Recently I’ve been trying to reclaim suddenly disappearing disk space on one of my Ubuntu laptops.  After 3+ hours of  admittedly half-hearted searching, this section of Ubuntu’s RecoverLostDiskSpace manual finally helped, so I call it out for my own memory and perhaps yours:

Trash Folders Not Empty

When a file or folder is deleted via a file browser in most cases it is not removed from the system. Instead it is placed in Trash. Until Trash is emptied, these files are recoverable and continue to take up space on the partition. There are several places on the system that deleted files are stored. It varies by which version of Ubuntu is running, the origin of the deleted folders/files, and who deleted them.

Example: A user downloads a collection of large .iso files or installation packages. Deciding not to use the files, the user deletes them using administrative privileges (as root). The user’s Trash shows empty, the user can’t find the files with his/her browser, but the free space isn’t restored. In a different scenario, another user on the same machine deletes files but never empties Trash.

How to Find It:

  • Run the following command to locate all Trash folders in the system. This will find the Trash folders of all users as well as root. The second part of the command will display the size of the located folders.
    • sudo find / -type d -name '*Trash*' | sudo xargs du -h | sort

       

How to Fix It:

  • Empty the Trash completely. Items in Trash must be deleted in a special manner – otherwise they will be moved to the …Trash!

    • Open a file browser with administrative privileges (gksudo nautilus &). Navigate to the Trash folder, highlight it and press SHIFT-DELETE. Using this key combination ensures the Trash folder is permanently deleted, The Trash folder contains two sub-folders, infoand files. Deleting the parent Trash folder will delete both these folders. All three will be restored the next time something is deleted. Warning: These delete methods cannot be reversed! Make sure you are deleting the correct item.

Source: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/RecoverLostDiskSpace

 

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