Demystifying the proc Filesystem

Programs use device files in the /dev directory tree to access most hardware for day-to-day use, but these interfaces typically provide only limited information on hardware features and configuration. To learn, say, whether an EIDE controller is configured to use direct memory access (DMA) mode, another tool is required: the /proc filesystem. This directory is entirely virtual—the files don't exist on your hard disk; they're created on-the-fly by the Linux kernel. By reading from these files, you can learn about hardware capabilities and settings. You can write to some of these files to change settings, as well.

Note Many Linux system tools use /proc behind the scenes. Therefore, these tools are effectively interpreters for /proc, and are usually much easier and safer to use than direct access to /proc.

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