How to break a server

- 1 min

If you saw on my Twitter, I may have broken my website on Friday night. I lost file and SSH access to it. How did it happen?

This all started with me moving my main domain over to I thought I could just change all configs to the new domain and it would work. Some things were broken obviously. So I thought the issue was with file and folder ownership. So I change the directory to the site and did this command:

sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /

To anyone that is stupid enough, don’t run that command above. It WILL break your computer/VPS. That command destroys the file/folder perms making your install break. My thought process was that the / was relative to where I currently was. That was not the case. At that point, I was unable to login at all. The server couldn’t accept my key.

I realized what I did after I typed the command. Luckily, I was still logged in via WinSCP. To fix it, I just went to my root directory and mass changed the ownership back to root. I had to leave it on overnight; however, that still didn’t work.

I ended up contacting my hosting’s support. After about 10 emails, we decided that these were the best steps to fix this:

That is what we did, and now everything is working once again.

I also did change my domain over to, since I had the chance to rebuild everything.

TLDR, idiot tries to change file and folder perms but messes up the location on the command. Contacts support to fix.


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