Network Administration: Linux Hard Drive Directory

Linux and Windows have a completely different method of referring to your computer’s hard drives and partitions. The differences can take some getting used to for experienced Windows users.

Windows uses a separate letter for each drive and partition on your system. For example, if you have a single drive formatted into three partitions, Windows identifies the partitions as drives C:, D:, and E:. Each of these drives has its own root directory, which can, in turn, contain additional directories used to organize your files.

As far as Windows is concerned, drives C:, D:, and E: are completely separate drives, even though the drives are actually just partitions on a single drive.

Linux doesn’t use drive letters. Instead, Linux combines all the drives and partitions into a single directory hierarchy. In Linux, one of the partitions is designated as the root partition. The root partition is roughly analogous to the root directory of the C: drive on a Windows system. Then, the other partitions can be mounted on the root partition and treated as if they were directories on the root partition.

For example, you may designate the first partition as the root partition and then mount the second partition as /user and the third partition as /var. Then, any files stored in the /user directory would actually be stored in the second partition, and files stored in the /var directory would be stored in the third partition.

The directory to which a drive mounts is called the drive’s mount point.

Notice that Linux uses regular forward slash characters (/) to separate directory names rather than the backward slash characters () used by Windows. Typing backslashes instead of regular slashes is one of the most common mistakes made by new Linux users.

Linux also uses a different convention for naming files. In Windows, filenames end in a three-letter extension that’s separated from the rest of the filename by a period. The extension is used to indicate the file type. For example, files that end in .exe are program files, but files that end in .doc are word-processing documents.

Linux doesn’t use file extensions, but periods are often used in Linux filenames to separate different parts of the name — and the last part often indicates the file type. For example, ldap.conf and pine.conf are both configuration files.