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3.1.2.3. Mount points

All partitions are attached to the system via a mount point. The mount point defines the place of a particular data set in the file system. Usually, all partitions are connected through the root partition. On this partition, which is indicated with the slash (/), directories are created. These empty directories will be the starting point of the partitions that are attached to them. An example: given a partition that holds the following directories:


videos/           cd-images/      pictures/

We want to attach this partition in the filesystem in a directory called /opt/media. In order to do this, the system administrator has to make sure that the directory /opt/media exists on the system. Preferably, it should be an empty directory. How this is done is explained later on in this chapter. Then, using the mount command, the administrator can attach the partition to the system. When you look at the content of the formerly empty directory /opt/media, it will contain the files and directories that are on the mounted medium (hard disk or partition of a hard disk, CD, DVD, flash card, USB or other storage device).

During system startup, all the partitions are thus mounted, as described in the file /etc/fstab. Some partitions are not mounted by default, for instance if they are not constantly connected to the system, such like the storage used by your digital camera. If well configured, the device will be mounted as soon as the system notices that it is connected, or it can be user-mountable, i.e. you don't need to be system administrator to attach and detach the device to and from the system. There is an example in Section 9.3.

On a running system, information about the partitions and their mount points can be displayed using the df command (which stands for disk full or disk free). In Linux, df is the GNU version, and supports the -h or human readable option which greatly improves readability. Note that commercial UNIX machines commonly have their own versions of df and many other commands. Their behavior is usually the same, though GNU versions of common tools often have more and better features.

The df command only displays information about active non-swap partitions. These can include partitions from other networked systems, like in the example below where the home directories are mounted from a file server on the network, a situation often encountered in corporate environments.


freddy:~> df -h
Filesystem          Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/hda8           496M  183M  288M  39% /
/dev/hda1           124M  8.4M  109M   8% /boot
/dev/hda5            19G   15G  2.7G  85% /opt
/dev/hda6           7.0G  5.4G  1.2G  81% /usr
/dev/hda7           3.7G  2.7G  867M  77% /var
fs1:/home           8.9G  3.7G  4.7G  44% /.automount/fs1/root/home

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