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nix-du is a tool aimed at helping answer the following question:

What gc-roots should I remove in my nix store to free some space ? What packages should I remove from my profile to free some space ?

Getting started


nix-du is available in nixpkgs >= 18.09-pre, see the badge below.

Packaging status

Installation in this case is straightforward.

nix-env -f <nixpkgs> -iA nix-du

For alternative installation methods, see


nix-du outputs its analysis as a directed graph (more on that later) in the DOT format. Therefore, you need dot installed (it is usually available under the package name graphviz). Then you can translate the graph in various more "traditional" image formats.

For example:

# to svg
nix-du -s=500MB | dot -Tsvg > store.svg
# to png
nix-du -s=500MB | dot -Tpng > store.png

Another option is to use an interactive viewer such as zgrviewer

nix-du -s=500MB >

Interpreting the result

What gc-roots are taking space ?

As an example, imagine the following scenario. You start with a brand new, empty installation of nix. You install nix-index. Then you run nix-du:

nix-du | dot -Tsvg > result.svg

On the left are the gc-roots. The other nodes are labeled with a package name, but it has little meaning. What matters is their size. Blue means "lightest"; red means "heaviest". An edge from A to B means "you won't be able to remove B as long as A is alive". If you remove all incoming edges of a node, it should go away when you run nix-collect-garbage and this should free approximately the displayed amount of space.

In this instance, we see that root and coucou share the same channel, which weighs about 50Mo. The arrows from the channels to user-environment symbolize that if you want to get rid of these 50 MB you have to delete both the channels of root and coucou.

nix-index on the other hand does not appear in the graph: if you remove your (only) profile (in yellow) then nix-index will be gone. The node nix-index has thus been merged with the node of the profile. To sum up, if you remove your profile, you will save around 27 MB.

Now, you install graphviz.

If you remove your second profile, you spare all of graphviz and its dependencies (140 MB) but if you remove your first profile, you don't save any space: nix-index is a dependency of both your profiles, and has thus its own node now.

If you remove graphviz with nix-env -e graphviz

... you realize that it is still in your second profile. So if you want to save space, remove the red node :)


In the reality, the dependency graph of a store is often very big (and dot will struggle to compute a layout for it) so you can ask nix-du to simplify it:

  • only keep nodes weighing at least 500 MB (i.e. I am only interested in saving at least 500 MB):
nix-du -s=500MB | dot -Tsvg > store.svg
  • only keep the 50 heaviest inner nodes
nix-du -n=50 | dot -Tsvg > store.svg

Note that with these options:

  • Some roots are kept even if they are not heavy enough.
  • The size of nodes becomes an approximation, so don't be surprised if removing a 500 MB root only saves 450 MB.

What element of my profile is taking space ?

nix-du can also be used for example to analyze which dependencies of a store path are responsible for disk usage. To do so, pass --root /nix/store/hash-foo. Notably, here are useful use cases:

  • Which packages installed with environment.systemPackages in /etc/nixos/configuration.nix use most space ? (ignoring everything less than 500 MB)
nix-du --root /run/current-system/sw/ -s 500MB >
  • Which packages installed with nix-env use most space ?
nix-du --root ~/.nix-profile >

Note that nix-du is mostly interested in direct dependencies of the root; if you want transitive dependencies to be clearly visible have a look at nix-tree.


The octagonal boxes are the children of the root store path (here elements of my profile).

You can see for example that nix has no dependencies in the graph: it was likely installed from another nixpkgs commit than the rest of the profile and thus does not share its dependencies with them. Let's remedy this situation:

nix-env -f "<nixpkgs>" -iA nix

Now, nix weighs less (because it shares its dependencies with the rest of my profile) and you see that nix-du only weighs a few megabytes if you don't count that it depends on nix.


--root and external referrers

Note that when passed --root, nix-du will ignore everything not in the transitive closure of the specified store path. This can lead to surprising behavior. Example: if you have such a NixOS configuration:

{ pkgs, config, ... }:
  services.openssh.enable = true;
  environment.systemPackages = with pkgs; [ openssh ];

Then you run

nix-du --root /run/current-system/sw/ >

and see that openssh accounts for 123 MB of space. Then you remove openssh from your systemPackages, delete the old generation, and don't free 123 MB. This is because something else (here the unit file sshd.service) also depends on openssh, preventing its removal, but was completely ignored by nix-du.

Store optimisation

If you use store optimisation (see the documentation of nix-store --optimise) then identical files in unrelated store paths are deduplicated and replaced by a hard link to save space. To report accurate sizes, nix-du needs to scan your whole store for deduplicated files, which takes quite a long time (especially on rotating drives). (This is also the reason why nix-collect-garbage takes so long, by the way).

Therefore, by default, nix-du will only look for deduplicated files among live paths (option -O1). You can get a fully precise report with -O2 or opt out deduplicated files detection with -O0. In the last case, a deduplicated file will be counted twice if it appears in two store paths, and sizes will be over estimated.


What is really this graph ?

If you use neither -s nor -n then the output graph is derived from the reference graph of your store as followed

  • the set of nodes is the quotient of the original node set by the relation "these two nodes are (recursively) referenced by the same set of gc-roots"
  • There is an edge between two classes if it is not a self loop and there was an edge between any elements of the classes in the original graph

The representative of the class inherits the total size of the class and the name of an arbitrary member. The size is the most important information. The name of a node is sometimes useful, but also often meaningless. For example I have already seen a huge node glibc-locales with an edge to texlive components which is surprising since glibc-locales has no references...

If you use any of -s (only keep nodes bigger than a given size) or -n (only keep the n biggest nodes) then an approximation is done so results may be less accurate (but far more readable !)

Does nix-du replace nix-collect-garbage?

No, nix-du is only a diagnostic tool, it does not modify anything.

My store weighs more than the total size of the graph

Only live paths are displayed. Or see the section about optimisation.

My store is far lighter than displayed!

This has probably to do with store optimisation. See the relevant section. Or if you use --root, only the transitive closure of the root is displayed.

I removed a huge node and yet nix-collect-garbage freed only little space!

Without --root this probably has to do with optimisation. See the relevant section. With --root it can happen that the node you removed had a referrer outside of the transitive closure of the root. See an example above in the section about --root.

I asked for 60 nodes with -n 60 but I got 120!

When you apply a filter with -n or -s all roots which have a (transitive) child kept by the filter are kept as well. Remaining roots are merged in the {filtered out} node.

What is the {transient} node ?

This is a node coalescing all memory and temporary roots, in nix parlance. A memory root represents a process which has mmap-ed a store path, and a transient root is a root crated by the nix build machinery to the dependencies of a currently running build. TL;DR: this node denotes live stuff depending on the store but which will disappear after a reboot.


Visualise which gc-roots to delete to free some space in your nix store




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