Section: Linux Programmer's Manual (7)
Updated: 2009-03-30
Index Return to Main Contents


hier - Description of the file system hierarchy  


A typical Linux system has, among others, the following directories:
This is the root directory. This is where the whole tree starts.
This directory contains executable programs which are needed in single user mode and to bring the system up or repair it.
Contains static files for the boot loader. This directory only holds the files which are needed during the boot process. The map installer and configuration files should go to /sbin and /etc.
Special or device files, which refer to physical devices. See mknod(1).
Contains configuration files which are local to the machine. Some larger software packages, like X11, can have their own subdirectories below /etc. Site-wide configuration files may be placed here or in /usr/etc. Nevertheless, programs should always look for these files in /etc and you may have links for these files to /usr/etc.
Host-specific configuration files for add-on applications installed in /opt.
This directory contains the configuration files for SGML and XML (optional).
When a new user account is created, files from this directory are usually copied into the user's home directory.
Configuration files for the X11 window system (optional).
On machines with home directories for users, these are usually beneath this directory, directly or not. The structure of this directory depends on local administration decisions.
This directory should hold those shared libraries that are necessary to boot the system and to run the commands in the root file system.
This directory contains mount points for removable media such as CD and DVD disks or USB sticks.
This directory is a mount point for a temporarily mounted file system. In some distributions, /mnt contains subdirectories intended to be used as mount points for several temporary file systems.
This directory should contain add-on packages that contain static files.
This is a mount point for the proc file system, which provides information about running processes and the kernel. This pseudo-file system is described in more detail in proc(5).
This directory is usually the home directory for the root user (optional).
Like /bin, this directory holds commands needed to boot the system, but which are usually not executed by normal users.
This directory contains site-specific data that is served by this system.
This directory contains temporary files which may be deleted with no notice, such as by a regular job or at system boot up.
This directory is usually mounted from a separate partition. It should hold only sharable, read-only data, so that it can be mounted by various machines running Linux.
The X-Window system, version 11 release 6 (optional).
Binaries which belong to the X-Window system; often, there is a symbolic link from the more traditional /usr/bin/X11 to here.
Data files associated with the X-Window system.
These contain miscellaneous files needed to run X; Often, there is a symbolic link from /usr/lib/X11 to this directory.
Contains include files needed for compiling programs using the X11 window system. Often, there is a symbolic link from /usr/include/X11 to this directory.
This is the primary directory for executable programs. Most programs executed by normal users which are not needed for booting or for repairing the system and which are not installed locally should be placed in this directory.
is the traditional place to look for X11 executables; on Linux, it usually is a symbolic link to /usr/X11R6/bin.
Replaced by /usr/share/dict.
Replaced by /usr/share/doc.
Site-wide configuration files to be shared between several machines may be stored in this directory. However, commands should always reference those files using the /etc directory. Links from files in /etc should point to the appropriate files in /usr/etc.
Binaries for games and educational programs (optional).
Include files for the C compiler.
Include files for the C compiler and the X-Window system. This is usually a symbolic link to /usr/X11R6/include/X11.
Include files which declare some assembler functions. This used to be a symbolic link to /usr/src/linux/include/asm.
This contains information which may change from system release to system release and used to be a symbolic link to /usr/src/linux/include/linux to get at operating system specific information.

(Note that one should have include files there that work correctly with the current libc and in user space. However, Linux kernel source is not designed to be used with user programs and does not know anything about the libc you are using. It is very likely that things will break if you let /usr/include/asm and /usr/include/linux point at a random kernel tree. Debian systems don't do this and use headers from a known good kernel version, provided in the libc*-dev package.)

Include files to use with the GNU C++ compiler.
Object libraries, including dynamic libraries, plus some executables which usually are not invoked directly. More complicated programs may have whole subdirectories there.
The usual place for data files associated with X programs, and configuration files for the X system itself. On Linux, it usually is a symbolic link to /usr/X11R6/lib/X11.
contains executables and include files for the GNU C compiler, gcc(1).
Files for the GNU groff document formatting system.
Files for uucp(1).
This is where programs which are local to the site typically go.
Binaries for programs local to the site.
Local documentation.
Configuration files associated with locally installed programs.
Binaries for locally installed games.
Files associated with locally installed programs.
Header files for the local C compiler.
Info pages associated with locally installed programs.
Man pages associated with locally installed programs.
Locally installed programs for system administration.
Local application data that can be shared among different architectures of the same OS.
Source code for locally installed software.
Replaced by /usr/share/man.
This directory contains program binaries for system administration which are not essential for the boot process, for mounting /usr, or for system repair.
This directory contains subdirectories with specific application data, that can be shared among different architectures of the same OS. Often one finds stuff here that used to live in /usr/doc or /usr/lib or /usr/man.
Contains the word lists used by spell checkers.
Documentation about installed programs.
Static data files for games in /usr/games.
Info pages go here.
Locale information goes here.
Manual pages go here in subdirectories according to the man page sections.
These directories contain manual pages for the specific locale in source code form. Systems which use a unique language and code set for all manual pages may omit the <locale> substring.
Miscellaneous data that can be shared among different architectures of the same OS.
The message catalogs for native language support go here.
Files for SGML and XML.
The database for terminfo.
Troff macros that are not distributed with groff.
Files for timezone information.
Source files for different parts of the system, included with some packages for reference purposes. Don't work here with your own projects, as files below /usr should be read-only except when installing software.
This was the traditional place for the kernel source. Some distributions put here the source for the default kernel they ship. You should probably use another directory when building your own kernel.
Obsolete. This should be a link to /var/tmp. This link is present only for compatibility reasons and shouldn't be used.
This directory contains files which may change in size, such as spool and log files.
This directory is superseded by /var/log and should be a symbolic link to /var/log.
Reserved for historical reasons.
Data cached for programs.
/var/catman/cat[1-9] or /var/cache/man/cat[1-9]
These directories contain preformatted manual pages according to their man page section. (The use of preformatted manual pages is deprecated.)
Reserved for historical reasons.
Variable state information for programs.
Variable data for /usr/local.
Lock files are placed in this directory. The naming convention for device lock files is LCK..<device> where <device> is the device's name in the file system. The format used is that of HDU UUCP lock files, that is, lock files contain a PID as a 10-byte ASCII decimal number, followed by a newline character.
Miscellaneous log files.
Variable data for /opt.
Users' mailboxes. Replaces /var/spool/mail.
Reserved for historical reasons.
Reserved for historical reasons.
Run-time variable files, like files holding process identifiers (PIDs) and logged user information (utmp). Files in this directory are usually cleared when the system boots.
Spooled (or queued) files for various programs.
Spooled jobs for at(1).
Spooled jobs for cron(8).
Spooled files for printing.
Replaced by /var/mail.
Queued outgoing mail.
Spool directory for news.
Spooled files for rwhod(8).
Spooled files for the smail(1) mail delivery program.
Spooled files for uucp(1).
Like /tmp, this directory holds temporary files stored for an unspecified duration.
Database files for NIS.


The Filesystem Hierarchy Standard, Version 2.2 <>.  


This list is not exhaustive; different systems may be configured differently.  


find(1), ln(1), proc(5), mount(8)

The Filesystem Hierarchy Standard  


This page is part of release 3.21 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, and information about reporting bugs, can be found at






Subscribe to Comments Feed

Upcoming Linux Foundation Courses

  1. LFS426 Linux Performance Tuning
    08 Sep » 11 Sep - New York
  2. LFS520 OpenStack Cloud Architecture and Deployment
    08 Sep » 11 Sep - Virtual
  3. LFD320 Linux Kernel Internals and Debugging
    15 Sep » 19 Sep - Virtual

View All Upcoming Courses

Become an Individual Member
Check out the Friday Funnies

Sign Up For the Newsletter

Who we are ?

The Linux Foundation is a non-profit consortium dedicated to the growth of Linux.

More About the foundation...

Frequent Questions

Join / Linux Training / Board