Leaking Free Disk Space

August 03, 2015

I’ve been watching a disk space leakage creep slowly upwards for months now; finally, I figured out where it was going!

Whenever I set up a VPS, I follow Brian Kennedy’s excellent My First 5 Minutes On A Server; Or, Essential Security for Linux Servers. It covers setting up a number of initial tools that make server administration much easier:

  • fail2ban, for blocking suspicious log in activity
  • setting up a non-root user
  • ufw, a simple firewall program
  • unattended-upgrades, which installs security upgrades periodically
  • logwatch, so you can read a digest of what’s happened in your logs

Ever since I set up my VPS, I’d seen the disk space creep up in the daily logwatch digest. I had looked a few times and figured it must be related to some sort of misconfiguration of the Ruby app server I have running on it right now.

Recently, it got up to more than half of my disk space gone. For a VPS that I used maybe twice a month, this was ridiculous. I investigated once more and finally came up with the culprit: unattended-upgrades wasn’t autoremoving packages. I had gigabytes worth of packages that could be autoremoved.


There’s a one-line config file fix. Add this to /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/50unattended-upgrades:

// Do automatic removal of new unused dependencies after the upgrade
// (equivalent to apt-get autoremove)
Unattended-Upgrade::Remove-Unused-Dependencies "true";

Update: It looks like a bug in unattented-upgrades is preventing it from automatically removing header packages. For the time being you will have to either manually auto-remove these packages, or add sudo apt-get autoremove -y to your crontab.

Update: The bug has been addressed and closed. It now correctly removes header packages!

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