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Debian GNU/Linux Reference Guide
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6.3.5 Rescue system after crashing /var

Since the /var directory contains regularly updated data such as mail, it is more susceptible of corruption than, e.g., /usr/. Putting /var/ on a separate partition reduces risks. If disaster happens, you may have to rebuild the /var directory to rescue your Debian system.

Obtain the skeleton content of the /var directory from a minimum working Debian system based on the same or older Debian version, for example var.tar.gz, and place it in the root directory of the broken system. Then

     # cd /
     # mv var var-old      # if any useful contents are left
     # tar xvzf var.tar.gz # use Woody skeleton file
     # aptitude            # or dselect

This should provide a working system. You can expedite the recovery of package selections by using the technique described in Recover package selection data, Section 6.3.4. ([FIXME]: This procedure needs more experiments to verify.)

Debian GNU/Linux Reference Guide
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