The notorious “rm” command can be used to kill a computer running GNU/Linux.

The “rm -rf /” command is known to do the job. Fortunately Debian GNU/Linux will inform the user about the danger of this command. To do harm to the system you have to add an asterisk to the end of the command (just after the slash) or add the “–no-preserve-root” switch.

You can try the following commands yourself on a test system (which is a system you are allowed to break). Please note: this will damage the system (and the data when present). Please do not try this on a production workstation or a production server (as it will do damage). You have been warned!

rm -rf /*
rm -rf --no-preserve-root /

I did create a short video to demonstrate the effects of the latter command. So, there is no need to setup a test system yourself 😉 Please note: I did press the <CTRL> + <C> keys combo to stop the command within a minute. Running the command less than a minute did cause enough damage to the system to render it unusable. Enjoy the video.

The end result is a computer which won’t boot. Enjoy the next video which demonstrates the problem.

Because breaking stuff is fun, I did add a bonus video which demonstrates damaging a running system with the “dd” command. Oh the joy of a kernel panic! Muhahaaaa!!!1!! Enjoy!

I would like to recommend VirtualBox if you would like to test these kind of things yourself.

Tip: VirtualBox has a nice feature called “snapshots”. It will create a snapshot of the system which enable you to return the virtual machine to a previous state.

This is great as you don’t have to reinstall the operating system again and again… Just restore the snapshot and you are ready to break things again 🙂

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