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Appendix H. Important System Directories

Sysadmins and anyone else writing administrative scripts should be intimately familiar with the following system directories.

  • /bin

    Binaries (executables). Basic system programs and utilities (such as bash).

  • /usr/bin [1]

    More system binaries.

  • /usr/local/bin

    Miscellaneous binaries local to the particular machine.

  • /sbin

    System binaries. Basic system administrative programs and utilities (such as fsck).

  • /usr/sbin

    More system administrative programs and utilities.

  • /etc

    Et cetera. Systemwide configuration scripts.

    Of particular interest are the /etc/fstab (filesystem table), /etc/mtab (mounted filesystem table), and the /etc/inittab files.

  • /etc/rc.d

    Boot scripts, on Red Hat and derivative distributions of Linux.

  • /usr/share/doc

    Documentation for installed packages.

  • /usr/man

    The systemwide manpages.

  • /dev

    Device directory. Entries (but not mount points) for physical and virtual devices. See Chapter 27.

  • /proc

    Process directory. Contains information and statistics about running processes and kernel parameters. See Chapter 27.

  • /sys

    Systemwide device directory. Contains information and statistics about device and device names. This is newly added to Linux with the 2.6.X kernels.

  • /mnt

    Mount. Directory for mounting hard drive partitions, such as /mnt/dos, and physical devices. In newer Linux distros, the /media directory has taken over as the preferred mount point for I/O devices.

  • /media

    In newer Linux distros, the preferred mount point for I/O devices, such as CD/DVD drives or USB flash drives.

  • /var

    Variable (changeable) system files. This is a catchall "scratchpad" directory for data generated while a Linux/UNIX machine is running.

  • /var/log

    Systemwide log files.

  • /var/spool/mail

    User mail spool.

  • /lib

    Systemwide library files.

  • /usr/lib

    More systemwide library files.

  • /tmp

    System temporary files.

  • /boot

    System boot directory. The kernel, module links, system map, and boot manager reside here.

    Altering files in this directory may result in an unbootable system.



Some early UNIX systems had a fast, small-capacity fixed disk (containing /, the root partition), and a second drive which was larger, but slower (containing /usr and other partitions). The most frequently used programs and utilities therefore resided on the small-but-fast drive, in /bin, and the others on the slower drive, in /usr/bin.

This likewise accounts for the split between /sbin and /usr/sbin, /lib and /usr/lib, etc.