Anyone who has used the Linux operating system has probably been stumped by the odd file folder names used by the software. It’s different from Windows where only a few folder names are mysterious. With Linux, and any Unix-based operating system, every folder name seems cryptic or abbreviated. The folder names are called the file system hierarchy.
Other file system hierarchy differences include:
- Folders are called directories in Unix.
- You mount devices like CD-ROMs in Unix, attach or connect them in Windows.
Here’s a table with the most common Unix directory names and their purpose:
|This is the top-most level in the Linux operating system. While similar to C:\ in Windows, in Linux drives like D:\ or E:\ appear as directories under the \ directory. In Windows, D:\ and E:\ appear at the same level as the C:\ folder.
|Critical system programs and utilities are stored in this directory. Software like a Firefox web browser are stored in the /usr/bin directory. bin is shorthand for binary or binaries.
|This folder holds the files needed to boot (or start up) the operating system. However, the configuration files for booting up are in the /etc directory.
|Devices such as drives are made available in this directory as files. If you wanted to partition a drive, for example, you would point the partition software to a file in this directory. /dev/null also is a device that discards all input, useful for cron and other software that generates output not needed otherwise.
|This directory contains all the configuration files for the system. User-specific configuration files are in the /home directory for each user.
|Each user configured in Linux has a directory under the /home directory. For example, Fred Flintstone would have a directory at /home/fred to store his data and configuration-related files.
|Essential library files for the system binaries in the /bin or /sbin directories are stored here. Individual user-related libraries for /usr/bin are in the /usr/lib directory.
|Any corrupted files from system crashes are stored in this directory.
|When you attach removable media, for example, a CD-ROM or thumb drive, a directory will be created in the /media folder. You can browse the contents of these drives from the /media directory.
|This directory is used by system administrators to mount (connect) temporary file systems, for example, to recover files from a drive partition.
|Proprietary software that does not use the standard Linux file system structure will create directories in the /opt folder to store its files.
|Linux kernel and process files are stored in the /proc directory. These files include system and process information.
|This is the home directory of the root user. Instead of /home/root, the /root directory is used to store data and configuration-related files for the root user. This also is different from the / (root) directory which holds all Linux directories and files.
|This directory holds temporary application files that cannot be deleted by the Linux system. Temporary files usually are in the /tmp folder where the system can manage and delete files.
|Like the /bin directory, this folder contains essential binary files, in this case, binaries run by the root user for system administration tasks.
|Temporary files stored in this directory are deleted upon system restart or periodically by software utilities.
|Applications and files used by individual users are stored in this directory. Binaries are stored in /usr/bin or /usr/sbin directories. Graphic files are stored in the /usr/share directory. Locally compiled applications are stored in the /usr/local directory to keep them apart from other system and user-specific applications.
|The /var directory mirrors the /usr directory. When Linux runs, the /usr directory contents are read-only. Log files and other data that needs to be written is stored in the /var directory, for example, the /var/log directory.