Unburden Your Home Directory

unburden-home-dir allows users to move cache files from browsers, etc. off their home directory, i.e. on a local harddisk or tmpfs and replace them with a symbolic link to the new location (e.g. on /tmp/ or /scratch/) upon login. Optionally the contents of the directories and files can be removed instead of moved.

This is helpful at least in the following cases:

  • The idea-giving case are big workstation setups where $HOME is on NFS and all those caches put an unnecessary burden (hence the name) on the file server since caching over NFS doesn’t have the best performance and may clog the NFS server, too.

  • A similar case, but with different purpose is reducing I/O on mobile devices like laptops or netbooks to extend the battery life or reduce the wearing down of CF or SD cards, e.g. in single board computers like the Raspberry Pi or ALIX or APU boards: Moving browser caches etc. off the real disk into a tmpfs filesystem reduces the amount of disk I/O which reduces the power consumption of the disk.

  • Another type of use case for unburden-home-dir is to reduce disk space usage, e.g. on devices with small disk space but a lot of RAM as seen often on boxes with flash disks or early netbooks, e.g. the first EeePC with 4GB disk space and 2GB RAM. In this case you want to move off as many cache files, etc. as possible to some tmpfs filesystem, e.g. /tmp/.

  • It may also help to reduce the amount of needed backup disk space by keeping those files in places where they don’t get backed up. In that case it’s an alternative to keeping the blacklist in your backup software up-to-date.

  • Another pragmatic use case may be to stay — as a user — within a given disk quota. :-)

This project initially started as an Xsession hook. It now consists of a perl script which optionally can also be called from a provided Xsession hook.

While the default configuration includes no logout hook as Debian’s Xsession script, you can run unburden-home-dir -u to reverse the effect of unburden-home-dir and to move all (moved) directories back to your home directory.

Nevertheless unburden-home-dir was written with non-valuable data (cache files, pid files, thumbnails, temporary data, etc.) in mind and not for preservation of the handled data. So it is likely less suitable for cases where the handled data should be preserved on logout or shutdown.

See this wiki page about application cache files for the detailed reasoning behind this project.


Talks about Unburden Your Home Directory