Posts Tagged ‘heavy load’

How to delete million of files on busy Linux servers (Work out Argument list too long)

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

How to Delete million or many thousands of files in the same directory on GNU / Linux and FreeBSD

If you try to delete more than 131072 of files on Linux with rm -f *, where the files are all stored in the same directory, you will get an error:

/bin/rm: Argument list too long.

I've earlier blogged on deleting multiple files on Linux and FreeBSD and this is not my first time facing this error.
Anyways, as time passed, I've found few other new ways to delete large multitudes of files from a server.

In this article, I will explain shortly few approaches to delete few million of obsolete files to clean some space on your server.
Here are 3 methods to use to clean your tons of junk files.

1. Using Linux find command to wipe out millions of files

a.) Finding and deleting files using find's -exec switch:

# find . -type f -exec rm -fv {} \;

This method works fine but it has 1 downside, file deletion is too slow as for each found file external rm command is invoked.

For half a million of files or more, using this method will take "long". However from a server hard disk stressing point of view it is not so bad as, the files deletion is not putting too much strain on the server hard disk.
b.) Finding and deleting big number of files with find's -delete argument:

Luckily, there is a better way to delete the files, by using find's command embedded -delete argument:

# find . -type f -print -delete

c.) Deleting and printing out deleted files with find's -print arg

If you would like to output on your terminal, what files find is deleting in "real time" add -print:

# find . -type f -print -delete

To prevent your server hard disk from being stressed and hence save your self from server normal operation "outages", it is good to combine find command with ionice, e.g.:

# ionice -c 3 find . -type f -print -delete

Just note, that ionice cannot guarantee find's opeartions will not affect severely hard disk i/o requests. On  heavily busy servers with high amounts of disk i/o writes still applying the ionice will not prevent the server from being hanged! Be sure to always keep an eye on the server, while deleting the files nomatter with or without ionice. if throughout find execution, the server gets lagged in serving its ordinary client requests or whatever, stop the execution of the cmd immediately by killing it from another ssh session or tty (if physically on the server).

2. Using a simple bash loop with rm command to delete "tons" of files

An alternative way is to use a bash loop, to print each of the files in the directory and issue /bin/rm on each of the loop elements (files) like so:

for i in *; do
rm -f $i;

If you'd like to print what you will be deleting add an echo to the loop:

# for i in $(echo *); do \
echo "Deleting : $i"; rm -f $i; \

The bash loop, worked like a charm in my case so I really warmly recommend this method, whenever you need to delete more than 500 000+ files in a directory.

3. Deleting multiple files with perl

Deleting multiple files with perl is not a bad idea at all.
Here is a perl one liner, to delete all files contained within a directory:

# perl -e 'for(<*>){((stat)[9]<(unlink))}'

If you prefer to use more human readable perl script to delete a multitide of files use

Using perl interpreter to delete thousand of files is quick, really, really quick.
I did not benchmark it on the server, how quick exactly is it, but I guess the delete rate should be similar to find command. Its possible even in some cases the perl loop is  quicker …

4. Using PHP script to delete a multiple files

Using a short php script to delete files file by file in a loop similar to above bash script is another option.
To do deletion  with PHP, use this little PHP script:

$dir = "/path/to/dir/with/files";
$dh = opendir( $dir);
$i = 0;
while (($file = readdir($dh)) !== false) {
$file = "$dir/$file";
if (is_file( $file)) {
unlink( $file);
if (!(++$i % 1000)) {
echo "$i files removed\n";

As you see the script reads the $dir defined directory and loops through it, opening file by file and doing a delete for each of its loop elements.
You should already know PHP is slow, so this method is only useful if you have to delete many thousands of files on a shared hosting server with no (ssh) shell access.

This php script is taken from Steve Kamerman's blog . I would like also to express my big gratitude to Steve for writting such a wonderful post. His post actually become  inspiration for this article to become reality.

You can also download the php delete million of files script sample here

To use it rename delete_millioon_of_files_in_a_dir.php.txt to delete_millioon_of_files_in_a_dir.php and run it through a browser .

Note that you might need to run it multiple times, cause many shared hosting servers are configured to exit a php script which keeps running for too long.
Alternatively the script can be run through shell with PHP cli:

php -l delete_millioon_of_files_in_a_dir.php.txt.

5. So What is the "best" way to delete million of files on Linux?

In order to find out which method is quicker in terms of execution time I did a home brew benchmarking on my thinkpad notebook.

a) Creating 509072 of sample files.

Again, I used bash loop to create many thousands of files in order to benchmark.
I didn't wanted to put this load on a productive server and hence I used my own notebook to conduct the benchmarks. As my notebook is not a server the benchmarks might be partially incorrect, however I believe still .they're pretty good indicator on which deletion method would be better.

hipo@noah:~$ mkdir /tmp/test
hipo@noah:~$ cd /tmp/test;
hiponoah:/tmp/test$ for i in $(seq 1 509072); do echo aaaa >> $i.txt; done

I had to wait few minutes until I have at hand 509072  of files created. Each of the files as you can read is containing the sample "aaaa" string.

b) Calculating the number of files in the directory

Once the command was completed to make sure all the 509072 were existing, I used a find + wc cmd to calculate the directory contained number of files:

hipo@noah:/tmp/test$ find . -maxdepth 1 -type f |wc -l

real 0m1.886s
user 0m0.440s
sys 0m1.332s

Its intesrsting, using an ls command to calculate the files is less efficient than using find:

hipo@noah:/tmp/test$ time ls -1 |wc -l

real 0m3.355s
user 0m2.696s
sys 0m0.528s

c) benchmarking the different file deleting methods with time

– Testing delete speed of find

hipo@noah:/tmp/test$ time find . -maxdepth 1 -type f -delete
real 15m40.853s
user 0m0.908s
sys 0m22.357s

You see, using find to delete the files is not either too slow nor light quick.

– How fast is perl loop in multitude file deletion ?

hipo@noah:/tmp/test$ time perl -e 'for(<*>){((stat)[9]<(unlink))}'real 6m24.669suser 0m2.980ssys 0m22.673s

Deleting my sample 509072 took 6 mins and 24 secs. This is about 3 times faster than find! GO-GO perl 🙂
As you can see from the results, perl is a great and time saving, way to delete 500 000 files.

– The approximate speed deletion rate of of for + rm bash loop

hipo@noah:/tmp/test$ time for i in *; do rm -f $i; done

real 206m15.081s
user 2m38.954s
sys 195m38.182s

You see the execution took 195m en 38 secs = 3 HOURS and 43 MINUTES!!!! This is extremely slow ! But works like a charm as the running of deletion didn't impacted my normal laptop browsing. While the script was running I was mostly browsing through few not so heavy (non flash) websites and doing some other stuff in gnome-terminal) 🙂

As you can imagine running a bash loop is a bit CPU intensive, but puts less stress on the hard disk read/write operations. Therefore its clear using it is always a good practice when deletion of many files on a dedi servers is required.

b) my production server file deleting experience

On a production server I only tested two of all the listed methods to delete my files. The production server, where I tested is running Debian GNU / Linux Squeeze 6.0.3. There I had a task to delete few million of files.
The tested methods tried on the server were:

– The find . type -f -delete method.

– for i in *; do rm -f $i; done

The results from using find -delete method was quite sad, as the server almost hanged under the heavy hard disk load the command produced.

With the for script all went smoothly. The files were deleted for a long long time (like few hours), but while it was running, the server continued with no interruptions..

While the bash loop was running, the server load avarage kept at steady 4
Taking my experience in mind, If you're running a production, server and you're still wondering which delete method to use to wipe some multitude of files, I would recommend you go  the bash for loop + /bin/rm way. Yes, it is extremely slow, expect it run for some half an hour or so but puts not too much extra load on the server..

Using the PHP script will probably be slow and inefficient, if compared to both find and the a bash loop.. I didn't give it a try yet, but suppose it will be either equal in time or at least few times slower than bash.

If you have tried the php script and you have some observations, please drop some comment to tell me how it performs.

To sum it up;

Even though there are "hacks" to clean up some messy parsing directory full of few million of junk files, having such a directory should never exist on the first place.

Frankly, keeping millions of files within the same directory is very stupid idea.
Doing so will have a severe negative impact on a directory listing performance of your filesystem in the long term.

If you know better (more efficient) ways to delete a multitude of files in a dir please share in comments.

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Recommended logrorate practices on heavy loaded (busy) Apache Linux servers

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Apache logrotate Debian good configuration for heavy loaded servers

If you are sys admin of Apache Webserver running on Debian Linux relying on logrorate to rorate logs, you might want to change the default way logroration is done.

Little changes in the way Apache log files are served on busy servers can have positive outcomes on the overall way the server CPU units burden. A good logrotation strategy can also prevent your server from occasional extra overheads or downtimes.

The way Debian GNU / Linux process logs is well planned for small servers, however the default logroration Apache routine doesn't fit well for servers which process millions of client requests each day.

I happen to administrate, few servers which are constantly under a heavy load and have occasionally overload troubles because of Debian's logrorate default mechanism.

To cope with the situation I have made few modifications to /etc/logrorate.d/apache2 and decided to share it here hoping, this might help you too.

1. Rotate Apache acccess.log log file daily instead of weekly

On Debian Apache's logrorate script is in /etc/logrotate.d/apache2

The default file content will be like so like so:

debian:~# cat /etc/logrotate.d/apache2
/var/log/apache2/*.log {
rotate 52
size 1G
create 640 root adm
if [ -f "`. /etc/apache2/envvars ; echo ${APACHE_PID_FILE:-/var/run/}`" ]; then
/etc/init.d/apache2 reload > /dev/null

To change the rotation from weekly to daily change:




2. Disable access.log log file gzip compression

By default apache2 logrotate script is tuned ot make compression of rotated file (exmpl: copy access.log to access.log.1 and gzip it, copy access.log to access.log.2 and gzip it etc.). On servers where logs are many gigabytes, once logrotate initiates its scheduled work it will have to compress an enormous log record of apache requests. On very busy Apache servers from my experience, just for a day the log could grow up to approximately 8 / 10 Gigabytes.
I'm sure there are more busy servers out there, which log files are growing to over 100GB for just a single day.
Gzipping a 100GB file piece takes an enormous load on the CPU, as well as often takes long time. When this logrotation gzipping occurs at a moment where the servers CPU cores are already heavy loaded from Apache serving HTTP requests, Apache server becomes inaccessible to most of the clients.
Then for end clients various oddities are experienced, for example Apache dropped connection errors, webserver returning empty pages, or simply inability to respond to the client browser.
Sometimes as a result of the overload, even secure shell connection to SSHD to the server is impossible …

To prevent your server from this roration overloads remove logrorate's default access.log gzipping by commenting:




3. Change maximum log roration by logrorate to be up to 30

By default logrorate is configured to create and keep up to 52 rotated and gzipped access.log files, changing this to a lower number is a good practice (in my view), in cases where log files grow daily to 10 or more GBs. Doing so will save a lot of disk space and reduce the chance the hard disk gets filled in because of the multiple rorated ungzipped enormous access.log files.

To tune the default keep max rorated logs to 30, change:

rotate 52

torotate 30

The way logrorate's apache log processing on RHEL / CentOS Linux is working better on high load servers, by default on CentOS logrorate is not configured to do log gzipping at all.

Here is the default /etc/logrorate.d/httpd script for
CentOS release 5.6 (Final)

[hipo@centos httpd]$ cat /etc/logrotate.d/httpd /var/log/httpd/*log {
/bin/kill -HUP `cat /var/run/ 2>/dev/null` 2> /dev/null || true


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How to make a mirror of website on GNU / Linux with wget / Few tips on wget site mirroring

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012


Everyone who used Linux is probably familiar with wget or has used this handy download console tools at least thousand of times. Not so many Desktop GNU / Linux users like Ubuntu and Fedora Linux users had tried using wget to do something more than single files download.
Actually wget is not so popular as it used to be in earlier linux days. I've noticed the tendency for newer Linux users to prefer using curl (I don't know why).

With all said I'm sure there is plenty of Linux users curious on how a website mirror can be made through wget.
This article will briefly suggest few ways to do website mirroring on linux / bsd as wget is both available on those two free operating systems.

1. Most Simple exact mirror copy of website

The most basic use of wget's mirror capabilities is by using wget's -mirror argument:

# wget -m

Creating a mirror like this is not a very good practice, as the links of the mirrored pages will still link to external URLs. In other words link URL will not pointing to your local copy and therefore if you're not connected to the internet and try to browse random links of the webpage you will end up with many links which are not opening because you don't have internet connection.

2. Mirroring with rewritting links to point to localhost and in between download page delay

Making mirror with wget can put an heavy load on the remote server as it fetches the files as quick as the bandwidth allows it. On heavy servers rapid downloads with wget can significantly reduce the download server responce time. Even on a some high-loaded servers it can cause the server to hang completely.
Hence mirroring pages with wget without explicity setting delay in between each page download, could be considered by remote server as a kind of DoS – (denial of service) attack. Even some site administrators have already set firewall rules or web server modules configured like Apache mod_security which filter requests to IPs which are doing too frequent HTTP GET /POST requests to the web server.
To make wget delay with a 10 seconds download between mirrored pages use:

# wget -mk -w 10 -np --random-wait

The -mk stands for -m/-mirror and -k / shortcut argument for –convert-links (make links point locally), –random-wait tells wget to make random waits between o and 10 seconds between each page download request.

3. Mirror / retrieve website sub directory ignoring robots.txt "mirror restrictions"

Some websites has a robots.txt which restricts content download with clients like wget, curl or even prohibits, crawlers to download their website pages completely.

/robots.txt restrictions are not a problem as wget has an option to disable robots.txt checking when downloading.
Getting around the robots.txt restrictions with wget is possible through -e robots=off option.
For instance if you want to make a local mirror copy of the whole sub-directory with all links and do it with a delay of 10 seconds between each consequential page request without reading at all the robots.txt allow/forbid rules:

# wget -mk -w 10 -np -e robots=off --random-wait

4. Mirror website which is prohibiting Download managers like flashget, getright, go!zilla etc.

Sometimes when try to use wget to make a mirror copy of an entire site domain subdirectory or the root site domain, you get an error similar to:

Sorry, but the download manager you are using to view this site is not supported.
We do not support use of such download managers as flashget, go!zilla, or getright

This message is produced by the site dynamic generation language PHP / ASP / JSP etc. used, as the website code is written to check on the browser UserAgent sent.
wget's default sent UserAgent to the remote webserver is:

As this is not a common desktop browser useragent many webmasters configure their websites to only accept well known established desktop browser useragents sent by client browsers.
Here are few typical user agents which identify a desktop browser:

  • Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:6.0) Gecko/20110814 Firefox/6.0
  • Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux i686; rv:6.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/6.0
  • Mozilla/6.0 (Macintosh; I; Intel Mac OS X 11_7_9; de-LI; rv:1.9b4) Gecko/2012010317 Firefox/10.0a4
  • Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; Win64; x64; rv:2.2a1pre) Gecko/20110324 Firefox/4.2a1pre

etc. etc.

If you're trying to mirror a website which has implied some kind of useragent restriction based on some "valid" useragent, wget has the -U option enabling you to fake the useragent.

If you get the Sorry but the download manager you are using to view this site is not supported , fake / change wget's UserAgent with cmd:

# wget -mk -w 10 -np -e robots=off \
--referer="" \--user-agent="Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv: Gecko/20070725 Firefox/" \--header="Accept:text/xml,application/xml,application/xhtml+xml,text/html;q=0.9,text/plain;q=0.8,image/png,*/*;q=0.5" \--header="Accept-Language: en-us,en;q=0.5" \--header="Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate" \--header="Accept-Charset: ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.7" \--header="Keep-Alive: 300"

For the sake of some wget anonimity – to make wget permanently hide its user agent and pretend like a Mozilla Firefox running on MS Windows XP use .wgetrc like this in home directory.

5. Make a complete mirror of a website under a domain name

To retrieve complete working copy of a site with wget a good way is like so:

# wget -rkpNl5 -w 10 --random-wait

Where the arguments meaning is:
-r – Retrieve recursively
-k – Convert the links in documents to make them suitable for local viewing
-p – Download everything (inline images, sounds and referenced stylesheets etc.)
-N – Turn on time-stamping
-l5 – Specify recursion maximum depth level of 5

6. Make a dynamic pages static site mirror, by converting CGI, ASP, PHP etc. to HTML for offline browsing

It is often websites pages are ending in a .php / .asp / .cgi … extensions. An example of what I mean is for instance the URL You see the url page is tutorial.php once mirrored with wget the local copy will also end up in .php and therefore will not be suitable for local browsing as .php extension is not understood how to interpret by the local browser.
Therefore to copy website with a non-html extension and make it offline browsable in HTML there is the –html-extension option e.g.:

# wget -mk -w 10 -np -e robots=off \
--random-wait \

A good practice in mirror making is to set a download limit rate. Setting such rate is both good for UP and DOWN side (the local host where downloading and remote server). download-limit is also useful when mirroring websites consisting of many enormous files (documental movies, some music etc.).
To set a download limit to add –limit-rate= option. Passing by to wget –limit-rate=200K would limit download speed to 200KB.

Other useful thing to assure wget has made an accurate mirror is wget logging. To use it pass -o ./my_mirror.log to wget.

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How to count how many files are in a directory with find on Linux

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

how to count how many directories are on your linux server

Did you ever needed to count, how many files in a directory are there?
Having the concrete number of files in a directory is not a seldom task but still very useful especially for scripts or simply for the sake of learning

The quickest and maybe the easiest way to count all files in a directory in Linux is with a combination of find and wc commands:

Here is how;

linux:~# cd ascii
linux:~/ascii# find . -type f -iname '*' -print |wc -l

This will find and list all matched files in any directory and subdirectories, print them out and count them with wc command.
The -type f argument instructs find to look only for files.

Other helpful variance of finding and listing all files in a directory and subdirectories is to list and count all the files with a certain file extension under a directory. For example, lets list all text files (.txt) contained in a directory and all level sub-directories:

linux:~/ascii# find . -type f -iname '*.txt' -print |wc -l

If you need to check the number of files in a directory for multiple directories on a server and you're aiming at doing it efficienly, issung above find .. | wc code will definitely be not a good choice. If used it will generate heavy load for the system and along with that will complete the execution in ages if issued on a large number of files containing dirs.

Thanksfully if efficiency is targetted, there is a command written in C called tree which is more efficient than find.
To count the number of files in dir but using tree :

linux:~# cd ascii
linux:/ascii# tree | tail -n 1
32 directories, 407 files

By default tree prints info for both the number of found files and directories.
To print out only the files matched, awk comes handy, e.g.:

linux:/ascii# tree |tail -n 1| awk '{ print $3 }'407

To list only the number of files in a directory without its existing sub-directories ls + wc use is also possible:

linux:~/ascii# ls -l | grep ^- | wc -l68

This result the above command would produce is +1 more than the real number of files, as it counts the directory ".." as one file (in UNIX / LINUX everything is file).

A short one liner script that can calculate all files correctly by substracting 1 is and hence present correct result on number of files is like so:

linux:~/ascii# var=$(ls -l | grep ^- | wc -l); var=$(($var - 1)); echo $var

ls can be used to calculate the number of 1-st level sub-directories under certain directory for instance:

linux:~/ascii# ls -l |grep ^d|wc -l

You see the ascii directory has 25 subdirectories in its 1st level.

To check symlinks under a directory with ls the command would be:

linux:~/ascii# ls -l | grep ^l | wc -l

Note above 3 ls | grep … examples, will not work properly if the directory contains files with SUID or some special properties set.
Hence to get the same 3 results for active files, directories and symbolic links, a one liner similar to the one below can be used instead:

linux:~/ascii# for t in files links directories; do echo `find . -type ${t:0:1} | wc -l` $t; done 2> /dev/null
407 files
0 links
33 directories

This will show statistics about all files, links and directories for all directory sub-levels.
Just in case if there is need to only count files, links and directories without directory recursion enabled, use:

linux:~/ascii# for t in files links directories; do echo `find . -maxdepth 1 -type ${t:0:1} | wc -l` $t; done 2> /dev/null
68 files
0 links
26 directories

Anyways the above bash loop will be slow, for directories containing thousands of files. For better performance the equivallent of above bash loop rewritten in perl would be:

linux:~/ascii# ls -l |perl -e 'while(<>){$h{substr($_,0,1)}+=1;} END {foreach(keys %h) {print "$_ $h{$_}\n";}}'
- 68
d 25
t 1
In any case the most preferrable and efficient way to count files en directories is by using tree command.
In my view using always tree command instead of code "hacks" is smart idea.

In Slackware tree command is part of the base install, on Debian and CentOS Linux, tree cmd is not part of the base system and requires install via apt / yum e.g.:

debian:~# apt-get --yes install tree

[root@centos:~ ]# yum --yes install tree

Happy counting 😉

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