Which files are for which logs? What's the rationale?


4 Answers 4


This is handled differently by different versions of Linux [ Ubuntu creates a lot more files than CentOS/Redhat for example ] and can be quite easily changed. (Look at /etc/syslog.conf or /etc/rsyslog.conf).

In addition to different services (which can be logged to the same or different places) there are different levels of logging.

The rationale behind this flexibility must be to allow system administrators to get the right balance for their needs - for example if the system is a mail server, it may be useful to split off the incoming mail and outgoing mail from the general server logs to make tracking what is happening in certain cases easier.

Similarly if a particular application is not behaving as expected, cranking the debug information up might be desirable, but you don't want this level of debug information mixed in with your logs.

Compounding this is that some programs (fail2ban for example) monitor logs for activity and act on it - having multiple logs provides for better responsiveness and easier configuration.



Log files from the system and various programs/services, especially login (/var/log/wtmp, which logs all logins and logouts into the system) and syslog (/var/log/messages, where all kernel and system program message are usually stored). Files in /var/log can often grow indefinitely, and may require cleaning at regular intervals. Something that is now normally managed via log rotation utilities such as logrotate. This utility also allows for the automatic rotation compression, removal and mailing of log files. Logrotate can be set to handle a log file daily, weekly, monthly or when the log file gets to a certain size. Normally, logrotate runs as a daily cron job. This is a good place to start troubleshooting general technical problems.

  • /var/log/messages – Contains global system messages, including the messages that are logged during system startup. There are several things that are logged in /var/log/messages including mail, cron, daemon, kern, auth, etc.
  • /var/log/dmesg – Contains kernel ring buffer information. When the system boots up, it prints number of messages on the screen that displays information about the hardware devices that the kernel detects during boot process. These messages are available in kernel ring buffer and whenever the new message comes the old message gets overwritten. You can also view the content of this file using the dmesg command.
  • /var/log/auth.log – Contains system authorization information, including user logins and authentication mechanism that were used.
  • /var/log/boot.log – Contains information that are logged when the system boots.
  • /var/log/daemon.log – Contains information logged by the various background daemons that runs on the system.
  • /var/log/dpkg.log – Contains information that are logged when a package is installed or removed using dpkg command.
  • /var/log/kern.log – Contains information logged by the kernel. Helpful for you to troubleshoot a custom-built kernel.
  • /var/log/lastlog – Displays the recent login information for all the users. This is not an ASCII file. You should use lastlog command to view the content of this file.
  • /var/log/mail.log – Contains the log information from the mail server that is running on the system. For example, sendmail logs information about all the sent items to this file.
  • /var/log/user.log – Contains information about all user level logs.
  • /var/log/Xorg.x.log – Log messages from the X.
  • /var/log/alternatives.log – Information by the update-alternatives are logged into this log file. On Ubuntu, update-alternatives maintains symbolic links determining default commands.
  • /var/log/btmp – This file contains information about failed login attempts. Use the last command to view the btmp file. For example, last -f /var/log/btmp | more.
  • /var/log/cups – All printer and printing related log messages.
  • /var/log/anaconda.log – When you install Linux, all installation related messages are stored in this log file.
  • /var/log/yum.log – Contains information that are logged when a package is installed using yum.
  • /var/log/cron – Whenever cron daemon (or anacron) starts a cron job, it logs the information about the cron job in this file.
  • /var/log/secure – Contains information related to authentication and authorization privileges. For example, sshd logs all the messages here, including unsuccessful login.
  • /var/log/wtmp or /var/log/utmp – Contains login records. Using wtmp you can find out who is logged into the system. The who command uses this file to display the information.
  • /var/log/faillog – Contains user failed login attempts. Use the faillog command to display the content of this file.

Apart from the above log files, the /var/log directory may also contain the following sub-directories depending on the application that is running on your system:

  • /var/log/httpd/ or /var/log/apache2/ – Contains the apache web server access_log and error_log.
  • /var/log/lighttpd/ – Contains light HTTPD access_log and error_log.
  • /var/log/connman/ – Log files for ConnMan client. ConnMan connects remote consoles that are managed by the connmand daemon.
  • /var/log/mail/ – This subdirectory contains additional logs from your mail server. For example, sendmail stores the collected mail statistics in /var/log/mail/statistics file.
  • /var/log/prelink/ – the prelink program modifies shared libraries and linked binaries to speed up the startup process. The file /var/log/prelink/prelink.log contains the information about the .so library file that was modified by the prelink.
  • /var/log/audit/ – Contains logs information stored by the Linux audit daemon (auditd).
  • /var/log/setroubleshoot/ – SELinux uses setroubleshootd (SE Trouble Shoot Daemon) to notify about issues in the security context of files, and logs those information in this log file.
  • /var/log/samba/ – Contains log information stored by Samba, which is used to share files over the local network (the SMB protocol).
  • /var/log/sa/ – Contains the daily sar files that are collected by the sysstat package.
  • /var/log/sssd/ – Used by system security services (SSH) daemon that manages access to remote machines.

The general convention is:

  • syslog: Everything
  • messages: General events, no debug stuff, excludes some errors
  • dmesg: Kernel messages, reset on every boot.

Ya they pretty important thing for bug fixing if you have problem with your user application,kernel,hardware or shell you can prefer using

cat /usr/log/syslog | tail

it will show all error

and if you want with the kernel issue and hardware management use thes

dmesg | tail

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .