df & du showing different usages for /var

alex at schnarff.com alex at schnarff.com
Wed Feb 6 20:13:27 UTC 2008

>> After nearly running out of space on my /var partition recently, I went
>> in to clean things up and ensure that it didn't happen again. Using the
>> "du" command to look for offending directories and files, I wiped out a
>> bunch of old Apache and Qmail logs...and then found that I was still
>> using 90% of the partition. So I cd'd over to /var, and got this rather
>> surprising set of results:
>> [alex at tms /var]$ sudo du -sh
>> 395M    .
>> [alex at tms /var]$ df -h
>> Filesystem     Size    Used   Avail Capacity  Mounted on
>> /dev/ad4s1a    484M    126M    320M    28%    /
>> devfs          1.0K    1.0K      0B   100%    /dev
>> /dev/ad4s1f    269G     40G    207G    16%    /data
>> /dev/ad4s1d    9.7G    7.2G    1.7G    81%    /usr
>> /dev/ad4s1e    1.9G    1.6G    173M    90%    /var
>> These wildly different results have me confused. How in the world can
>> there be a ~1.2GB difference between the disk space in use as reported
>> by these two tools?
> Because they calculate the space differently.
>> Which is right?
> They're both right ... in the manner that they calculate it.
>> More importantly, how do I fix this?
> Well, this depends on your definition of "fix".
> If you mean fix du and dh, there's nothing to fix, they're doing their
> job exactly correctly.  du calculates the used space by looking at each
> file in each directory.  df calculates it by looking at low-level ffs
> data.
> If you have one program with a file open, and delete that file with
> another program, you create a discrepancy between how df and du operate.
> Since there is no longer a directory entry, du doesn't count the space,
> but since the other program still has the file open, the filesystem still
> has the space allocated and used, so df sees the space.  This is the
> correct behaviour.
> If you mean, how do I actually free up space, the answer could come in
> a number of ways.  Generally, the easiest thing to do is just reboot the
> system.  Whatever program has space reserved will exit and the filesystem
> will reclaim it.  (If the space doesn't free up after a reboot, something
> else is wrong)
> If a reboot isn't an option, you can often figure out what's going on
> by comparing the list of open files provided by fstat with a list of
> files that you were deleting.  You might then be able to free up the
> space simply by restarting a single program: possibly Apache or qmail.

Thanks for such a thorough and prompt response. Given Erik's reply, it 
looks like I've inadverdently asked an FAQ...and reading the entry he 
pointed me to, it makes perfect sense what's going on, and a simple 
restart of Apache fixed things up.


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