How do I fix a "still dirty" filesystem?

Paul Richards paul at
Mon Oct 25 11:49:06 BST 1999

Jo & wrote:
> ----------  Forwarded Message  ----------
> Subject: How do I fix a "still dirty" filesystem?
> Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 03:32:11 +0100
> From: Jo & <drmarsh at>
> I think I'm in deep trouble.
> I was innocently unarchiving an innocent archive (whose contents I'd checked
> first) into my '/' directory, and then the unarchiving process bombed out (with
> 'unexpected end of archive' or somesuch), and before I know it, I find that I'm
> seemingly unable to do anything in the windows where I am my mortal self:
> commands such as pwd and ls fail, and so on. (root seems unaffected).

Point number one is, don't unarchive over '/' when not single user and
even then you need to be careful. Really, you should only do that on an
idle filesystem, i.e. one you've mounted somewhere else to do
maintenance on, not one that the system is actually running off.
> Fearing something nasty has happened, I reboot and run fsck.
> After each partition is checked, I get:
> ***** PLEASE RERUN FSCK *****
> I've rerun fsck 3 or 4 times, and things aren't looking any happier.

I'm guessing you're running fsck on mounted filesystems, don't do that!

If you've rebooted and the system has come up multi-user then you're
filesystems are all ok. If you shutdown cleanly then I suspect
everything is fine. If they weren't the boot would have bombed out when
the fsck runs from /etc/rc
> I can't login as a mortal (I get 'unable to find root' or something like that)
> and trying to su to somebody else from root gets
> gatehouse# su dm
> su: /bin/sh: Permission denied
> ls and pwd work fine as root (as do other things, eg KDE, and kmail, thankfully)
> but for some reason 'man' seems knackered:
> gatehouse# man
> /usr/libexec/ Cannot open "/usr/lib/"

Is it there? What are the permissions.

What was in this "innocent" archive of yours? It looks like you've blown
away some important system files but I'd need a lot more info to sort it
out. I doubt very much that your system is totally hosed so don't do
anything rash to the box until one of us here can guide you out of the

Take a look at what the archive overwrote, that will be the key; examine
all your /etc files and lib directories and check that everything is as
it should be.

If you need more help then you'll have to provide *exact* error
messages, "something like that" doesn't really help.

Paul Richards
Originative Solutions Ltd

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