File Systems

Files reside on physical storage devices such as hard drives, CD-ROMs, or floppy disks. The files on each storage device are organized into a file system, and the storage devices on your Linux system are presented as a collection of file systems that you can manage. When you want to add a new storage device, you need to format it as a file system and then attach it to your Linux file structure. Hard drives can be divided into separate storage devices called partitions, each of which has its own file system. You can perform administrative tasks on your file systems, such as backing them up, attaching or detaching them from your file structure, formatting new devices or erasing old ones, and checking a file system for problems.

To access files on a device, you attach its file system to a specified directory. This is called mounting the file system. For example, to access files on a floppy disk, you first mount its file system to a particular directory. With Linux, you can mount a number of different types of file systems. You can even access a Windows hard drive partition or tape drive, as well as file systems on a remote server.

Recently developed file systems for Linux now support journaling, which allows your system to recover from a crash or interruption easily. The ext3, ReiserFS, XFS, and Journaled File System (JFS) from IBM maintain a record of file and directory changes, called a journal, which can be used to recover files and directories in use when a system suddenly crashes due to unforeseen events such as power interruptions. Most distributions currently use the ext3 file system as their default, though you also have the option of using ReiserFS or JFS, an independently developed journaling system.

Your Linux system is capable of handling any number of storage devices that are connected to it. You can configure your system to access multiple hard drives, partitions on a hard drive, CD-ROM discs, DVDs, floppy disks, and even tapes. You can elect to attach these storage components manually or have them automatically mount when you boot. Automatic mounts are handled by configuring the /etc/fstab file. For example, the main partitions holding your Linux system programs are automatically mounted whenever you boot, whereas a floppy disk can be manually mounted when you put one in your floppy drive, though even these can also be automatically mounted. Removable storage devices such as CD-ROMs, as well as removable devices such as USB cameras and printers, are now handled by udev and the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL), as described in Chapter 25 and partially discussed here.

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