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Does any of the tor software/infrastructure read state files under /var/lib/tor? Or (unlike, say, cache files) are they simply there for debugging/monitoring (and presumably can be removed at will)?

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Tor itself reads the state file, but I don't know of any other software that reads from it. The file is important for more than just debugging/monitoring, it's how tor keeps persistent state across restarts. This is useful for remembering its guard relays, tracking relay bandwidth usage for accounting purposes (and for server descriptors), etc.

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