December 4, 2012

Linux Tips: The Misunderstood df Command

I call df, or disk free, the misunderstood command because new Linux users often expect it to tell the sizes of directories and files. But it doesn't do that-- it's for displaying useful information on filesystems. When you invoke it with no arguments, it shows free and used space on all mounted filesystems, their partitions, and mountpoints:

$ df
Filesystem      1K-blocks       Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/sdb1        29222392   19353412   8404256  70% /
udev              1982916          4   1982912   1% /dev
tmpfs              809892       1072    808820   1% /run
none                 5120          0      5120   0% /run/lock
none              2024724       1388   2023336   1% /run/shm
/dev/sdb3       593262544  200333868 363234532  36% /home/carla/moarstuff
/dev/sda1      1730404792 1616359192  27442000  99% /home/carla/storage
/dev/sda2       221176480  160279584  49824796  77% /home/carla/1home

firecracker the dog is fascinated by Linux filesystemsFirecracker the dog is fascinated by Linux filesystems












Add the -h switch for human-readable format, and get rid of the virtual filesystems that exist only in memory, and display just the partitions on your hard drives with grep:

$ df -h |grep ^/
/dev/sdb1        28G   19G  8.1G  70% /
/dev/sdb3       566G  192G  347G  36% /home/carla/moarstuff
/dev/sda1       1.7T  1.6T   27G  99% /home/carla/storage
/dev/sda2       211G  153G   48G  77% /home/carla/1home

df does not operate on individual files or directories, but only filesystems. If you give it a file or directory name as an argument, it gives information for the filesystem the file is on:

$ df -h /var
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sdb1        28G   19G  8.1G  70% /

I like it for quickly finding out which partitions files are on. It identifies the filesystem types with the -T option:

$ df -Th |grep ^/
/dev/sdb1  ext4    28G   19G  8.1G  70% /
/dev/sdb3  ext3   566G  192G  347G  36% /home/carla/moarstuff
/dev/sda1  btrfs  1.7T  1.6T   27G  99% /home/carla/storage
/dev/sda2  ext4   211G  153G   48G  77% /home/carla/1home

And you can hunt down specific filesystem types:

$ df -ht btrfs
/dev/sda1  btrfs  1.7T  1.6T   27G  99% /home/carla/storage

Consult man df and man grep to learn more about what these excellent commands can do. Both are non-destructive commands that only read information, so you can experiment safely.

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