I want to erase the contents of the file error.log (nginx error log file), but I don't want to actually delete the file.

is this possible?

running ubuntu

2 Answers 2


You can use this:


(typed just like that - an empty output redirection)


truncate -s0 error.log
  • @Ignacio: If the file already exists, either will truncate it. If the file doesn't exist, either will create it. Dec 4, 2010 at 3:21
  • You're right, my bad. Dec 4, 2010 at 3:24
  • The last option worked for me, for some reason sudo >error.log didnt work for me (ubuntu 12.04) May 19, 2014 at 10:38
  • 5
    @davidkonrad: You would have to already be root for the redirection to work since it's performed before sudo takes effect. Or you can do sudo bash -c '>error.log' May 19, 2014 at 10:56
  • 1
    @divHelper11: In my answer I say it's an "empty output redirection". That means that "nothing" is being sent to the named file and that overwrites any existing contents. It's similar to echo "some words" > output.txt but nothing is going in. Oct 25, 2018 at 16:46

You'll confuse the daemon. Erase the file then send SIGHUP to nginx.

  • SIGHUP? Can't I shut nginx down, purge the file, then start? I want to know how to erase the file for knowledge sake also.
    – user27449
    Dec 4, 2010 at 3:14
  • If you wanted to, sure. But that would disrupt service. Dec 4, 2010 at 3:15
  • I think both a null redirection and a truncate are atomic, so as long as no seeking is going on (especially if the only operation that's occurring is appending) it shouldn't be disruptive. Dec 4, 2010 at 3:25

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