Security

How--and why--you should enable Housekeeping in Elementary OS Juno

Elementary OS Juno includes a number of improvements and additions, including a slight security bump over previous releases.

Elementary OS Juno is finally available. It's a highly polished version of an already polished Linux distribution. The latest iteration demonstrates a significant amount of improvements. There are even a few new additions that make Elementary OS (my daily driver) a distribution that is ready to take over the average user's default desktop operating system. One such addition is found in the Security & Privacy section of the Settings tool. This new feature is called Housekeeping.

Housekeeping doesn't do much, but what it does do is important. After using an operating system for some time, chances are you have files sitting around on your hard drive that you shouldn't. Some of these files are temporary files, while others are simply files found in Trash.

You may not think this is an important addition, but consider this scenario: You have a number of files that contain various forms of sensitive information. You delete those files, but forget that they are sitting in the Trash folder. A pair of prying eyes gains access to your desktop, and the first thing they do is poke around in the Trash. Oh, look, important information!

SEE: Side-by-side chart of popular Linux distros (Tech Pro Research)

Or, what about those temp files that applications leave lying around? It is not outside of the realm of possibility that those temp files could contain sensitive information. Those same prying eyes could open a terminal window and check out the information found on those temporary files. They could hit pay dirt.

Those reasons are why it is important to always delete temp and trashed files. But prior to the Juno release, that had to be done manually. Now, there's a new feature that handles the task automatically. As you probably already know, the feature is called Housekeeping.

What Housekeeping does

This is simple: Housekeeping allows you to enable the automatic deletion of temporary and/or files moved to the Trash directory. For those that do not know:

  • Temporary files are those found in the /tmp directory.
  • Trashed files are those found in ~/.local/share/Trash.

Housekeeping not only allows you to enable the automatic deletion of these files, but it also allows you to configure a single retention rule. Say, for instance, you only want to keep temp and trash files on your local drive for one day. You can configure Housekeeping such that, after 24 hours, those files will delete. You cannot configure different retention rules for temp and trash files, so you have to take into consideration the shortest amount of time that you want to keep either type of file, and apply it to both.

Enabling and configuring Housekeeping

Open the Settings tool. Click on the Security & Privacy section. In this window, click on the Housekeeping tab. In the resulting window (Figure A), click to enable either (or both) the automatic deletion of temporary and trashed files.

Figure A

Figure A

Enabling Housekeeping for temporary and trashed files.


Once you've enabled one (or both), you can then set the retention rule. I highly recommend you go with the shortest amount of time (the shortest you can configure is one day) you're willing to keep the most important type of file. Say, for instance, you are prone to accidentally deleting files from the file manager and tend to check the Trash folder and recover those files. If that's you, then you should consider what the shortest period of time is that will allow you a window of opportunity to recover those files.

After you configure the retention rule, you can close the Settings window, knowing that the system will automatically delete those temp and trashed files for you.

Give Elementary OS Juno a try

I've been using Elementary OS since the days of Freya, and I can honestly say this distribution continues to take significant leaps forward with every iteration. With small additions like Housekeeping, Elementary OS has become a version of Linux I can safely recommend to any type of user.

Also see

elementaryhero.jpg
Image: Elementary OS

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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