Whether you were downloading files or installing more applications than your storage has the capacity for, eventually you disk space will be filled and could wreak havoc on your Linux system. Your system itself could be generating temporary files or logs that would eat up your precious disk space.

You can remove these unwanted files to reclaim your disk space. Some methods are universal across Linux distributions while some are dependent on the distribution. apt for example is used to manage packages for Ubuntu and Debian derivatives while yum is used for distributions such as RHEL, Fedora and CentOS.

Steps to free up disk space on Linux:

  1. Check disk utilisation on disks and mount points.
    $ df -h
    Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
    tmpfs           391M  1.9M  389M   1% /run
    /dev/sda3        20G  7.2G   11G  40% /
    tmpfs           2.0G     0  2.0G   0% /dev/shm
    tmpfs           5.0M     0  5.0M   0% /run/lock
    tmpfs           4.0M     0  4.0M   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
    /dev/sdb         20G   19G   59M 100% /data
    /dev/sda2       512M  7.9M  505M   2% /boot/efi
    tmpfs           391M   88K  391M   1% /run/user/126
    tmpfs           391M  104K  391M   1% /run/user/1000
  2. Find large files or specific file types that could be deleted for each mount points.
    $ sudo find /data -printf '%s %p\n'| sort -nr | head -10
    [sudo] password for user: 
    19327352832 /data/file.img
    471859200 /data/file2.img
    3862528 /data/.cache/tracker/meta.db
    380901 /data/.cache/gstreamer-1.0/registry.x86_64.bin
    363086 /data/.cache/tracker/ontologies.gvdb
    346716 /data/.local/share/tracker/data/tracker-store.journal
    177047 /data/.cache/ibus/bus/registry
    90672 /data/.cache/tracker/meta.db-wal
    86016 /data/.local/share/evolution/addressbook/system/contacts.db
    75913 /data/.local/share/tracker/data/tracker-store.ontology.journal
  3. Delete large or unnecessary files.
    $ rm /data/file.img /data/file2.img
    rm: remove write-protected regular file '/data/file.img'? y
    rm: remove write-protected regular file '/data/file2.img'? y
  4. Check for large user-specific application settings and data directories.
    $ du -hs ~/.[^.]*
    4.0K	/home/user/.bash_history
    4.0K	/home/user/.bash_logout
    4.0K	/home/user/.bashrc
    5.1M	/home/user/.cache
    160K	/home/user/.config
    16K	/home/user/.gnupg
    848K	/home/user/.local
    452M	/home/user/.npm
    4.0K	/home/user/.profile
    4.0K	/home/user/.ssh
    0	/home/user/.sudo_as_admin_successful
  5. Delete large and unnecessary user-specific application settings and data.
    $ rm -rf /home/user/.npm

  6. Delete home directories of nonexistent users.
    $ sudo rm -rf /home/mike/
  7. Clean up Download or other temporary folders.
    $ rm -rf ~/Downloads/*
  8. Clear Trash folder.
    $ rm -rf ~/.local/share/Trash/files/*
  9. Clear old systemd logs.
    $ sudo journalctl --disk-usage && sudo journalctl --vacuum-time=7d
    Archived and active journals take up 240.0M in the file system.
    Vacuuming done, freed 0B of archived journals from /var/log/journal.
    Deleted archived journal /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151/[email protected]490a208e1.journal (24.0M).
    Deleted archived journal /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151/[email protected]b274a5669f39.journal (16.0M).
    Deleted archived journal /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151/[email protected]f6fba6857.journal (16.0M).
    Deleted archived journal /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151/[email protected]b5bf7391f30f.journal (8.0M).
    Deleted archived journal /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151/[email protected]6a36afa1f.journal (8.0M).
    Deleted archived journal /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151/[email protected]6a5854959.journal (24.0M).
    Deleted archived journal /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151/[email protected]b856ba685e8f.journal (16.0M).
    Deleted archived journal /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151/[email protected]f664f0469.journal (16.0M).
    Deleted archived journal /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151/[email protected]baef71f8a720.journal (16.0M).
    Deleted archived journal /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151/[email protected]63fbd8a2b.journal (8.0M).
    Deleted archived journal /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151/[email protected]bd8640bfaf3d.journal (8.0M).
    Deleted archived journal /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151/[email protected]bd8642463547.journal (8.0M).
    Deleted archived journal /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151/[email protected]641907c49.journal (16.0M).
    Vacuuming done, freed 184.0M of archived journals from /var/log/journal/38fcf097cda64808aef7af32f0834151.
    Vacuuming done, freed 0B of archived journals from /run/log/journal.
  10. List installed programs or packages.
    $ sudo apt list --installed # Ubuntu and Debian derivatives 
    
    Listing...
    accountsservice/groovy-updates,groovy-security,now 0.6.55-0ubuntu13.2 amd64 [installed,automatic]
    acl/groovy,now 2.2.53-8 amd64 [installed,automatic]
    acpi-support/groovy,now 0.143 amd64 [installed,automatic]
    acpid/groovy,now 1:2.0.32-1ubuntu1 amd64 [installed,automatic]
    adcli/groovy-updates,groovy-security,now 0.9.0-1ubuntu1.2 amd64 [installed,automatic]
    adduser/groovy,groovy,now 3.118ubuntu2 all [installed]
    adwaita-icon-theme/groovy,groovy,now 3.38.0-1ubuntu1 all [installed,automatic]
    aisleriot/groovy,now 1:3.22.9-1 amd64 [installed,automatic]
    alsa-base/groovy,groovy,now 1.0.25+dfsg-0ubuntu5 all [installed,automatic]
    ##### snipped
    $ rpm -qa # RHEL, Fedora, CentOS and Red Hat derivatives
    sysstat-11.7.3-5.el8.x86_64
    plymouth-scripts-0.9.4-7.20200615git1e36e30.el8.x86_64
    fontpackages-filesystem-1.44-22.el8.noarch
    file-libs-5.33-16.el8_3.1.x86_64
    ipset-libs-7.1-1.el8.x86_64
    libdnf-0.48.0-5.el8.x86_64
    publicsuffix-list-dafsa-20180723-1.el8.noarch
    systemd-239-41.el8_3.2.x86_64
    python3-rpm-4.14.3-4.el8.x86_64
    emacs-filesystem-26.1-5.el8.noarch
    ##### snipped
  11. Remove unnecessary program or packages.
    $ sudo apt remove --assume-yes libreoffice-* # Ubuntu and Debian derivatives 
    Reading package lists... Done
    Building dependency tree       
    Reading state information... Done
    Note, selecting 'libreoffice-wiki-publisher' for glob 'libreoffice-*'
    Note, selecting 'libreoffice-style-breeze' for glob 'libreoffice-*'
    Note, selecting 'libreoffice-math' for glob 'libreoffice-*'
    Note, selecting 'libreoffice-report-builder-bin-nogui' for glob 'libreoffice-*'
    Note, selecting 'libreoffice-l10n-gug' for glob 'libreoffice-*'
    Note, selecting 'libreoffice-script-provider-js' for glob 'libreoffice-*'
    Note, selecting 'libreoffice-report-builder-bin' for glob 'libreoffice-*'
    Note, selecting 'libreoffice-grammarcheck' for glob 'libreoffice-*'
    Note, selecting 'libreoffice-mysql-connector' for glob 'libreoffice-*'
    ##### snipped
    The following packages were automatically installed and are no longer required:
      gstreamer1.0-gtk3 libabw-0.1-1 libboost-date-time1.71.0 libboost-filesystem1.71.0 libboost-iostreams1.71.0 libboost-locale1.71.0 libcdr-0.1-1 libclucene-contribs1v5 libclucene-core1v5 libcmis-0.5-5v5 libcolamd2
      libe-book-0.1-1 libeot0 libepubgen-0.1-1 libetonyek-0.1-1 libexttextcat-2.0-0 libexttextcat-data libfreehand-0.1-1 libgpgmepp6 libjuh-java libjurt-java liblangtag-common liblangtag1 liblibreoffice-java libmhash2
      libmspub-0.1-1 libmwaw-0.3-3 libmythes-1.2-0 libneon27-gnutls libodfgen-0.1-1 liborcus-0.15-0 liborcus-parser-0.15-0 libpagemaker-0.0-0 libraptor2-0 librasqal3 librdf0 librevenge-0.0-0 libridl-java
      libsuitesparseconfig5 libuno-cppu3 libuno-cppuhelpergcc3-3 libuno-purpenvhelpergcc3-3 libuno-sal3 libuno-salhelpergcc3-3 libunoloader-java libvisio-0.1-1 libwpd-0.10-10 libwpg-0.3-3 libwps-0.4-4 libxmlsec1-nss
      libyajl2 lp-solve uno-libs-private ure
    Use 'sudo apt autoremove' to remove them.
    The following packages will be REMOVED:
      libreoffice-base-core libreoffice-calc libreoffice-common libreoffice-core libreoffice-draw libreoffice-gnome libreoffice-gtk3 libreoffice-help-common libreoffice-help-en-us libreoffice-impress libreoffice-math
      libreoffice-ogltrans libreoffice-pdfimport libreoffice-style-breeze libreoffice-style-colibre libreoffice-style-elementary libreoffice-style-yaru libreoffice-writer python3-uno
    0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 19 to remove and 24 not upgraded.
    After this operation, 360 MB disk space will be freed.
    ##### snipped
     
    $ sudo yum remove --assumeyes nmap # RHEL, Fedora, CentOS and Red Hat derivatives
    Dependencies resolved.
    ============================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================
     Package                                                  Architecture                                               Version                                                           Repository                                                      Size
    ============================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================
    Removing:
     nmap                                                     x86_64                                                     2:7.70-5.el8                                                      @appstream                                                      24 M
    
    Transaction Summary
    ============================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================
    Remove  1 Package
    
    Freed space: 24 M
    Running transaction check
    Transaction check succeeded.
    Running transaction test
    Transaction test succeeded.
    Running transaction
      Preparing        :                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1/1
      Erasing          : nmap-2:7.70-5.el8.x86_64                                                                                                                                                                                                           1/1
      Running scriptlet: nmap-2:7.70-5.el8.x86_64                                                                                                                                                                                                           1/1
      Verifying        : nmap-2:7.70-5.el8.x86_64                                                                                                                                                                                                           1/1
    Installed products updated.
    
    Removed:
      nmap-2:7.70-5.el8.x86_64
    
    Complete!

  12. Remove unused package dependencies.
    $ sudo apt autoremove # Ubuntu and Debian derivatives 
    Reading package lists... Done
    Building dependency tree       
    Reading state information... Done
    The following packages will be REMOVED:
      gstreamer1.0-gtk3 libabw-0.1-1 libboost-date-time1.71.0 libboost-filesystem1.71.0
      libboost-iostreams1.71.0 libboost-locale1.71.0 libcdr-0.1-1 libclucene-contribs1v5
      libclucene-core1v5 libcmis-0.5-5v5 libcolamd2 libe-book-0.1-1 libeot0 libepubgen-0.1-1
      libetonyek-0.1-1 libexttextcat-2.0-0 libexttextcat-data libfreehand-0.1-1 libgpgmepp6 libjuh-java
      libjurt-java liblangtag-common liblangtag1 liblibreoffice-java libmhash2 libmspub-0.1-1
      libmwaw-0.3-3 libmythes-1.2-0 libneon27-gnutls libodfgen-0.1-1 liborcus-0.15-0
      liborcus-parser-0.15-0 libpagemaker-0.0-0 libraptor2-0 librasqal3 librdf0 librevenge-0.0-0
      libridl-java libsuitesparseconfig5 libuno-cppu3 libuno-cppuhelpergcc3-3 libuno-purpenvhelpergcc3-3
      libuno-sal3 libuno-salhelpergcc3-3 libunoloader-java libvisio-0.1-1 libwpd-0.10-10 libwpg-0.3-3
      libwps-0.4-4 libxmlsec1-nss libyajl2 linux-headers-5.8.0-44 linux-headers-5.8.0-44-generic
      linux-image-5.8.0-44-generic linux-modules-5.8.0-44-generic linux-modules-extra-5.8.0-44-generic
      lp-solve uno-libs-private ure
    0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 59 to remove and 29 not upgraded.
    After this operation, 435 MB disk space will be freed.
    Do you want to continue? [Y/n]
    ##### snipped
    $ sudo yum autoremove --assumeyes # RHEL, Fedora, CentOS and Red Hat derivatives
    Last metadata expiration check: 0:00:39 ago on Thu 15 Apr 2021 10:20:13 PM EDT.
    Dependencies resolved.
    ============================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================
     Package                                                  Architecture                                   Version                                                                                   Repository                                          Size
    ============================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================
    Removing:
     fipscheck                                                x86_64                                         1.5.0-4.el8                                                                               @anaconda                                           47 k
     fipscheck-lib                                            x86_64                                         1.5.0-4.el8                                                                               @anaconda                                           12 k
     grub2-tools-efi                                          x86_64                                         1:2.02-90.el8_3.1                                                                         @baseos                                            2.0 M
     libdnet                                                  x86_64                                         1.12-26.el8                                                                               @AppStream                                          79 k
     mozjs52                                                  x86_64                                         52.9.0-2.el8                                                                              @BaseOS                                             23 M
     oci-systemd-hook                                         x86_64                                         1:0.1.15-2.git2d0b8a3.module_el8.1.0+237+63e26edc                                         @AppStream                                          74 k
     ostree-libs                                              x86_64                                         2020.5-4.el8                                                                              @AppStream                                         1.0 M
     yajl                                                     x86_64                                         2.1.0-10.el8                                                                              @AppStream                                          85 k
    
    Transaction Summary
    ============================================================================================================================================================================================================================================================
    Remove  8 Packages
    
    Freed space: 26 M
    Running transaction check
    Transaction check succeeded.
    Running transaction test
    Transaction test succeeded.
    ##### snipped
  13. Remove unused package installer files.
    $ sudo apt clean # Ubuntu and Debian derivatives
    $ sudo yum clean all # RHEL, Fedora, CentOS and Red Hat derivatives
    36 files removed
  14. Look for old system and application logs.
    $ ls /var/log/
    alternatives.log       boot.log.5     dpkg.log.3.gz    private               vmware-network.4.log
    alternatives.log.1     boot.log.6     dpkg.log.4.gz    speech-dispatcher     vmware-network.5.log
    alternatives.log.2.gz  boot.log.7     dpkg.log.5.gz    sssd                  vmware-network.6.log
    alternatives.log.3.gz  bootstrap.log  faillog          syslog                vmware-network.7.log
    alternatives.log.4.gz  btmp           fontconfig.log   syslog.1              vmware-network.8.log
    alternatives.log.5.gz  btmp.1         gdm3             syslog.2.gz           vmware-network.9.log
    apt                    cups           gpu-manager.log  syslog.3.gz           vmware-network.log
    auth.log               dist-upgrade   hp               syslog.4.gz           vmware-vmsvc-root.1.log
    auth.log.1             dmesg          installer        syslog.5.gz           vmware-vmsvc-root.2.log
    auth.log.2.gz          dmesg.0        journal          syslog.6.gz           vmware-vmsvc-root.3.log
    auth.log.3.gz          dmesg.1.gz     kern.log         syslog.7.gz           vmware-vmsvc-root.log
    auth.log.4.gz          dmesg.2.gz     kern.log.1       sysstat               vmware-vmtoolsd-root.log
    boot.log               dmesg.3.gz     kern.log.2.gz    ubuntu-advantage.log  wtmp
    boot.log.1             dmesg.4.gz     kern.log.3.gz    unattended-upgrades
    boot.log.2             dpkg.log       kern.log.4.gz    vmware-network.1.log
    boot.log.3             dpkg.log.1     lastlog          vmware-network.2.log
    boot.log.4             dpkg.log.2.gz  openvpn          vmware-network.3.log
  15. Remove old and unnecessary system and application logs.
    $ sudo rm /var/log/*[3-9].*
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