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04-A.2: Linux File Systems

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    What is a File System?

    In computing, a file system or filesystem (often abbreviated to fs), controls how data is stored and retrieved. Without a file system, data placed in a storage medium would be one large body of data with no way to tell where one piece of data stops and the next begins. By separating the data into pieces and giving each piece a name, the data is easily isolated and identified. Taking its name from the way paper-based data management system is named, each group of data is called a "file." The structure and logic rules used to manage the groups of data and their names is called a "file system."

     One of the important parts of file system managment is the creation of disk partitions. This video covers that topic with some examples for you to follow along.

    There are many different kinds of file systems. Each one has different structure and logic, properties of speed, flexibility, security, size and more. Some file systems have been designed to be used for specific applications.

    Below is a very brief comparison of the most common file systems in use with the Linux world.

    File System

    Max File Size

    Max Partition Size

    Journaling

    Notes

    Fat16

    2 GiB

    2 GiB

    No

    Legacy

    Fat32

    4 GiB

    8 TiB

    No

    Legacy

    NTFS

    2 TiB

    256 TiB

    Yes

    (For Windows Compatibility) NTFS-3g can be installed on Linux, allowing read/write support.

    ext2

    2 TiB

    32 TiB

    No

    Legacy

    ext3

    2 TiB

    32 TiB

    Yes

    Standard Linux filesystem for many years. Best choice for super-standard installation.

    ext4

    16 TiB

    1 EiB

    Yes

    Modern iteration of ext3. Best choice for new installations where super-standard isn't necessary.

    reiserFS

    8 TiB

    16 TiB

    Yes

    No longer well-maintained.

    JFS

    4PiB

    32PiB

    Yes (metadata)

    Created by IBM - Not well maintained.

    XFS

    8 EiB

    8 EiB

    Yes (metadata)

    Created by SGI. Best choice for a mix of stability and advanced journaling. Default for Centos / RHEL7 installations.

    While we normally tend to think of the file system to be located on the system we are working on, with the proliferation of networking technology there are also technologies that allow us to use various network protocols that enable sharing data over a network. These capabilities are referred to as network file systems, and there are several that are supported by various Linux distros. The following table depicts the three most common protocols.

    Network File System Description
    Server Message Block (SMB) A network communication protocol for providing shared access to files, printers, and serial ports between nodes on a network. It also provides an authenticated inter-process communication mechanism. Most usage of SMB involves computers running Microsoft Windows, where it was known as "Microsoft Windows Network" before the introduction of Active Directory. Corresponding Windows services are LAN Manager Server for the server component, and LAN Manager Workstation for the client component.
    Common Internet File System (CIFS) A specific version of SMB designed by Microsoft as a successor to SMB version 1, but SMB versions 2 and 3 superseded it. However, The CIFS name still lingers in some of the Linux even though these tools actually support the newer versions of SMB.
    Network File System NFS functionality is very similar to SMB, however, the protocols are not compatible. When using Linux, NFS is preferred when you have Linux clients accessing Linux servers. When you are operating in an environment with a mix of Windows and Linux, the SMB protocol is the better choice.

    Adapted from:
    "LinuxFilesystemsExplained" by Anthony J Simon, CommunityHelpWiki is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0
    "Server Message Block" by Multiple ContributorsWikipedia is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0


    04-A.2: Linux File Systems is shared under a CC BY-NC license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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