Create a test file with lots of zero bytes

With GNU truncate:

truncate -s 1M nullbytes

(assuming nullbytes didn't exist beforehand) would create a 1 mebibyte sparse file. That is a file that appears filled with zeros but that doesn't take any space on disk.

Without truncate, you can use dd instead:

dd bs=1048576 seek=1 of=nullbytes count=0

(with some dd implementations, you can replace 1048576 with 1M)

If you'd rather the disk space be allocated, on Linux and some filesystems, you could do:

fallocate -l 1M nullbytes

That allocates the space without actually writing data to the disk (the space is reserved but marked as uninitialised).

dd < /dev/zero bs=1048576 count=1 > nullbytes

Will actually write the zeros to disk. That is the least efficient, but if you need your drives to spin when accessing that file, that's the one you'll want to go for.

Or @mikeserv's way to trick dd into generating the NUL bytes:

dd bs=1048576 count=1 conv=sync,noerror 0> /dev/null > nullbytes

An alternative with GNU head that doesn't involve having to specify a block size (1M is OK, but 10G for instance wouldn't):

head -c 1M < /dev/zero > nullbytes

Or to get a progress bar:

pv -Ss 1M < /dev/zero > nullbytes

dd if=/dev/zero of=/var/tmp/nullbytes count=1 bs=1M