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Fixing Readable /dev/null in Ubuntu

Ubuntu 12

In the world of Linux, /dev/null is a special file that discards all data written to it and returns an EOF (End Of File) when read. However, there can be instances where this file becomes readable due to incorrect operations, causing various scripts and processes to malfunction. This article will guide you through the process of restoring the /dev/null file to its original state in Ubuntu.

Quick Answer

To fix the issue of a readable /dev/null in Ubuntu, you can remove the existing file using sudo rm /dev/null and then recreate it as a special file using sudo mknod -m 0666 /dev/null c 1 3. This will restore /dev/null to its original functionality.

Understanding /dev/null

Before we dive into the solution, it’s essential to understand what /dev/null is and its function in a Linux system. In Unix-like operating systems, /dev/null or the null device is a special file that discards all data written to it but reports that the write operation succeeded. It provides no data to any process that reads from it, yielding EOF immediately.

The Issue

The problem arises when /dev/null becomes readable due to an incorrect operation. For example, if you mistakenly move a text file to /dev/null using the sudo mv command, you replace the special file /dev/null with your text file. This is not the intended behavior and can cause issues with scripts and processes that rely on /dev/null to discard data.

The Solution

To fix /dev/null and restore it to its normal functionality, you need to recreate it as a special file. Here are the steps to do so:

Step 1: Remove the existing /dev/null file

Open a terminal and run the following command to remove the existing /dev/null file:

sudo rm /dev/null

This command uses sudo for root privileges and rm to remove the existing /dev/null file.

Step 2: Recreate /dev/null as a special file

Next, recreate /dev/null as a special file using the mknod command:

sudo mknod -m 0666 /dev/null c 1 3

This command creates a new /dev/null file with the correct permissions and device numbers. Here’s a breakdown of the command:

  • mknod: This is the command used to create a special file.
  • -m 0666: This sets the permissions for the file. 0666 means that all users can read from and write to the file.
  • /dev/null: This is the name and location of the file.
  • c: This specifies that the file is a character device file.
  • 1 3: These are the major and minor device numbers for /dev/null.

After executing these commands, /dev/null should be restored to its original state.

A Word of Caution

It’s important to note that /dev/null is a special file and should not be used as a regular file or directory. Moving files to /dev/null is not the correct way to delete them. To remove a file, you should use the rm command:

rm test_file

This will properly delete the file without affecting /dev/null or causing any issues.


Understanding and maintaining the integrity of special files like /dev/null is crucial for the smooth operation of your Linux system. Always exercise caution when performing operations that require root privileges to prevent unintentional modifications. If you encounter issues with /dev/null, follow the steps above to restore it to its original state.

Why is `/dev/null` important in a Linux system?

/dev/null is important because it provides a way to discard data and return an EOF immediately when read. It is commonly used in scripts and processes to redirect unwanted output or to create a null output.

Can I delete `/dev/null` permanently?

No, you should not delete /dev/null permanently. It is a special file that is essential for the proper functioning of the system. If you accidentally delete it, you can follow the steps mentioned in the article to recreate it.

Can I use `/dev/null` to delete files?

No, you should not use /dev/null to delete files. /dev/null is not meant for file deletion. To delete a file, you should use the rm command followed by the file name you want to delete.

What are the correct permissions for `/dev/null`?

The correct permissions for /dev/null are 0666. This means that all users have read and write permissions for the file.

Can I use `/dev/null` to store data temporarily?

No, you should not use /dev/null to store data temporarily. It is designed to discard all data written to it and does not provide any storage functionality. If you need to store data temporarily, consider using other appropriate methods or files.

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