I have some unused space on my disk, and decided to use a little of it to create a separate /var partition. There might be an easier way to do this, but my idea is to

  1. copy the existing /var directory to the partition;
  2. mount the partition over the existing /var directory;
  3. using another system, either another distro on the disk or a live CD, to delete the original /var contents while the partition is not mounted.

I've done the first 2 steps, and it seems OK so far. I've made an entry in fstab to mount on boot, which I'll test before deleting. But I'm wondering if this is a valid strategy, and also if it's a good idea and/or if there is a better way. It's somewhat of a learning experience for me to play around more with mounting beyond the basics.

Edit (results):

Thanks to the suggestions below, I completed step 3 without the need to use a 2nd system. The method I used was to remount the root fs using the command mount --bind / /mnt/temp, then going to /mnt/temp/var and deleting the files and directories there.

The one suggestion made after I did it was to create a dummy file, and then check the mounted /var directory to confirm that it was not seen in that directory. But I compared timestamps to see that they were different, so I felt confident that I was OK.

Thanks for the suggestions, everyone.

2 Answers 2


If you're on Linux you can :

  • Mount your root filesystem on a random mountpoint. I usually use /mnt for this sort of things.

    mount --bind / /mnt
  • Then you can (re)move the files from /mnt/var

Not all OS's allow a filesystem mounted on a second mount point at the same time, that's why I wrote 'on Linux'. Just try the mount, it won't break anything.

  • Interesting idea - So, I'll see the "real" /var directory doing that, instead of the mounted one. If that's true, then this method is much more straightforward than any other ideas I saw in my research for accessing the original files when mounting on a non-empty directory. I'll check it out and come back later. Commented May 2, 2012 at 18:31
  • Well, that worked out perfectly - amazing that it was that easy. I used the command sudo mount --bind / /mnt/temp to mount the filesystem, and deleted the files with no problem, after confirming that the timestamps were different than /var, to make sure it was indeed different. Thanks for the tip. Commented May 2, 2012 at 18:53

I'm going to assume (very dangerous, I know) that you are running out of space on your primary partition and have added a new disk.

/dev/sda1 /boot /dev/sda2 / /dev/sdb1 /var

Assuming you've copied over the /var folder on sda2 to the partition on sdb1 you can mount sda2 a second time:

mount /dev/sda2 /root/tmp
cd /root/tmp/var
rm -rf *

You are now in the old '/var' directory, you can check by creating a file, it will not be under /var but it will be there under /root/tmp/var

Now you can safely delete the files onder /root/tmp/var and umount tmp.

DISCLAIMER: No warranty, use at your own risk, do not trust me (or anyone else on the internet) take backups!

  • Well, your answer was good, but the assumption wasn't. :) I wasn't running out of space, but I wanted to avoid that possibility in the future. I had plenty of unused space on my drive, along with several used and unused partitions to play with, so I decided to do this more as something that seemed like a good idea. I used the tip from @jippie before I saw your post, but both seem to be similar. Yours was more detailed, but I didn't really need details too much, just the idea was enough. Thanks for the post Commented May 2, 2012 at 19:02

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