Guillem Soler

Guillem Soler

Business Intelligence Consultant | Data Specialist

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Linux: Basic Structure

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If you are used to a Windows environment, you will have noticed that the file structure in Linux is completely different. Where are programs installed in Linux? Where is Linux itself installed? How can I find what I am looking for? What are all these folders with short names that we find in the root?

In this article we will review these folders to understand a little of how the basic structure of Linux is organised.


1. bin [Binaries]

In this folder you will find the most basic programs (Binaries is another way of calling applications or programs). Basic functions such as “cat”, or “ls” are stored here, which you will know if you are familiar with the Linux shell. When we install a program on Linux, it will generally not be installed in this folder.

2. boot

This folder is a bit boggy, as it is the one that allows the computer to boot up. Beware of this!

3. dev [Device]

Here we can find all the devices of the computer, from hard disks and their partitions to keyboard, mouse… We will rarely enter this folder in Linux.

4. etc [Etcetera]

Within etc are stored system-wide settings, i.e. settings that cannot be different for different users.

5. lib, lib32 & lib64 [Libraries]

Within these three folders we find the files that the programs we have installed use to execute different functions.

6. media & mnt [Mount]

Under media and mnt you find all your mounted drives, such as external hard disks or USB devices. Why do we have two? The media folder stores the devices that are mounted automatically, whereas if you want to mount drives manually, we will use the mnt folder.

7. opt [Optional]

Within opt is where we will install external software.

8. proc

In proc you can find all the files that show the current state of the kernel (an essential part of the Linux operating system, as it is the interface between the hardware and its processes). We will be able to find information, for example about the CPU and any process we are interested in.

9. run

This folder contains information about the state of the system from the start of the machine.

10. srv [Service]

This is where the service data is stored in case we have installed servers, such as an FTP or web service.

11. sys [System]

Similar to the run directory, it is also created each time the system boots and contains device information, drivers and some kernel features.

12. tmp [Temporary]

As its name indicates, temporary files are stored here, which are useful for recovering files in the event that a process gets stuck.

13. usr [User]

This is where the applications that are installed for certain users are stored. Here we will install programs that are not essential to the operating system, and we can find folders that we have seen throughout this article but for the specific user.

14. var [Variable]

Contains files and folders that are expected to grow in size as the system is used, such as log files.

15. home

Each user can only access their own home file, and this is where our own documents and files are stored.

16. root

This is the home directory for root users. Unlike each user’s home directory, root permissions are required to modify it (such as adding files) and ensures that the root user always has access to his or her home directory in case the root user’s home directory is inaccessible for any reason.

So far, this is the review of the main directories, I hope it has helped you to understand a little more about the reason for each folder and how they work in Linux.

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