Understanding Linux File System Hierarchy – Part 1: Core Directories


The Linux file system is a complex and integral part of the operating system, organizing how data is stored and accessed. Unlike other operating systems, Linux follows a unique and logical structure that might be overwhelming for new users. This article aims to demystify the core directories of the Linux file system, providing a clear understanding of their functions.

Understanding File System Hierarchy Standard (FHS)

The File System Hierarchy Standard (FHS) defines the directory structure and directory contents in Linux. It ensures consistency across distributions, making it easier for users to navigate and understand the system.

The Root Directory (/)

The root directory is the top-level directory in the Linux file system. It contains all other directories and files. Its understanding is crucial for navigating and administering Linux.

/bin – Essential User Binaries

The /bin directory contains essential user binaries (programs) that are needed in single-user mode and for essential system tasks. These include basic commands like ls, cp, and cat.

/boot – Static Boot Files

This directory holds static files required to boot the system, such as the Linux kernel, initrd image, and boot loader configuration files (like GRUB).

/dev – Device Files

Linux treats devices like files, and the /dev directory contains these device files. It includes files for hardware devices like hard drives (e.g., /dev/sda) and virtual devices.

/etc – Configuration Files

/etc is one of the most important directories, containing all the system-wide configuration files. It includes configuration files for installed packages and essential system configuration files like fstab and passwd.

/home – User Home Directories

Each user on the system has a directory in /home. This is where users store their personal files, configurations, and where user-specific settings are saved.

/lib – Essential Shared Libraries

/lib contains essential shared libraries and kernel modules needed for the binaries in /bin and /sbin to function correctly. These libraries support the basic functionalities of the system.

/media and /mnt – Mount Directories

/media and /mnt are used for mounting filesystems. /media is typically used for removable media like CDs and USB drives, while /mnt is for temporarily mounted filesystems.

/opt – Optional or Third Party Software

The /opt directory is reserved for the installation of optional or third-party software. This is a common location for software that is not part of the default installation.


Understanding the Linux file system’s core directories is fundamental for anyone looking to become proficient in Linux. These directories form the backbone of the system, and knowledge of their functions and contents is crucial for effective system management. In the next part of this series, we will explore additional directories and their roles in the Linux file system.


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