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       tmpreaper  -  removes files which haven’t been accessed for a period of


       tmpreaper  [-htvfmMsaT]   [--help]   [--test]   [--verbose]   [--force]
       [--delay=x] [--runtime=x] [--showdeleted] [--ctime] [--mtime] [--mtime-
       dir]   [--symlinks]    [--all]    [[--protect    ’<shell_pattern>’]...]
       <time_spec> <dirs>...


       tmpreaper   recursively  searches  for  and  removes  files  and  empty
       directories which haven’t been accessed for a given number of  seconds.
       Normally,  it’s  used  to  clean  up  directories  which  are  used for
       temporary holding space, such as  "/tmp".   Please  read  the  WARNINGS
       section of this manual.

       When changing directories, tmpreaper is very sensitive to possible race
       condition security exploits[1], and will exit with an error if  one  is
       detected.   It  does  not follow symbolic links in the directories it’s
       cleaning (even if a symbolic link is  given  as  its  argument),  never
       performs  chdir(".."),  will  not switch file systems, and only removes
       empty directories and regular files. Unless your machine  is  one  with
       lots of relatively untrusted users, such as an ISP or school, you don’t
       need this program; ‘find ... -exec rm ...’ works just as well when  you
       don’t  have  to  be  concerned  about people trying to exploit the race
       condition on you.

       tmpreaper will stop itself after almost one minute with an  appropriate
       warning  message, as attempts to keep it running long enough so that it
       runs in parallel with another instance  of  itself  may  also  lead  to
       possible vulnerabilities. Normally, tmpreaper won’t need that amount of
       time.  If your system is so slow that it does, try to configure  things
       so  that  this doesn’t happen. As a last resort, the --runtime=x option
       can be used to set the  number  of  seconds  after  which  the  timeout
       occurs; the default setting is 55 seconds.

       tmpreaper  dates  files  by  their  atime,  not their mtime, unless you
       select the --mtime option.  If files aren’t being removed  when  ls  -l
       implies  they should be, use stat(1) or ls --time=access to examine the
       file’s atime and see if that helps to explain the problem.

       Additionally, tmpreaper can be  instructed  to  also  check  the  ctime
       (inode  change  time, which is updated e.g. when the file is created or
       permissions are changed). This is primarily useful  when  tmpreaper  is
       used  to clean up directories that are accessible as a Samba share; DOS
       (and Windows) PCs preserve the mtime and the atime when  copying  to  a
       new  file,  so  that  it  appears  that  the newly created file is old.
       tmpreaper will remove such files is the atime  is  beyond  the  removal
       time,  even though they were just created. This is avoided by using the
       --ctime option.

       As  testing  the  contents  of   subdirectories   will   update   those
       directories’  atime,  empty directories won’t be removed. To circumvent
       this problem you can use the --mtime-dir option, which will  switch  on
       mtime  checking  for directories only. Using --mtime-dir in addition to
       --mtime doesn’t do anything useful.

       The <time_spec> parameter defines the age threshold for removing files.
       If  the file has not been accessed for <time_spec>, it becomes eligible
       for removal.  The <time_spec> should be a number, defaulting to  hours,
       optionally  suffixed by one character: ‘d’ for days, ‘h’ for hours, ‘m’
       for minutes, or ‘s’ for seconds.  Following the  time  option,  one  or
       more directories must be given for tmpreaper to clean up.

       On  linux ext2/ext3 filesystems, no errors will be given when trying to
       remove  files  marked  as  immutable.  A  common  situation  for   this
       (nowadays)  is  the ext3 .journal file. However, there may of course be
       other files marked as such by the system administrator.


       <noargs>, -h, --help
              Print a brief version, copyright, and usage statement on stderr,
              then exit with error status 1.

       -t, --test
              Don’t  actually  remove  any  files, but go through the motions,
              checking through the  directory,  then  pretend  to  remove  the
              eligible files.

       -v, --verbose
              Print   a   verbose   display.   Two  levels  of  verbosity  are
              available---use this  option  twice  to  get  the  most  verbose
              output.  The --test option automaticly sets --verbose once.
              Higher numbers mean more output (max. is 3).
              To force normal verbosity after --test, use "--verbose=0".  This
              will generally only show error messages. Use "--test --verbose=0
              --showdeleted"  to  give a shellscript-like list of actions that
              would have been done (see the --showdeleted description  below).

              Show  what  files  and directories are deleted. The output is in
              the form of shell commands, i.e. "rm /dir/dir2/file" and  "rmdir
              When used together with --test, this option will still cause the
              "shell commands" to be printed, although nothing is really done.
              Note  that  this  may show more than without --test, as problems
              removing the file won’t be detected (e.g. immutable files).

       -f, --force
              Remove files even if EUID doesn’t have write access (akin to  rm
              -f).   Normally,  files owned by the current EUID, with no write
              bit set are not removed.

              Delay execution at the start for a random time, up to x seconds;
              if  no  value is specified, the default maximum time to delay is
              256 seconds.  This is an option useful in cron scripts  to  make
              the  execution of tmpreaper less predictable, thus making things
              a little harder for those who would attempt to use tmpreaper  to
              thwart security.

       -T x, --runtime=x
              Execution  of tmpreaper will aborted after x seconds; this is to
              prevent attacks that create many, many files.   By  default  the
              timeout  is  set  to 55 seconds.  A value of 0 will disable this
              feature, which is not advised as this feature prevents  possible
              race-conditions between different instances of tmpreaper.

       -m, --mtime
              Base  the  decision  of whether to remove the file on its mtime,
              rather than on its atime.

       -M, --mtime-dir
              Base the decision of whether to  remove  the  directory  on  its
              mtime, rather than on its atime.

       -c, --ctime
              Base the decision of whether to remove the file on its ctime, in
              addition to its atime.  Only applicable if the  --mtime  options
              is not given!

       -s, --symlinks
              Remove symlinks too, not just regular files and directories.

       -a, --all
              Remove  all  file  types,  not just regular files, symlinks, and

       --protect <shell_pattern>
              Protect the files that match the <shell_pattern> from  deletion.
              This  option  may  be used more than once.  It has no one letter
              abbreviation, you must spell out the full word "protect".

              If you do not enclose the <shell_pattern> in single quotes,  the
              shell  will  perform  the  expansion  before tmpreaper reads its
              argument array.  The program does not support  that  syntax,  so
              you must use single quotes around the glob pattern.

              tmpreaper  will  chdir(2)  into  each  of the directories you’ve
              specified  for  cleanup,  and  check  for  files  matching   the
              <shell_pattern>  there.  It then builds a list of them, and uses
              that to protect them from removal.  For example:

              tmpreaper --test --verbose --protect \
               ’.X*-{lock,unix,unix/*}’ --protect ’.ICE-{unix{/*,}}’ \
               5d /tmp  # 5 day grace period


       As long as there are files present inside a subdirectory, it won’t  get
       removed.   You  can  use a non-writable, self-owned file, perhaps named
       ".tmpreaper", or, if you are su, a file that has the  ext2fs  immutable
       attribute  set,  to keep a subdirectory from being deleted.  Of course,
       you could just as easily use use the --protect  option  to  obtain  the
       same result.

       Because  the  command  line argument processing is implemented with GNU
       getopt_long(3)[2], you may order the arguments thusly,  if  it  pleases

       tmpreaper --test --verbose 5h \
        --protect ’./tmp/{blah?,dir{/blah4,}}’ ./tmp \
        --protect ’/tmp/.X*’ /tmp

        ...  Note  that  if  you  use --all or --symlinks, it will have global
       effect.  If you only want it turned on for one directory, you must  use
       separate commands.


       Please  do  not  ever  run  tmpreaper on ‘/’!!! There are no safeguards
       against this built  into  the  program,  because  that  would  make  it
       difficult to use in a chrooted environment.


       chattr(1)  chdir(2)  chroot(8)  cron(1)  getopt_long(3) ls(1) lsattr(1)
       rm(1) stat(1)

       [1] or



       [2] info:(libc)Long Options


           Karl M. Hegbloom <>

       Mostly based on ‘tmpwatch-1.2/1.4’, by:
           Erik Troan <>

       Now being maintained for Debian by:
           Paul Slootman <>