How to fix No space left on device issue on Linux

Updated: Feb 9

No space left on device usually means that we run out of disk space. But in rare cases, we still have some space when we get this error. People will get confused when they get this error. Here is the troubleshooting process about this.

"No space left on device" even though there is space

# df -h Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on /dev/sda3              56G   26G   27G  50% / /dev/sda1              99M   25M   70M  26% /boot /dev/sdx1              50G   40G  7.3G  85% /mountpoint 
$ cp /path/to/sourcefile.tar.gz /mountpoint/directory/ 
cp: overwrite `/mountpoint/directory/file.tar.gz'? y cp: writing `/mountpoint/directory/file.tar.gz': No space left on device

Root Cause for "No space left on device"

It was found that directories contained millions of files, which ext filesystem driver cannot handle efficiently, and generally the ext3 and ext4 filesystems cannot handle efficiently.

There are enough inodes available on the filesystem as well. So disk space and inode are not the root cause for this issue.

$ df -i Filesystem            Inodes    IUsed    IFree IUse% Mounted on /dev/sda3            14942208  309407 14632801    3% / /dev/sda1              26104       39    26065    1% /boot /dev/sdx1            6553600      307  6553293    1% /mountpoint 

The root cause is the unexpected directory size.

This directory has a lot of blocks allocated to it already but there are not a lot of files in it.

ext3 filesystems do have a limit on the number of files that can be created in any one directory and after that you will see ENOSPC errors.

At one stage this directory did have a lot of files in it, then the number of files was reduced.

This may have created holes in the directory map. As a result, this new file, or any other sufficiently large file, can no longer be added.


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