Windows vs Linux File SystemThis is a featured page

It is helpful for the Windows user to learn about the Linux file system through comparison. Much of the following content comes from an article written by Mayank Sarup ( for the web site. Here is a link to the article "The Linux Filesystem Explained".

1) In Linux there is a single hierarchical directory stucture. In Windows, there are typicallty many partitions with directories under these partitions. For example, the C drive and the D drive on a Window machine are two different directory structures with their own seperate directory structures. Linux places all partitions unders a single root directory by mounting them under specific directories. This is known as a unified file system.

2) unlike Windows, Linux is case sensitive!

3) it helps to know the function of the basic Linux directories:
/sbin - contains all binary files essential to the running of Linux
/bin - contains binaries of useful commands and shells
/boot - contains file and Linux kernel
/dev - containes files that communicate with hardware
/ etc - contains system configuration files
/home - contains home directories for users
/lib - contains shared libraries (note: Windows equivilent is .dll files)
/lost+found - contains recovered files
/mnt - contains - mountpoints
/opt - contains software and add-on packages that are not part of default installation
/root - home directory of the root user
/tmp - files that are required temporarily
/usr - contains all user binaries including programs like telnet, ftp, etc.
/var - contains spooling data like mail

4) The Linux filesystem does things a lot more differently than the Windows filesystem.Let’s point out the differences and take you through the layout of the Linux filesystem.For starters, there is only a single hierarchal directory structure. Everything starts from the root directory, represented by '/', and then expands into sub-directories. Where DOS/Windows had various partitions and then directories under those partitions, Linux places all the partitions under the root directory by 'mounting' them under specific directories.

Closest to root under Windows would be c:. Under Windows, the various partitions are detected at boot and assigned a drive letter. Under Linux, unless you mount a partition or a device, the system does not know of the existence of that partition or device. This might not seem to be the easiest way to provide access to your partitions or devices but it offers great flexibility. This kind of layout, known as the unified filesystem, does offer several advantages over the approach that Windows uses. Let's take the example of the /usr directory. This directory off the root directory contains most of the system executables. With the Linux filesystem, you can choose to mount it off another partition or even off another machine over the network. The underlying system will not know the difference because /usr appears to be a local directory that is part of the local directory structure! How many times have you wished to move around executables and data under Windows,only to run into registry and system errors? Try moving c:windowssystem to another partition or drive. (Source:
Windows vs Linux File System - CIS 301: OS & Server Administration

5) Another point likely to confuse newbies is the use of the frontslash '/'
instead of the backslash '' as in DOS/Windows. So c: windows system would be /c/windows/system. Well, Linux is not going against convention here. Linux also chooses to be case sensitive.What this means that the case, whether in capitals or not, of the characters becomes very important. So this is not the same as THIS or ThIs for that matter. This one feature probably causes the most problems for newbies.

6) Let's not forget the biggest difference. LINUX IS FREE. Although Linux isn't as much as a "gooey" interface as windows, you can still get much of the same functionality out of a linux server. Both windows and Linux have their downsides. Most will agree that Linux is much less user friendly while Windows is much less stable. According to the article Comparison of Windows and Linux, "Linux and Windows differ in philosophy, cost, ease of use, versatility, and stability, with each seeking to improve in their perceived weak areas. Comparisons of the two tend to reflect the origins, historic user base and distribution model of each. Typically, some major areas of perceived weaknesses regularly cited have included the poor “out-of-box” usability of the Linux desktop for the mass-market and poor system stability for Windows. Both are areas of rapid development in both fields."

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Latest page update: made by james_davies , Aug 27 2008, 10:30 AM EDT (about this update About This Update james_davies Edited by james_davies

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