New default: tmpfs on /tmp

27. Jul 2020 | Thorsten Kukuk | No License


We made an important change for our Container Host OS openSUSE MicroOS, which our Kubernetes platform openSUSE Kubic will inherit since it is based on openSUSE MicroOS: we use now tmpfs for /tmp.

tmpfs is a temporary filesystem that resides in memory. Mounting directories as tmpfs can be an effective way of speeding up accesses to their files and to ensure that their contents are automatically cleared upon reboot.

A fresh installation will use tmpfs for /tmp by default. Old installations needs to be converted to this manually, but it is still possible to switch back to use disk space for /tmp. This is especially useful and important, if big files are stored in /tmp.

If temporary files or directories are needed below /tmp, this can be created at boot by using tmpfiles.d. But never store important files in /tmp, they will not survive the next reboot.

Converting old installations to use tmpfs

As tmpfs will be mounted on top of /tmp, existing files will be no longer accessible. The following steps will cleanup /tmp and enable /tmpfs:

  1. Backup all important files currently stored in /tmp!
  2. Remove the line for /tmp from /etc/fstab
  3. Remove all files in /tmp
  4. Reboot

After reboot, tmpfs should be used for /tmp.

Using disk space for /tmp

After creating a new btrfs subvolume for /tmp and adding this to /etc/fstab, tmpfs will no longer be used for /tmp.

The easierst way to archive this is to use mksubvolume from snapper 0.8.12 or newer:

# transactional-update shell
transactional update # mksubvolume /tmp
transactional update # exit
# systemctl reboot

Afterwards, all files are stored again on the disk and will survive a reboot.

Future plans

In the future we plan to harden the system by default even more, e.g. by marking /tmp and other write-able parts of the filesystem with noexec.

Categories: blog


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