For /tmp in /etc/fstab, I have mode=1777, but after a reboot, the permissions on /tmp are 0755. Another directory /var/tmp is configured in exactly the same way but does not have this problem (see below). This is a Raspberry Pi running Ubuntu 18.04 Server. The root filesystem is a microSD card mounted read-only.

What is the proper way to make the 1777 permissions permanent?

Here are some additional details (after a fresh boot):

$ touch /tmp/test
touch: cannot touch '/tmp/test': Permission denied

$ whoami

$ ls -ld /tmp /var/tmp
drwxr-xr-x 9 root root 180 Dec 26 13:54 /tmp
drwxrwxrwt 4 root root  80 Dec 26 13:54 /var/tmp

$ mount |grep /tmp
tmpfs on /var/tmp type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,noatime,size=65536k)
tmpfs on /tmp type tmpfs (rw,nosuid,nodev,noexec,noatime,size=131072k)

$ grep /tmp /etc/fstab
tmpfs  /var/tmp  tmpfs  defaults,noatime,nosuid,nodev,noexec,mode=1777,size=64M   0  0
tmpfs  /tmp      tmpfs  defaults,noatime,nosuid,nodev,noexec,mode=1777,size=128M  0  0

$ sudo systemctl status tmp.mount
● tmp.mount - /tmp
   Loaded: loaded (/etc/fstab; generated)
   Active: active (mounted) since Sun 2018-01-28 15:58:18 UTC; 10 months 27 days ago
    Where: /tmp
     What: tmpfs
     Docs: man:fstab(5)
  Process: 642 ExecMount=/bin/mount tmpfs /tmp -t tmpfs -o defaults,noatime,nosuid,nodev,noexec,mode=1777,size=128M (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
    Tasks: 0 (limit: 2146)
   CGroup: /system.slice/tmp.mount

Jan 28 15:58:18 testsystem systemd[1]: Mounting /tmp...
Jan 28 15:58:18 testsystem systemd[1]: Mounted /tmp.

$ grep -R '/tmp' /etc/tmpfiles.d /usr/lib/tmpfiles.d
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/x11.conf:D! /tmp/.X11-unix 1777 root root 10d
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/x11.conf:D! /tmp/.ICE-unix 1777 root root 10d
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/x11.conf:D! /tmp/.XIM-unix 1777 root root 10d
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/x11.conf:D! /tmp/.font-unix 1777 root root 10d
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/x11.conf:D! /tmp/.Test-unix 1777 root root 10d
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/x11.conf:r! /tmp/.X[0-9]*-lock
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/tmp.conf:D /tmp 1777 root root -
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/tmp.conf:#q /var/tmp 1777 root root 30d
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/tmp.conf:x /tmp/systemd-private-%b-*
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/tmp.conf:X /tmp/systemd-private-%b-*/tmp
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/tmp.conf:x /var/tmp/systemd-private-%b-*
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/tmp.conf:X /var/tmp/systemd-private-%b-*/tmp
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/tmp.conf:R! /tmp/systemd-private-*
/usr/lib/tmpfiles.d/tmp.conf:R! /var/tmp/systemd-private-*

$ sudo chmod 1777 /tmp

$ ls -ld /tmp /var/tmp
drwxrwxrwt 9 root root 180 Dec 26 13:55 /tmp
drwxrwxrwt 4 root root  80 Dec 26 13:55 /var/tmp

$ cat /etc/rc.local
service ntp start
exit 0

$ uname -a
Linux testsystem 4.15.0-1030-raspi2 #32-Ubuntu SMP PREEMPT Fri Dec 7 09:15:28 UTC 2018 armv7l armv7l armv7l GNU/Linux

Related, unanswered questions:

  • What is the output of umask? Dec 26, 2018 at 15:18
  • umask is 0007 and it's not set in .bashrc or .profile
    – bitinerant
    Dec 26, 2018 at 15:22
  • One standard reason for this is that you untarred or unzipped a file in /tmp as the root user and this reset the permissions. You can fix it with chmod 1777 /tmp Dec 26, 2018 at 15:39
  • Yes, I know I can manually fix the permissions. My question is how to make it survive a reboot (without a bad hack).
    – bitinerant
    Dec 26, 2018 at 15:41
  • Can you check if you have /tmp listed in any of the systemd-tmpfiles configs, under /usr/lib/tmpfiles.d or /etc/tmpfiles.d? The mount settings are correct, the permissions are probably being broken by something after the filesystem is mounted... Now you need to find what is breaking them, in order to fix them. Good luck!
    – filbranden
    Dec 26, 2018 at 16:13

1 Answer 1


This was part of my initial configuration (because / is mounted read-only):

sudo rm -rf /var/spool && sudo ln -s /tmp /var/spool

Apparently at boot, the system does chmod 755 /var/spool, which changed /tmp in my case.

The fix was to replace the symlink with a normal directory and add a third tmpfs mount:

sudo rm -rf /var/spool && sudo mkdir /var/spool && sudo chmod 755 /var/spool
echo 'tmpfs /var/spool tmpfs  defaults,noatime,nosuid,nodev,noexec,mode=0755,size=64M   0  0' |sudo tee -a /etc/fstab

Thanks to everyone for the comments which directed me in the correct direction, especially Filipe Brandenburger's "Do you have any other scripts or units messing with /tmp on startup?"

  • 2
    I'd advise against making /var/spool publically writable if you have non-admin users on your system. There are lots of packages that use that directory tree - rsyslog, cron, anacron, dma, libreoffice-core, cups-daemon, at least. I don't know how much they check ownership of various directories. I'm particularly worried about a writable /var/spool/cron/crontabs. Dec 26, 2018 at 18:20
  • Mark, you are right. Thanks for noticing my oversight. In practice though, the mode=1777 that I had before my edit did not have any effect because of the chmod 755 /var/spool that happens during boot.
    – bitinerant
    Dec 26, 2018 at 18:48
  • Glad to see you figured this out!
    – filbranden
    Dec 27, 2018 at 3:06

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