I'm using rsync to backup files to an external hard drive; my boot disk is pretty full. Rsync keeps failing due to not enough disk space to build the temporary file list, and unfortunately doesn't delete the temp files. My question: where are those temporary files kept? I'd like to go and delete them manually.

  • 2
    Have a look at -T, --temp-dir=DIR in man rsync, it says, "The default behavior is to create each temporary file in the same directory as the associated destination file.". Otherwise I'd look in the systems $TMPDIR. Jun 17, 2015 at 23:29
  • Yea, I read the man page and googled a bit before asking. In this case, it's definitely not on the external device as my free space plummeted during the rsync. I cleared out both tmp directories, to no avail. Jun 17, 2015 at 23:58
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    you could try running rsync and using lsof /|grep rsync to determine where the files being used by it are Jun 18, 2015 at 0:12

1 Answer 1


Ok, figured it out.

I was running a simple rsync command: rsync -av /Users/kenneth /foo where /foo is the former location of an external drive. Instead of directing rsync to the current location, I was creating a new location and writing to it, simply duplicating files on my boot drive.

Lesson: read your command twice and double-check before running it.

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