the file system type of this directory.


There are already two good answers. But I am curious, maybe there are other ways: Bounty of 50 :-)

  • Which Linux distribution? Apr 26 '16 at 10:37
  • @EightBitTony SuSE. I updated the question.
    – guettli
    Apr 26 '16 at 11:04
  • SUSE has auditd, so my answer should work. Apr 26 '16 at 11:07
  • 1
    You can always take the low-tech approach of removing the directory tree (after backing up the fs, of course) and seeing who or what complains. :)
    – jayhendren
    May 12 '16 at 22:32
  • 1
    @jayhendren I fully support the BOFH method of "removing it and seeing who complains".
    – Zanchey
    May 16 '16 at 19:29

You should be able to use auditd (although it depends on your Linux distribution having it available).

The auditctl command is used to configure auditing, and the man page should describe how to achieve what you need.

Something like,

auditctl -w /home/foo -p war -k foo-watch

You can then search the audit log later using,

ausearch -k foo-watch

An example of doing this on SUSE can be found here.


I don't know if it's enabled in SuSE, but the fanotify api watches an entire filesystem. There is even a simple utility fatrace that will show you each file being opened, read, written, closed. Example

$ cd; sudo fatrace -f O -c 
tail(1500): CO /home/meuh/dot/privoxy/logs/160426
ls(28599): O /home/meuh
bash(2075): O /home/meuh/dot/bashhistory.xt-right

The -f O is just to trace opens, and -c to just trace the entire filesystem which holds the current working directory. You can optionally get a timestamp too.


I can see several ways:

  • if your filesystem containing /home/foo is mounted with the atime (or equivalent for your filesystem's type), you can then use find /home/foo -atime +10 -ls to see if any of its files has been accessed in less than 11 days

  • or if you prefer to "poke" and see if right now something is accessed under this directory : lsof | grep /home/foo should give you some clue (to test: cd /home/foo ; lsof | grep /home/foo : should at least outputs your shell's pid, as it now has its cwd (current working directory) under that path...)

( note: I can't test both right now, no linux at hand... but I think both should work )

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