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The Linux directory tree starts at “” which sits at the top with all the other directories below it (including the home directory which houses the various users who are not root). Each directory has a specific use and contains the necessary sub files and folders to facilitate this.

Centos 6 directories


Contains small executable programs
(binaries) which are often considered to be part of the operating
system itself – but they are not. For instance, when you
type the ls command at a prompt, to list the contents of a directory,
Linux executes the ls program that is located in the bin directory.
This directory is, broadly speaking, equivalent to the C:
Windows directory in Microsoft’s Windows.


Contains executable system programs
(binaries) that are only used by the root superuser and by Linux when
the system is booting up or performing system recovery operations.
For instance, the clock program that maintains the system time when
Linux is running is located in the /sbin directory. This directory is equivalent to the C:Windowssystem directory
in Windows.


Contains binary library files which are
used by the executable programs in the /bin and /sbin directories.
These shared libraries are particularly important for booting the
system and and executing commands within the root file system. They
are roughly equivalent to the DLL (Dynamic Link Library) files in
Windows but are all in one place. Having a specific directory for
support libraries avoids the common problem in Windows where multiple
libraries have been installed and the system has been confused about
which one to use.


Dev contains special file system
entries which represent devices that are attached to the system.
These allow programs access to the device drivers which are essential
for the system to function properly – although the actual driver
files are located elsewhere. For instance, typically the entry
/dev/fd0 would represent the floppy drive if used and an entry of
/dev/cdrom0 represents the CD drive.


This contains the Linux kernel – the
heart of the operating system. Many people incorrectly use the term “operating system” to refer to the Linux environment but it is the
KERNEL which is the operating system. It is the program which
controls access to all the hardware devices the computer supports and
allows multiple programs to run concurrently and share that hardware.
Typically the program is called “vmlinuz” – other programs
complementing the kernel are located in the /bin and /sbin


Contains system configuration files
storing information about everything from user passwords and system
initialization to screen resolution settings.
All these are plain text files that can
be viewed in any text editor such as gedit or vim – there should not
be any binary files in this directory. They control all the
configuration settings which are not user-specific. So these files
are roughly equivalent to the combination of .ini files and the
Registry entries found within the Windows operating system.


Contains special files that relay
information to and from the kernel. The hierarchy of “virtual
files” within this directory represent the current state of the
kernel – allowing applications and users to peer in to the kernels
view of the system. As an example type in to the terminal

more /proc/cpuinfo

more /proc/meminfo

To obtain relevant information about
cpu and memory.

Virtual files are listed as zero bytes and are time stamped to reflect the fact that they are constantly


Contains sub-directories that act as
gateways to temporarily mounted file systems. This is the default
location where most distros attach mounted file systems to the Linux
directory tree.
Typically, when peripheral drives have
been mounted, the /mnt/cdrom directory lets you access files on a
CD-Rom loaded into the CD Drive. If you have a dual boot set up then
/mnt/windows can reveal files on the Windows partition although
accessibility can be restricted on NTFS file systems.


This contains sub directories storing
programs that can be run by any user of that system. For instance,
games, word processors and media players. It is broadly speaking,
the equivalent of C:<Program Files in Windows. The /usr/local
sub–directory is intended for use by the system administrator, when
installing software locally, to prevent it being overwritten when the
system software is being updated.


This contains variable data files which
store information about ongoing system status, particularly logs of
system activity. The system administrator (root superuser) can type
the following command at a root prompt to see a record of system
activity messages

more /var/log/messages


Contains a sub-directory for each user
account to store personal data files. If there is a user account
called @fred@ there will be a /home/fred directory where that user
can store personal files – others can not save files there. This
directory is where you store all your working documents, images and
media files and is the roughly equivalent of the My Documents folder
within Microsoft’s Windows operating system.


temporary files that have been created by running programs/ Usually
these are deleted when the program gets closed but some do get left
behind – periodically these should be deleted. This directory corresponds to the C:<Windows/Temp folder in Windows.


This is the home directory for the root
account superuser – for security reasons regular users cannot access
this directory.. If you log in to Linux as root and open that
accounts home directory it’s at/root rather than a sub directory of
/home like a regular user.


Contains only a text file warning that
this directory should not be deleted. It is used during the boot
process to mount the Linux file system itself. Removing this
directory will leave the computer unable to boot Linux and will
generate a kernel panic error.


Contains nothing initially,but this
directory provides a special area where large static application
software packages can be deployed. A package placing files in /opt
creates a sub-directory bearing the same name as the package. This
sub-directory contains files that would otherwise be scattered around
the file system, giving the system admin an easy way to determine
the role for each file.. For instance, if “example” is the
name of a particular software package in the /opt directory, then
all its files could be placed within sub-directories of the
/opt/example directory. Binaries would be in /opt/example/bin, man
pages in /opt/example/man etc. 
Usually the application can be removed
by simply deleting the contents of the directory. 

As you can see in the above image there may be additional directories such as selinux (security) srv (web server) which accommodate extra functionality depending upon your set up.

See also partitioning and directories.

Author: Paul Anthony McGowan

Web Technology & Linux Enthusiast, Javascript Afficiado, General Observer Of World Corruption. Builder Of A Variety Of Web Properties And Campaigner Against Serious Government Criminality. Founder of Vorteasy

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