root cannot delete, move or change a file – Operation not permitted or Permission denied – immutable attribute

If you are the root user and some file (files or directories) cannot be deleted, removed, renamed or changed you probably deal with the immutable attribute set on (by a colleague of yours – installation setups tend to not set such attributes).

Here is what it looks like to have such a file

root@srv.remote /etc/apache2/vhosts.d # mv /root/old/apache/
mv: cannot move `' to `/root/old/apache/': Operation not permitted
root@srv.remote /etc/apache2/vhosts.d # lsattr
root@srv.remote /etc/apache2/vhosts.d # rm
rm: cannot remove `': Operation not permitted
root@srv.remote /etc/apache2/vhosts.d # echo "teeest" >>
-bash: Permission denied

Here is how you can set the attribute off.

You need first to set off the file’s immutable attribute and then to do whatever you intended to do in the first place – delete, rename, change and so on. Y

chattr -i filename.txt

In continuation of our example above:

root@srv.remote /etc/apache2/vhosts.d # chattr -i
root@srv.remote /etc/apache2/vhosts.d # lsattr
root@srv.remote /etc/apache2/vhosts.d # mv /root/old/apache/
root@srv.remote /etc/apache2/vhosts.d #

As you can see no immutable attribute no problem to move the file!

And just not note you need to install a package with the name e2fsprogs (not always in the default installation) in your Linux distribution to have lsattr, chattr and more!

Online resize of a root ext4 file system – increase the space

Here you can see how to online resize your root ext4 file system. The free space of your partition will be increased after the operation. The size of the root file system will grow not to shrink. Of course, this could have been any other partition, not exactly the root one, but in most cases, such operations on the root are the more complex and dangerous – SO ALWAYS do backups before such operations!

All services work properly and no shut down of services, no reboot or umount is required during the resize operation.

Still, we rebooted the server once to force check the file system as a precaution, because it was possible and this server was not in production. The reboot of the server after this kind of resizing is not mandatory.
The following methind is tested on a CentOS 7, Ubuntu 16 LTS and Gentoo with kernel 4.15 kernel. So we can assume you may have no problems if your system is newer than our.


  1. Partition resize – Use resizepart in parted command. All Linux distributions have this package with the same name as the needed command “parted”
  2. File system resize – Use resize2fs from the E2fsprogs package. All Linux distributions include this package mostly with the same name of the package.

STEP 1) Expand the partition, which holds the root partition.

Let’s assume you have changed your disk and now there is more unallocated space to be used or somehow the space of the disk is increased. Look below for a real-world example with one of our virtual servers.

root@srv1 ~ # parted /dev/sda
GNU Parted 3.2
Using /dev/sda
Welcome to GNU Parted! Type 'help' to view a list of commands.
(parted) p                                                                
Model: Model: ATA Samsung SSD 850 (scsi)
Disk /dev/sda: 215GB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
Partition Table: gpt
Disk Flags: 

Number  Start   End     Size    File system     Name  Flags
 1      1049kB  2097kB  1049kB                        bios_grub
 2      2097kB  4096MB  4094MB  linux-swap(v1)
 3      4096MB  24.0GB  19.9GB  ext4
(parted) resizepart 3 -1                                                  
Warning: Partition /dev/sda3 is being used. Are you sure you want to continue?
parted: invalid token: -1                                                 
Yes/No? Yes                                                               
End?  [24.0GB]? -1                                                        
(parted) p                                                                
Model: Model: ATA Samsung SSD 850 (scsi)
Disk /dev/sda: 215GB
Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B
Partition Table: gpt
Disk Flags: 

Number  Start   End     Size    File system     Name  Flags
 1      1049kB  2097kB  1049kB                        bios_grub
 2      2097kB  4096MB  4094MB  linux-swap(v1)
 3      4096MB  215GB   211GB   ext4

(parted) q                                                                
Information: You may need to update /etc/fstab.

As you can see from the first print command the partition number 3 is 19.9GB and after the resize command with “-1” is 211GB. There is a warning about the partition is used, but it is normal and not critical.

STEP 2) Resize the file system, on which we expanded the partition.

You need to install E2fsprogs. All Linux distributions have this package, here are some of them:

  • CentOS 7 – e2fsprogs
  • Ubuntu – e2fsprogs
  • Gentoo – sys-fs/e2fsprogs

After installing the e2fsprogs package you will have the online ext4 resizing tool – resize2fs.

root@srv ~ # resize2fs /dev/sda3
resize2fs 1.42.13 (17-May-2015)
Filesystem at /dev/sda3 is mounted on /; on-line resizing required
old_desc_blocks = 2, new_desc_blocks = 13
The filesystem on /dev/sda3 is now 51428620 (4k) blocks long.

Check if everything is OK with

root@srv ~ # dmesg|grep EXT4
[  449.330140] EXT4-fs (vda3): resizing filesystem from 4859392 to 51428620 blocks
[  449.936044] EXT4-fs (vda3): resized filesystem to 51428620
root@srv ~ # df -h
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
udev            3.9G     0  3.9G   0% /dev
tmpfs           798M  3.5M  795M   1% /run
/dev/sda3       193G  3.4G  182G   2% /
tmpfs           3.9G     0  3.9G   0% /dev/shm
tmpfs           5.0M     0  5.0M   0% /run/lock
tmpfs           3.9G     0  3.9G   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
tmpfs           798M     0  798M   0% /run/user/0

Bonus – you can force check the file system on next reboot

Probably it is a good idea to force check the file system integrity on the next boot. This step is not mandatory and you may skip it.
For Ubuntu you can do:

root@srv ~ # touch /forcefsck
root@srv ~ # reboot