rm -rf /

… does not work. At least not today on a Debian/Sid system. Looks like there are some things, not even root is allowed to do:

root@sid:~# rm -rf / rm: cannot remove root directory ‘/'

If you’re curious what happens when you wipe your disk on a running system:

root@sid:~# cd / root@sid:/# rm -rf *

does the trick.

Update: That’s with plain rm not safe-rm.

Update 2: I looked through the code of rm.c to find that / is protected by default — as a simple rm --help also shows:

$ rm --help Usage: rm [OPTION]... FILE... Remove (unlink) the FILE(s).


—no-preserve-root do not treat `/’ specially
—preserve-root do not remove `/’ (default)