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How to fix a corrupt zsh history file

Occasionally you may find you have a corrupt zsh history file preventing you from using the `fc` command or searching the history. Here's how to fix it.

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Table of contents

Corrupt ZSH history file

If you use zsh for your shell very occasionally you may find the following message appearing indicating a corrupt history file. This is normally after a reboot.

zsh: corrupt history file /home/george/.zsh_history

This prevents searching back through the history with CTRL+R and editing previous commands with fc.

How to fix it

To fix it run the following commands

cd ~
mv .zsh_history .zsh_history_bad
strings .zsh_history_bad > .zsh_history
fc -R .zsh_history

Making it a script

Once this happened more than twice I made a script to fix the issue. The following is saved in my ~/bin folder as zsh_history_fix and this folder is in my $PATH.

#!/usr/bin/env sh
# George Ornbo (shapeshed)
# License -
# Fixes a corrupt .zsh_history file

mv ~/.zsh_history ~/.zsh_history_bad
strings .zsh_history_bad > .zsh_history
fc -R ~/.zsh_history
rm ~/.zsh_history_bad

Now if I see the zsh: corrupt history file error again I just run the command get back to work.


If you’d like the script you can download it directly from Github, put it somewhere in your $PATH and make it executable.

cd ~/bin # or somewhere in your $PATH
chmod +x zsh_history_fix

Have an update or suggestion for this article? You can edit it here and send me a pull request.


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