Filesystems provide a base for your files to be stored on the physical disk. A good analogy is that a disk is like the building that houses your local library, while the filesystem is its infrastructure — the shelves that hold the books and the card catalog that enables you to find a particular title. Linux supports many different types of filesystems, each of which has its own internal structure and access methods. To access a specific type of filesystem, Linux uses a kernel module known as a driver that understands the internal structure of a specific filesystem. If you are trying to read a disk from another type of system, Linux might also need to load additional drivers to be able to interpret the disk partition tables used by some types of disks and associated filesystems.

To provide access to a wide range of different types of filesystems, Linux provides a general method that is easily extended. Linux provides a virtual filesystem (VFS) layer that a filesystem driver hooks into to provide file-based access to information. Whether it is listing the files in a directory, reading the data from a file, or providing other functionality such as direct file access (not using the filesystem buffers), VFS and the filesystem driver provide a uniform application program interface (API) to deal with files in different types of filesystems. This is nothing new, and Unix and all other operating systems that support multiple filesystems provide this virtual filesystem interface in one way or another.

When you have created partitions, you must usually create a filesystem in that partition to make use of the newly allocated space. Many different types of filesystems are available for this purpose, but this section focuses on types of filesystems that are available out of the box with SUSE Linux.

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