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Clear up those temporary files

November 24, 2009

One of my (many) pet peeves are shell scripts that fail to delete any temporary files they use. Included in this pet peeve are shell scripts that create more temporary files than they absolutely need, in most cases the number is 0 but there are a few cases where you really do need a temporary file but if it is temproary make sure you always delete the file.

The trick here is to use the EXIT trap handler to delete the file. That way if your script is killed (unless it is kill with SIGKILL) it will still clean up. Since you will be using mktemp(1) to create your temporary file and you want to minimize any race condition where the file could be left around you need to do (korn shell):

trap '${TMPFILE:+rm ${TMPFILE}}' EXIT  
TMPFILE=$(mktemp /tmp/$0.temp.XXXXXX)

if further down the script you delete or rename the file all you have to do is unset TMPFILE eg:

mv $TMPFILE /etc/foo && unset TMPFILE

From → Solaris

  1. chris talbot permalink

    Clearly the quick and easy way of getting rid of tmp files is init 6 😛

  2. only if the temporary files are in /tmp. For other files system you need something more robust.
    For ufs:
    dd if=/dev/zero of=$(nawk ‘$3 == "/" { print $2 }’)
    for zfs it is more difficult as it will keep repairing itself. I’ll leave that as an exercise for the vandal^W reader.

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