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44.5. Filesystem Types and /etc/fstab

A filesystem is the scheme used to organize files on the disk. In the Windows world, FAT, FAT32, and NTFS are all filesystems. Various Unixes have their own filesystems with a forest of names: ufs, ext2fs, vxfs, ffs, nfs, mfs, ISO9660 (which most CD-ROMs use) and special filesystems like tmpfs, procfs, and devfs.

Filesystems like ufs (Unix File System), ffs (Fast File System), vxfs (Veritas Extended File System), and ext2fs (Extended File System, Version 2) are simply ways of organizing inodes and bytes with various strengths and weaknesses. nfs (Network File System) is a filesystem for making remote files appear to be available locally. mfs (Memory File System) is a filesystem for ramdisks, that is, file storage in memory instead of on disk. tmpfs (Temporary File System) is a file system often used for /tmp which shares filespace and swap space dynamically. procfs (Process File System) simulates a filesystem, but with process information in it instead of files. (procfs on Linux is different from procfs on the BSDs; FreeBSD has a linprocfs to simulate part of Linux's procfs.) devfs is similar, but for devices instead of processes.

Standard mounts are configured using /etc/fstab (or, on some platforms, /etc/vfstab). fstab is just a list of filesystems that should be mounted, along with where they should get mounted, what type of filesystem each device contains, and any options. My FreeBSD fstab looks like this:

# Device                Mountpoint      FStype  Options         Dump    Pass#
/dev/ad0s1b             none            swap    sw              0       0
/dev/ad2s1b             none            swap    sw              0       0
/dev/ad0s1a             /               ufs     rw              1       1
/dev/ad2s1e             /home           ufs     rw              2       2
/dev/ad0s1f             /usr            ufs     rw              2       2
/dev/ad0s1e             /var            ufs     rw              2       2
/dev/acd0c              /cdrom          cd9660  ro,noauto       0       0
proc                    /proc           procfs  rw              0       0

I have two swap partitions, /dev/ad0s1b and /dev/ad2s1b. My /, /home, /usr, and /var are all separate ufs filesystems, and I have a CD-ROM that can be mounted on /cdrom (but must be manually mounted (Section 44.6)) and a standard procfs. The last two columns determine priority for backups and for being consistency checked by fsck. The ufs filesystems are all fscked, with / first; the rest of my filesystems are types that don't need to be fscked.

On other platforms, the options may be different, and the device names will certainly be different, but the basic gist of fstab will be the same.

Some filesystem types support "soft updates," which changes slightly the way the filesystem writes files out to the disk and can dramatically increase your effective disk speed. Consider looking at the documentation for your platform and turning on soft updates (generally this is done via tunefs).


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