BSD-Style Accounting: FreeBSD, Linux, and AIX

Administering BSD-style accounting involves several tasks:

  • Enabling the accounting system and arranging for it to be started automatically at boot time.

  • Periodically merging raw accounting records into the summary data files.

  • Running accounting reports.

As indicated, BSD-style accounting uses some additional accounting summary files, located in the same directory as the primary accounting file. These files store processed, summarized versions of the accumulated raw accounting data. They are maintained by the sa command and are useful in keeping the size of the accounting file to a manageable level:


The standard accounting summary file


The user-based accounting summary file

Enabling and Disabling Accounting

The accton command controls the current state of a BSD-style accounting facility. The command enables accounting when an accounting file is specified as its argument (its location in the filesystem varies). Without an argument, the command disables accounting. Once the command is executed, accounting records will be written automatically to the accounting file.

The one tricky aspect of accton is that any raw accounting data file you specify must already exist, because the command will not create it. Accordingly, commands such as the following are used to start the accounting system from one of the system boot scripts:

return="done" echo -n "Starting process accounting: " test -e /var/account/pacct || touch /var/adm/pacct /usr/sbin/accton ...

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