Disk Storage Management with Conda

Kristen Finch

Kristen Finch

HPC Staff Scientist

Hello HYAK Users,

It has come to our attention that the default configuration of Miniconda and conda environments in the user's home directory leads to hitting storage limitations and the dreaded error Disk quota exceeded. We thought we would take some time to guide users in configuring their conda environment directories and package caches to avoid this error and proceed with their research computing.

warning post under contruction

We have been made aware that the solutions for disk storage presented here result in additional problems with conda environments, specifically with hardlinks to the install directory for Miniconda3 when envs_dirs and pkgs_dirs are configured to a different storage location. Please see this Issue for detailed information. we hope to have a better solution soon.

Conda's config#

Software is usually accompanied by a configuration file (aka "config file") or a text file used to store configuration data for software applications. It typically contains parameters and settings that dictate how the software behaves and interacts it's environment. Familiarity with config files allows for efficient troubleshooting, optimization, and adaptation of software to specific environments, like HYAK's shared HPC environment, enhancing overall usability and performance. Conda's config file .condarc, is customizable and lets you determine where packages and environments are stored by conda.

Understanding your Conda#

First let's take a look at your conda settings. The conda info command provides information about the current conda installation and its configuration.


The following assumes you have already installed Miniconda in your home directory or elsewhere such that conda is in your $PATH. Install Miniconda instructions here.

$ conda info
active environment : None
shell level : 0
user config file : /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/.condarc
populated config files : /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/.condarc
conda version : 4.14.0
conda-build version : not installed
python version : 3.9.5.final.0
virtual packages : __linux=4.18.0=0
base environment : /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/miniconda3 (writable)
conda av data dir : /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/miniconda3/etc/conda
conda av metadata url : None
channel URLs : https://conda.anaconda.org/conda-forge/linux-64
. . .
package cache : /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/conda_pkgs
envs directories : /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/miniconda3/envs
platform : linux-64
user-agent : conda/4.14.0 requests/2.26.0 CPython/3.9.5 Linux/4.18.0-513.18.1.el8_9.x86_64 rocky/8.9 glibc/2.28
UID:GID : 1209843:226269
netrc file : None
offline mode : False

The paths shown above will show your username in place of UWNetID. Notice the highlighted lines above showing the absolute path to your config file in your home directory (e.g., /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/.condarc), the directory designated for your package cache (e.g., /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/conda_pkgs), and the directory/ies designated for your environments (e.g., /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/miniconda3/envs). Conda designates directories for your package cache and your environments by default, but under HYAK, your home directory has a 10G storage limit, which can quickly be maxed out by package tarballs and their contents. We can change the location for your package cache and your environments to avoid this.


when you ls your home directory ls /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/ you might not see .condarc listed. It is there! To list all hidden files (files beginning with .) use ls -a /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/.

Configuring your package cache and envs directories#

Edit the highlighted lines in .condarc to designate directories with higher storage quotas for our envs_dirs and pkgs_dirs. Use a hyak preloaded editor like nano or vim to edit .condarc in place. More about nano. More about vim. Your .condarc will look like this:

$ nano ~/.condarc
- conda-forge
- bioconda
- defaults
auto_activate_base: true
- /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/miniconda3/envs
- /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/conda_pkgs

In this exercise, we will assign our envs_dirs and pkgs_dirs directories to directories in /gscratch/scrubbed/ where we have more storage, although remember scrubbed storage is temporary. Alternatively, your lab/research group might have another directory in /gscratch/ that can be used.


Remember to replace the word UWNetID in the paths below with YOUR username/UWNetID.

Here is what your edited .condarc should look like.

$ cat /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/.condarc
- conda-forge
- bioconda
- defaults
auto_activate_base: true
- /gscratch/scrubbed/UWNetID/envs
- /gscratch/scrubbed/UWNetID/conda_pkgs

If you don't have a directory under your UWNetID in /gscratch/scrubbed/or whereever you intend to designate these directories you will need to create them now for this to work. Use the mkdir command, for example mkdir /gscratch/scrubbed/UWNetID and replace UWNetID with your username. Then create directories for your package cache and envs directory, for example, mkdir /gscratch/scrubbed/UWNetID/conda_pkgs and mkdir /gscratch/scrubbed/UWNetID/envs.

After .condarc is edited, we can use conda info to see if our changes have been incorporated.

$ conda info |grep cache
$ conda info |grep envs

Cleaning up disk storage#

After you have reset the package cache and environment directories with your conda config file, you can delete the previous directories to free up storage. Before doing that, you can monitor how much storage was being occupied by each item in your home directory with the command du -h --max-depth=1. Remove directories previously used as cache and envs_dir recursively with rm -r. The following is an example of monitoring storage and removing directories.


rm -r is permanent. We cannot your recover directory. You were warned.

$ du -h --max-depth=1 /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/
6.7G ./miniconda3/envs
4.0G ./conda_pkgs
. . .
$ rm -r /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/envs
$ du -h --max-depth=1 /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/
2.6G ./miniconda3/
4.0G ./conda_pkgs
. . .

The hyakstorage command is not simultaneously updated. Although you have cleaned up your home directory, hyakstorage might not yet show new storages estimates. du -sh will give you the most up to date information.

Storage can also be managed by cleaning up package cache periodically. Get rid of the large-storage tar archives after your conda packages have been installed with conda clean --all.

Lastly, regular maintenance of conda environments is crucial for keeping disk usage in check. Review you list of conda environments with conda env list and remove unused environments using the conda remove --name ENV_NAME --all command. Consider creating lightweight environments by installing only necessary packages to conserve disk space. For example, create an environment for each project (project1_env) rather than an environment for all projects combined (myenv).

Disk quota STILL exceeded#

Be aware that many software packages are configured similarly to conda. Explore the documentation of your software to locate the configuration file and anticipate where storage limitations might become an issue. In some cases, you may need to edit or create a config file for the software to use. pip and R are two other common offenders ballooning the disk storage in your home directory.

Configuring PIP#

If you are installing with pip, you might have a pip cache in ~/.cache/pip. Let's locate your the pip config file location under variant "global." You might have to activate a previously built conda environment to do this. For this exercise we will use an environment called project1_env.

$ conda activate project1_env
(project1_env) $ pip config list -v
. . .
For variant 'user', will try loading '/mmfs1/home/UWNetID/.pip/pip.conf'
. . .

The message "will try loading" rather than listing the config file pip.conf means that a pip config file has not been created. We will create our config file and set our pip cache. Create a directory in your home directory (e.g.,/mmfs1/home/UWNetID/.pip) to hold your pip config file and create a file called pip.conf with the touch command. Remember to also create the new directory for your new pip cache if you haven't yet.

$ mkdir /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/.pip/
$ touch /mmfs1/home/UWNetID/.pip/pip.conf
$ mkdir /gscratch/scrubbed/UWNetID/pip_cache

Open pip.conf with nano or vim and add the following lines to designate the location of your pip cache.


Check that your pip cache has been designated.

(project1_env) $ pip config list
(project1_env) $ pip cache dir

Configuring R#

We previously covered this in our documentation.. Edit or create a config file called .Renviron in your home directory. Use nano oe vim to designate the location of your R package libraries. The contents of the file should be something like the following example.

$ cat ~/.Renviron

The directory designated by R_LIBS will be where R installs your package libraries.

I'm still stuck#

Please reach out to us by emailing help@uw.edu with "hyak" in the subject line to open a help ticket.