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How to Kill a Linux/Unix System and Live to Tell the Tale

Apr 17, 2009, 10:32 (0 Talkback[s])

"Notice there is a space between the slash "/" and the asterisk "*". I had pressed enter and eventually realized it was taking longer than I expected to remove what I thought I was removing, should have been about 2 seconds. By the time I understood my error and canceled the command almost all of /etc was gone. For you command line novices I will explain what I did wrong in the command used. I basically told the remove command, "rm", to delete everything recursively in both "olddirectory/" and the current working directory by adding that unintended space after the slash followed by that asterisk. Yes, that is A Very Bad Thing as the /etc directory tree is a critical system directory under Unix and GNU/Linux.

"Did this kill the system? Well, yes and no. As long as I did not reboot the system I was okay. Had I made the mistake of rebooting the system I would have had more problems recovering than I cared to have. The Unix system happily churned along with an empty /etc directory and I was able to copy all the company data off the server to a PC on the LAN, including the Quickbooks file that had all the accounting data in it. Then I could decide on staying with SCO, which was starting to make noises against GNU/Linux, or move to something else. I decided to move to FreeBSD on the file server and did so."

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