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Unlike Windows file system which is constrained to individual disk and uses alphabetical symbols such as C:, D: to refer to the physical location of the file on a particular hard disk, Linux file system is robustly organized and the use of the disk drive is abstracted, since the file system can spread to multiple disks if so desired during the system installation process.

Since a directory can spread over multiple hard disks, it does not make sense in Linux to refer to the disk holding the directory. For convenience, the Linux file system is usually thought of in a tree structure. On a standard Linux system you will find the layout generally follows the scheme presented below.

The symbol / (forward slash) denotes the root or trunk of the file system, also known as the root directory. The root directory of a typical Fedora 9 installation contains the following predefined subdirectories. Note that the use of forward slash to denote a directory is opposite to the backward slash (\) in Windows.

[brucelee @192.168.224.109 ~]$ ls / -F
bin/ boot/ dev/ etc/ home/ lib/ lost+found/ media/ misc/ mnt/ net/ opt/ proc/ root/ sbin/ selinux/ srv/ sys/ tmp/ usr/ var/


A detailed view of the file system tree with file permission, ownership, and date.

[brucelee @192.168.224.109 ~]$ ls / -alh
total 85K
drwxr-xr-x 23 root root 4.0K 2008-10-16 07:42 .
drwxr-xr-x 23 root root 4.0K 2008-10-16 07:42 ..
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 2008-10-16 07:42 .autofsck
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 0 2008-09-29 03:33 .autorelabel
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4.0K 2008-09-29 06:32 bin
drwxr-xr-x 4 root root 1.0K 2008-09-29 03:54 boot
drwxr-xr-x 10 root root 3.7K 2008-10-16 08:01 dev
drwx--x--x 92 root root 8.0K 2008-10-21 03:46 etc
drwx--x--x 5 root root 4.0K 2008-10-15 06:29 home
drwxr-xr-x 15 root root 4.0K 2008-10-16 10:19 lib
drwx------ 2 root root 4.0K 2007-10-05 13:51 lost+found
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4.0K 2008-09-29 03:51 media
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 0 2008-10-16 07:42 misc
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4.0K 2007-04-17 05:46 mnt
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 0 2008-10-16 07:42 net
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4.0K 2007-04-17 05:46 opt
dr-xr-xr-x 133 root root 0 2008-10-16 07:41 proc
-rw------- 1 root root 1.0K 2008-09-29 04:11 .rnd
drwxr-x--- 6 root root 4.0K 2008-10-28 06:58 root
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 8.0K 2008-09-29 06:32 sbin
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4.0K 2007-10-05 13:52 selinux
drwxr-xr-x 2 root root 4.0K 2007-04-17 05:46 srv
drwxr-xr-x 12 root root 0 2008-10-16 07:41 sys
drwxrwxrwt 15 ldao ldao 8.0K 2008-11-05 06:19 tmp
drwxr-xr-x 14 root root 4.0K 2008-09-29 04:10 usr
drwxr-xr-x 23 root root 4.0K 2008-09-29 04:10 var




The following diagram is a typical layout from a Fedora installation. Depending on the system requirements, the operating system and the business mission of the server, the structure may vary, and directories may be left out or added at will. Some of the directories such as /net, /opt are not even required.


The tree of the file system starts at the trunk or slash, indicated by a forward slash (/). This directory, containing all underlying directories and files, is also called the root directory or "the root" of the file system.

Directories that are only one level below the root directory are often preceded by a slash, to indicate their position and prevent confusion with other directories that could have the same name. When starting with a new system, it is always a good idea to take a look in the root directory (via the command ls / -F) to have a general grasp of how the system is organzied.

The division of hard disks into partitions is determined during the installation of the Fedora operating system. If your server has more than one hard disks, one partition can be spread to several hard disks if desired. Most Linux installation is organized into three major categories of disk partitions: root, boot, and data.

The standard root partition (indicated with a single forward slash, /) is about 100-500 MB, and contains the system configuration files, most basic commands and server programs, system libraries, some temporary space and the home directory of the administrative user. A standard installation requires about 250 MB for the root partition.

The kernel is on a separate partition because it is the most important file of your system. The /boot partition, holding one or more versions of the Linux kernel and accompanying data files.
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