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Mostly based on where /Debian and /DeadRat^H^H^H /RedHat? put stuff.

See also the [Filesystem Hierarchy Standard].

Important directories


Users' home directories. Usually the only place other than /tmp that users are allowed write access to is their home directory.

System configuration files. With the exception of /etc/mtab, these are only changed by the user or the packaging system when installing, removing or re-configuring software (at least on /Debian).

Software for use by the root account only. Usually one contains symlinks to files in the other. Prepackaged distributions tend to put a few tens of megabytes of stuff in /sbin and a few kilobytes of links to it in /usr/sbin.
(On many distributions (e.g. Debian) /sbin and /bin contain just enough programs to get the /usr partition mounted, and /usr contains the rest - this lets you have a small / partition (small so it's unlikely to get corrupted, and just big enough for disaster recovery) and a large /usr partition, which was rather important before live-CDs became popular.
Incidentally, are you sure about the symlinks? There's no real reason for a program to be in both /sbin and /usr/sbin)

Software for use by everyone. Usually one contains symlinks to files in the other. Prepackaged distributions tend to put a gigabyte or two of stuff in /usr and its subdirs and a few kilobytes of links to it in /bin, lib etc.; some don't bother with the links.
(See above.)

Shared libraries and other files specific to the hardware architecture go here. One directory usually contains symlinks to the other.
(On distributions with a small root partition, /lib contains just enough libraries for the contents of /bin and /sbin to work)

Shared files go here, if they are not specific to a particular hardware architecture. For example, icons, python modules and such.

Kernel, bootloader configuration and other related data.

Temporary data, typically wiped on bootup.

Logs and information generated at runtime.

Devices (e.g. /dev/hd* are things that for most intents and purposes look like files containing the raw data in your hard disk partitions)

Dynamic information and stuff, including per-process information, stuff needed by device drivers, hardware information (processor, mobo and drive parameters), kernel image, ....  Much of it is human-readable. Users, don't edit! (unless you know what you are doing; mostly stuff from this is accessed by various tools like top and hdparm but it's worth having a look so you know what's there).

New to Linux kernel 2.6, this represents the kernel's device hierarchy, and is beginning to replace /proc as the preferred way for programs to interface with the kernel. This is like MS Windows' Device Manager viewing by connection.

When prepackaged distributions are asked to install sources, they typically put them here

Configuration files and binaries for X software tend to be in a subdirectory called X11 or similar of one of the directories listed above.

 /etc/rc.d or /etc/init.d
Scripts that run on startup and when you switch runlevels go in here. Usually editing these scripts is not the intended method for configuring system startup; there are a number of very good manual pages on how to do it. (e.g. update-init.d on /Debian)

Configuration for the init.d scripts (at least on /Debian).

Security configuration for programs that use /PAM (pluggable authentication modules).

Important files

IIRC, all of these have manual pages describing their syntax, as well as GUI tools for generating them. - MoonShadow
(PeterTaylor) Not that the manual pages always give you sufficient information to actually edit them safely. I've had bad experiences with /etc/fstab.

What partitions get mounted where with what settings when you start the machine up and/or use the mount command

What partitions are mounted where with what settings right now

Configuration file for LILO (linux loader). (NB You have to re-run /sbin/lilo for modifications to take effect. Do not do this unless you have a boot floppy/CD handy.)

List of nameservers the machine uses; also the search path (default DNS suffixes)

 /var/log/dmesg and /var/log/messages
The log files recording activity during the boot up process.

(add more here)

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Last edited November 12, 2005 7:46 am (viewing revision 10, which is the newest) (diff)