Linux df command examples

The Linux df command is what I generally use to find out how much space is available in a file system in the bash command line. By default with no arguments it will give the amount of space available on all mounted file systems. It can also be given a mount point, or a path of a file, however it will still only give data for the file system as a whole. So then this brings up some questions when it comes to knowing how much space something takes up also when it comes to files and folders as the Linux df command alone is not enough.

So this will be a quick post not just on the Linux df command, but also some related topics when it comes to knowing not just how much space is available on a file system, but also to know how much space certain files and folders take up from a bash command line environment.

1 - Just Linux df by itself

Calling the Linux df command by itself will give a table of how much space is Used and Available on a per file system basis. In most Linux systems there is more than one file system at play, for Example in Raspberry PI OS there is a large partition for the root mount point, but then there is a separate file system for the boot folder.

$ df
Filesystem 1K-blocks Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/root 30466332 8008448 21169436 28% /
devtmpfs 440232 0 440232 0% /dev
tmpfs 473512 53552 419960 12% /dev/shm
tmpfs 473512 6432 467080 2% /run
tmpfs 5120 4 5116 1% /run/lock
tmpfs 473512 0 473512 0% /sys/fs/cgroup
/dev/mmcblk0p1 258095 55170 202925 22% /boot
tmpfs 94700 8 94692 1% /run/user/1000

The size should be 1K-blocks by default, but there are of course options to change that. There are some additional options and tricks with other commands, but for the most part this is all the Linux df command is good for.

2 - Linux du command for getting sizes of files and folders

Often I might want to get the size of not just a file system as a whole, but how much space a single file or folder takes up. When it comes to this there is a difference between actual apparent size of a file, and how much space a file takes up in a file system. By default the du command will give a size that is how much space the file takes up in terms of file system blocks. So the results given can be a lot higher then one might expect for small files. However this is easily addresses with the –apparent-size option.

The du command is the better tool of choice when I want to find out how much space a file or folder takes up as df will just give stats that have to do with the whole file system.

2.1 - Getting actual Size of a file

First off I should cover how to get an actual file size with the du command. For this I would want to pass the –apparent-size option. On top of that I might want to set the block size to one byte by way of a –block=1 option. In this section I will be going over a quick example that will help to confirm first hand that this works.

So if I go to my home path and use Linux redirection to create a file that is five bytes I should be able to get a result of five in the command line with du if given the right options.

$ cd ~
$ mkdir foo
$ cd foo
$ echo -n "12345" > bar.txt
$ du --apparent-size --block=1 bar.txt

Seems to work as expected, I used Linux redirection to create a file with the string 12345 so I am sticking to the ascii range. I then know that the file should be five bytes when it comes to the actual file size. When given the proper options the du command gives a result that is in fact just that.

2.1 - Getting the size that a file takes up in the file system

If I do not give the proper options to get actual file size then I might get a result that is a lot higher than expected.

$ du --block=1 bar.txt
4096 bar.txt

This is not wrong actually as this is the amount of space that the file is taking up in terms of blocks on the actual file system. In widows there is Size, and then Size on Disk that you might be familiar with, this is more or less the same think in Linux or any file system for that matter. There is the actual size of the file, and then there is how much space a file takes up when you take into account how many blocks it is taking up, and any additional file system meta data for the file.

2.2 - Get the size of a folder

The Linux du command can also be used to add up how much space a folder takes up also.

$ du --apparent-size --block=1M ./Downloads
182 ./Downloads/foo
1340 ./Downloads

3 - Conclusion

The Linux df command is useful for finding out how much space I have left on a file system, but it is not helpful for getting a count on how much space a folder or file takes up. When it comes to getting how much space a file takes up there is the Linux du command, but even then I need to be mindful of the options used.

The Linux df and du commands can not help me when it comes to checking what the status is when it comes to physical RAM memory, and swap file usage. For these kinds of tasks there is the Linux fee command that will give me totals when it comes to free and available system Ram, and also show what is going on with spawn file usage. There is also using the top command and the Linux ps command to get an idea of what the deal is when tt comes to ram usage on a per process level.