Find out which process is writing to a file

Posted on Aug 21, 2023

Scenario: Imagine you login to a server and you find that the disk is filling up rapidly. Either by using df -h or du -h -d1 /<dir> or getting errors like no more disk space left etc. How do you figure out who is filling up the file?

Solution: Let’s say the file in question is /var/log/badd.log and it’s rapidly filling up.

First step is to use lsof to figure out which process has that file open. To write to a file, any process has to first open that file. So the process will show up in lsof, which is a program to “list open files”. With any luck your output will show up like this -

ubuntu@ip-172-31-32-108:/$ lsof /var/log/badd.log
COMMAND   PID   USER   FD   TYPE DEVICE SIZE/OFF  NODE NAME 601 ubuntu    3w   REG  259,1     9158 67701 /var/log/badd.log

Here we see that the badd.log file is open by a process named and the pid is 601.

So if we kill this process, that will stop the process from writing to that file.