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What do Different Directories mean in Ubuntu

Unlike Windows, Ubuntu has a very unusual directory structure. Everything in Ubuntu is stored under directories and there are no visible partitions. Users who are new to Ubuntu may find it mind-numbing or confusing to locate their information within the complex structure of directories. Here, in this article, we try to explain the Ubuntu directory structure and dig into each commonly used directories.

Ubuntu Directory Structure Explained

/bin

The Bin directory contains the executable files for running all the Ubuntu commands like ls, grep, sudo, etc. These files are accessible at system level, i.e. across all users.

/boot

The Boot directory holds vital files to help boot the system into action, i.e. these files are used to boot Ubuntu. It includes kernel, ramdisk image and bootloader configuration files. It’s highly recommended to not enter this directory unless critical.

/dev

The Dev directory is used to keep track of all the peripheral devices connected to your computer, including internal components like graphics card, sound card, memory sticks, etc. It does not take much space on the hard drive.

/etc

The Etc directory includes all the configuration files which are used to store most of the settings you perform on Ubuntu.

/home

The Home directory is user specific like Documents on Windows. Every user will have their own special sub-directory within Home directory where they can store their personal documents and other files.

/lib

All the Ubuntu libraries are stored in the Lib directory. Libraries are basically shared resources used by numerous applications.

/media

The directory Media, even though not a core part of Ubuntu, is used as a mounting point when connecting to external storage devices like digital cameras or USB pen drives.

/mnt

The Mnt directory too is used as mounting point for other file systems which may exists in your computer. Like FAT32 partition of Windows can be mounted here.

/opt

The Opt directory holds all the additional or optional software package installations. E.g: If you wish you install Google Desktop, it will reside in Opt directory.

/proc

The Proc directory maintains the current state of the entire system. It does not occupy any space and is virtual, residing in the system memory. Only the “root” user (administrative privileges) has access to this directory.

/sbin

The Sbin directory holds commands for making system-wide modifications. Again, only the “root” user can access this directory.

/sys

The Sys directory stores files related to the PnP components of Ubuntu.

/tmp

Tmp is the one and only temporary directory of Ubuntu where all the temporary data is stored.

/usr

The Usr directory generally contains pre-installed programs, wallpapers, themes and few libraries. It’s equivalent to the Program Files folder in Windows.

/var

The Var directory contains all the variable components of the system like webroot directories, databases, etc.

We tried giving a simple overview of the Ubuntu directory structure to amateur users or those seeking to jump from Windows to Ubuntu. I hope it makes your life on Ubuntu simple.

By admin in Unix/Linux with 4 comments on .

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  1. Anthony 7 Oct, 2011

    Funny, I find the windows folder/directory structure odd. Using letters for hard drive names is very weird to me too. I started out in life using dos/windows and moved over to linux/unix a decade or so ago. When I am on a windows machine I find it unsettling. Why is my home directory in ‘documents and settings’ comes to mind.

  2. jmite 7 Oct, 2011

    Just as a note, very few binaries are actually included in /bin. It’s mostly the barebones essentials. Most programs are in /usr/bin.
    Anybody who wants to know the full list of directories containing commands that can be run from the command line, just use the following command:
    echo $PATH

  3. djohnston 8 Oct, 2011

    Substitute “Linux” for “Ubuntu” and you’ve got a winner. The directory structure you illustrate belongs to Linux, as well as other *nixes. Unfortunately, many who write guides and how-tos write as though Ubuntu is the only Linux distro. As you know, there are many such distributions.

  4. Naweed Chougle 8 Oct, 2011

    @djohnston:Ubuntu is a very popular distro and has many satisfied users, including me.

    It’s one of the first things that come to mind when you want to recommend a user-friendly distro to a long-time Windows fan, which is probably why the writer has considered Ubuntu synonymous with Linux.

    Isn’t Ubuntu a powerful advertisement for both Linux and Open Source software?

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