logrotate − rotates, compresses, and mails system logs


logrotate [-dv] [-f|--force] [-s|--state file] config_file+


logrotate is designed to ease administration of systems that generate large numbers of log files. It allows automatic rotation, compression, removal, and mailing of log files. Each log file may be handled daily, weekly, monthly, or when it grows too large.

Normally, logrotate is run as a daily cron job. It will not modify a log multiple times in one day unless the criterium for that log is based on the log’s size and logrotate is being run multiple times each day, or unless the -f or -force option is used.

Any number of config files may be given on the command line. Later config files may override the options given in earlier files, so the order in which the logrotate config files are listed in is important. Normally, a single config file which includes any other config files which are needed should be used. See below for more information on how to use the include directive to accomplish this. If a directory is given on the command line, every file in that directory is used as a config file.



Turns on debug mode and implies -v. In debug mode, no changes will be made to the logs or to the logrotate state file.

-f, -−force

Tells logrotate to force the rotation, even if it doesn’t think this is necessary. Sometimes this is useful after adding new entries to logrotate, or if old log files have been removed by hand, as the new files will be created, and logging will continue correctly.

-s, -−state <statefile>

Tells logrotate to use an alternate state file. This is useful if logrotate is being run as a different user for various sets of log files. The default state file is /var/lib/logrotate.status.


Prints a short usage message.


logrotate reads everything about the log files it should be handling from the series of configuration files specified on the command line. Each configuration file can set global options (local definitions override global ones, and later definitions override earlier ones) and specify a logfile to rotate. A simple configuration file looks like this:

# sample logrotate configuration file
errors sysadmin@my.org

/var/log/messages {
    rotate 5

/sbin/killall -HUP syslogd


"/var/log/httpd/access.log" /var/log/httpd/error.log {
rotate 5
mail www@my.org
errors www@my.org

/sbin/killall -HUP httpd


/var/log/news/* {
rotate 2
errors newsadmin@my.org

kill -HUP ‘cat /var/run/inn.pid‘


The first few lines set global options; any errors that occur during log file processing are mailed to sysadmin@my.org and logs are compressed after they are rotated. Note that comments may appear anywhere in the config file as long as the first non-whitespace character on the line is a #.

The next section of the config files defined how to handle the log file /var/log/messages. The log will go through five weekly rotations before being removed. After the log file has been rotated (but before the old version of the log has been compressed), the command /sbin/killall -HUP syslogd will be executed.

The next section defines the parameters for both /var/log/httpd/access.logand /var/log/httpd/error.log. They are rotated whenever is grows over 100k is size, and the old logs files are mailed (uncompressed) to www@my.org after going through 5 rotations, rather then being removed. Likewise, any errors that occur while processing the log file are also mailed to www@my.org (overriding the global errors directive). The sharedscripts means that the postrotate script will only be run once, not once for each log which is rotated. Note that the double quotes around the first filename at the beginning of this section allows logrotate to rotate logs with spaces in the name. Normal shell quoting rules apply, with ’, ", and \ characters supported.

The last section definest the parameters for all of the files in /var/log/news. Each file is rotated on a monthly basis, and the errors are mailed to newsadmin@my.org. This is considered a single rotation directive and if errors occur for more then one file they are mailed in a single message. In this case, the log files are not compressed.

Here is more information on the directives which may be included in a logrotate configuration file:


Old versions of log files are compressed with gzip. See also nocompress.


Truncate the original log file in place after creating a copy, instead of moving the old log file and optionally creating a new one, It can be used when some program can not be told to close its logfile and thus might continue writing (appending) to the previous log file forever. Note that there is a very small time slice between copying the file and truncating it, so some logging data might be lost. When this option is used, the create option will have no effect, as the old log file stays in place.

create mode owner group

Immediately after rotation (before the postrotate script is run) the log file is created (with the same name as the log file just rotated). mode specifies the mode for the log file in octal (the same as chmod(2)), owner specifies the user name who will own the log file, and group specifies the group the log file will belong to. Any of the log file attributes may be omitted, in which case those attributes for the new file will use the same values as the original log file for the omitted attributes. This option can be disabled using the nocreate option.


Log files are rotated every day.


Postpone compression of the previous log file to the next rotation cycle. This has only effect when used in combination with compress. It can be used when some program can not be told to close its logfile and thus might continue writing to the previous log file for some time.

errors address

Any errors that occur during log file processing are mailed to the given address.

extension ext

Log files are given the final extension ext after rotation. If compresssion is used, the compression extension (normally .gz) appears after ext.


Rotate the log file even if it is empty, overiding the notifempty option (ifempty is the default).

include file_or_directory

Reads the file given as an argument as if it was included inline where the include directive appears. If a directory is given, most of the files in that directory are read before processing of the including file continues. The only files which are ignored are files which are not regular files (such as directories and named pipes) and files whose names end with one of the taboo extensions, as specified by the tabooext directive. The include directive may not appear inside of a log file definition.

mail address

When a log is rotated out-of-existence, it is mailed to address. If no mail should be generated by a particular log, the nomail directive may be used.


When using the mail command, mail the just-rotated file, instead of the about-to-expire file.


When using the mail command, mail the about-to-expire file, instead of the just-rotated file (this is the default).


If the log file is missing, go on to the next one without issuing an error message. See also nomissingok.


Log files are rotated the first time logrotate is run in a month (this is normally on the first day of the month).


Old versions of log files are not compressed with gzip. See also compress.


Do not truncate the original log file in place after creating a copy (this overrides the copytruncate option).


New log files are not created (this overrides the create option).


Do not postpone compression of the previous log file to the next rotation cycle (this overrides the delaycompress option).


Don’t mail old log files to any address.


If a log file does not exist, issue an error. This is the default.


Logs are rotated in the same directory the log normally resides in (this overrides the olddir option).


Run prerotate and postrotate scripts for every script which is rotated (this is the default, and overrides the sharedscripts option).


Do not rotate the log if it is empty (this overrides the ifempty option).

olddir directory

Logs are moved into directory for rotation. The directory must be on the same physical device as the log file being rotated. When this option is used all old versions of the log end up in directory. This option may be overriden by the noolddir option.


The lines between postrotate and endscript (both of which must appear on lines by themselves) are executed after the log file is rotated. These directives may only appear inside of a log file definition. See prerotate as well.


The lines between prerotate and endscript (both of which must appear on lines by themselves) are executed before the log file is rotated. These directives may only appear inside of a log file definition. See postrotate as well.

rotate count

Log files are rotated <count> times before being removed or mailed to the address specified in a mail directive. If count is 0, old versions are removed rather then rotated.

size size

Log files are rotated when they grow bigger then size bytes. If size is followed by M, the size if assumed to be in megabytes. If the k is used, the size is in kilobytes. So size 100, size 100k, and size 100M are all valid.


Normally, prescript and postscript scripts are run for each log which is rotated, meaning that a single script may be run multiple times for log file entries which match multiple files (such as the /var/log/news/* example). If sharedscript is specified, the scripts are only run once, no matter how many logs match the wildcarded pattern. A side effect of this option is that the scripts are always executed, even if no logs are rotated (if it is not specified, the scripts are run only if logs are actually rotated) (this overrides the nosharedscripts option).

tabooext [+] list

The current taboo extension list is changed (see the include directive for information on the taboo extensions). If a + precedes the list of extensions, the current taboo extension list is augmented, otherwise it is replaced. At startup, the taboo extension list contains .rpmorig, .rpmsave, ,v, .swp, .rpmnew, and ~.


Log files are rotated if the current weekday is less then the weekday of the last rotation or if more then a week has passed since the last rotation. This is normally the same as rotating logs on the first day of the week, but it works better if logrotate is not run every night.



Default state file.




Erik Troan <ewt@redhat.com>