Disk managements

Disk quotas are commonly used by ISPs, by Web hosting companies, on FTP sites, and on corporate file servers to ensure continued availability of their systems.

Quotas are used to limit a users or a group of users ability to consume disk space. This prevents a small group of users from monopolizing disk capacity and potentially interfering with other users or the entire system.

Without quotas, one or more users can upload files on an FTP server to the point of filling a file system. Once the affected partition is full, other users are effectively denied upload access to the disk. This is also a reason to mount different file system directories on different partitions. For example, if you only had partitions for your root (/) directory and swap space, someone uploading to your computer could fill up all of the space in your root directory (/). Without at least a little free space in the root directory (/), your system could become unstable or even crash.

You have two ways to set quotas for users. You can limit users by inodes or by kilobyte-sized disk blocks. Every Linux file requires an inode. Therefore, you can limit users by the number of files or by absolute space. You can set up different quotas for different file systems. For example, you can set different quotas for users on the /home and /tmp directories if they are mounted on their own partitions. Limits on disk blocks restrict the amount of disk space available to a user on your system. Older versions of Red Hat Linux included LinuxConf, which included a graphical tool to configure quotas. Red Hat no longer has a graphical quota configuration tool. Today, you can configure quotas on RHEL only through the command line interface.

Lets look few basic terms used for implementation of disk quota

  • Soft limit
    This is the maximum amount of space a user can have on that partition. If you have set a grace period, this will act as an alarm. The user will then be notified she is in quota violation. If you have set a grace period, you will also need to set a hard limit. A grace period is the number of days a user is allowed to be above the given quota. After the grace period is over, the user must get under the soft limit to continue. By default grace period have seven days limits.
  • Hard limit
    Hard limits are necessary only when you are using grace periods. If grace periods are enabled, this will be the absolute limit a user can use. Any attempt to consume resources beyond this limit will be denied. If you are not using grace periods, the soft limit is the maximum amount of available space for each user.
  • Grace Periods
    Linux has provided the default of seven days for both inodes and block usage. That is, a user may exceed the soft limit on either resource for up to seven days. After that, further requests by that user to use files will be denied.
Reference Table
Soft Limit Disk space a user can use
Hard limit Absolute limit a user can use
Grace Periods Time duration till user can use hard limit space
1 inode 1 KB
dd used to create a blank file of specific size
required RPM quota-3.13-
/etc/fstab options usrquota, grpquota
Quota files aquota.user, aquota.group
Necessary command mount, quotaon, quotacheck, edquota, quotaoff

Quota Tools

Quota checks can be implemented on the file system of a hard disk partition mounted on your system. The quotas are enabled using the quotacheck and quotaon programs. They are executed in the /etc/rc.d/rc.sysinit script, which is run whenever you start up your system. Each partition needs to be mounted with the quota options, usrquota or grpquota. usrquota enables quota controls for users, and grpquota works for groups.

You also need to create quota.user and quota.group files for each partition for which you enable quotas. These are the quota databases that hold the quota information for each user and group. You can create these files by running the quotacheck command with the -a option or the device name of the file system where you want to enable quotas.


You can set disk quotas using the edquota command. With it, you can access the quota record for a particular user and group, which is maintained in the disk quota database. You can also set default quotas that will be applied to any user or group on the file system for which quotas have not been set. edquota will open the record in your default editor, and you can use your editor to make any changes. To open the record for a particular user, use the -u option and the username as an argument for edquota

quotacheck, quotaon, and quotaoff

The quota records are maintained in the quota database for that partition. Each partition that has quotas enabled has its own quota database. You can check the validity of your quota database with the quotacheck command. You can turn quotas on and off using the quotaon and quotaoff commands. When you start up your system, quotacheck is run to check the quota databases, and then quotaon is run to turn on quotas.


As the system administrator, you can use the repquota command to generate a summary of disk usage for a specified file system, checking to see what users are approaching or exceeding quota limits. repquota takes as its argument the file system to check; the -a option checks all file systems.