Chapter 11 file system interface
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Chapter 11: File-System Interface. File Concept Access Methods Directory Structure File System Mounting File Sharing Protection. File Concept. Contiguous logical address space Types: Data numeric character binary Program. File Structure. None - sequence of words, bytes

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Chapter 11: File-System Interface

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Chapter 11: File-System Interface

  • File Concept

  • Access Methods

  • Directory Structure

  • File System Mounting

  • File Sharing

  • Protection

Operating System Concepts

File Concept

  • Contiguous logical address space

  • Types:

    • Data

      • numeric

      • character

      • binary

    • Program

Operating System Concepts

File Structure

  • None - sequence of words, bytes

  • Simple record structure

    • Lines

    • Fixed length

    • Variable length

  • Complex Structures

    • Formatted document

    • Relocatable load file

  • Can simulate last two with first method by inserting appropriate control characters.

  • Who decides:

    • Operating system

    • Program

Operating System Concepts

File Attributes

  • Name – only information kept in human-readable form.

  • Type – needed for systems that support different types.

  • Location – pointer to file location on device.

  • Size – current file size.

  • Protection – controls who can do reading, writing, executing.

  • Time, date, and user identification – data for protection, security, and usage monitoring.

  • Information about files are kept in the directory structure, which is maintained on the disk.

Operating System Concepts

File Types – Name, Extension

Operating System Concepts

Access Methods

  • Sequential Access

    read next

    write next


    no read after last write


  • Direct Access

    read n

    write n

    position to n

    read next

    write next

    rewrite n

    n = relative block number

Operating System Concepts

Sequential-access File

Operating System Concepts

Simulation of Sequential Access on a Direct-access File

Operating System Concepts

Example of Index and Relative Files

Operating System Concepts

Directory Structure

  • Files in disks are organized in the following ways:

    • Disks are split into partitions (minidisks, volumes).

    • A device directory or volume table of contents records files information in each partition.

Operating System Concepts

Directory Structure

  • A collection of nodes containing information about all files.



F 1

F 2

F 3

F 4

F n

Both the directory structure and the files reside on disk.

Backups of these two structures are kept on tapes.

Operating System Concepts

A Typical File-system Organization

Operating System Concepts

Information in a Device Directory

  • Name

  • Type

  • Address

  • Current length

  • Maximum length

  • Date last accessed (for archival)

  • Date last updated (for dump)

  • Owner ID (who pays)

  • Protection information (discuss later)

Operating System Concepts

Operations Performed on Directory

  • Search for a file

  • Create a file: New files need to be added to the directory

  • Delete a file

  • List a directory

  • Rename a file: Renaming a file may also allow its position within the directory structure to be changed.

  • Traverse the file system

Operating System Concepts

Organize the Directory (Logically) to Obtain

  • Efficiency – locating a file quickly.

  • Naming – convenient to users.

    • Two users can have same name for different files.

    • The same file can have several different names.

  • Grouping – logical grouping of files by properties, (e.g., all Java programs, all games, …)

Operating System Concepts

Single-Level Directory

  • A single directory for all users.

Naming problem

Grouping problem

Operating System Concepts

Two-Level Directory

  • Separate directory for each user (user file directory – UFD).

  • System has the master file directory (MFD).

  • Path name – A user and file name define it.

  • Can have the same file name for different user

  • The sequence of directories searched when a file is named is called the search path.

  • Efficient searching

  • No grouping capability

Operating System Concepts

Tree-Structured Directories

  • Properties of tree-structured directories:

    • A tree is the most common directory structure.

    • The tree has a root directory.

    • Every file has a unique path name.

    • A directory (or subdirectory) contains a set of files or subdirectories.

  • The current directory should contain most of the files that are of current interest to the user.

  • Efficient searching

  • Grouping Capability

  • Current directory (working directory)

    • cd /spell/mail/prog

    • type list

Operating System Concepts

Tree-Structured Directories

Operating System Concepts

Tree-Structured Directories (Cont.)

  • Absolute or relative path name

    • An absolute path name begins at the root.

    • A relative path name defines a path from the current directory.

    • Some systems also allow users to define their own search paths.

  • Creating a new file is done in current directory.

  • Delete a file rm <file-name>

  • Creating a new subdirectory is done in current directory.

    mkdir <dir-name>

    Example: if in current directory /mail

    mkdir count







Deleting “mail”  deleting the entire subtree rooted by “mail”.

Operating System Concepts

Acyclic-Graph Directories

  • A tree structure prohibits the sharing of files or directories.

  • An acyclic graph (a generalization of the tree-structured) allows directories to have shared subdirectories and files.

Operating System Concepts

Acyclic-Graph Directories (Cont.)

  • Two different names (aliasing) point to the same file.

  • If dict deletes count  dangling pointer for spell/count.


    • Symbolic links

    • The file is deleted until all references to it are deleted.

    • Entry-hold-count solution: hard links in UNIX

Operating System Concepts

General Graph Directory

Operating System Concepts

General Graph Directory (Cont.)

  • If cycles are allowed to exist in the directory, repeated search could happen and the reference count may be nonzero (Figure 11.10).

  • How do we guarantee no cycles?

    • Allow only links to file not subdirectories.

    • Garbage collection.

    • Every time a new link is added use a cycle detectionalgorithm to determine whether it is OK.

Operating System Concepts

File System Mounting

  • A file can be opened. A file system must be mounted before it can be accessed.

  • Mount procedure:

    • Mount device to the location at which to attach the file system (mount point).

    • Verify the device contains a valid file system.

    • Note that a file system is mounted at the specified mount point.

  • A unmounted file system (I.e. Fig. 11-11(b)) is mounted at a mount point.

  • The Macintosh OS automatically mounts the floppy disk. The Microsoft Windows mount devices at boot time. In UNIX, the mount commands are explicit.

Operating System Concepts

(a) Existing. (b) Unmounted Partition

Operating System Concepts

Mount Point

Operating System Concepts

File Sharing

  • Sharing of files on multi-user systems is desirable.

  • Most systems implement owner attributes by managing a list of user names and associated user identifiers (UIDs) and group identifiers (GIDs).

  • Sharing may be done through a protection scheme.

  • On distributed systems, files may be shared across a network.

  • Network File System (NFS) is a common distributed file-sharing method.

Operating System Concepts

Remote File System

  • Networking allows the sharing of resources:

    • User can manually transfer files. ftp with anonymous access.

    • Distributed file system (DFS)

    • World Wide Web

  • To ease the management of client-server services, distributed information system, or distributed naming services can be used.

  • Domain name system (DNS) provides host-name-to-network-address translations for the entire Internet.

  • Sun Microsystems use yellow page (network information service (NIS)).

  • The industry is moving toward lightweight directory-access protocol (LDAP) as a secure, distributed naming mechanism.

Operating System Concepts

File Sharing

  • Redundant arrays of inexpensive disks (RAID) can prevent the loss of a disk from resulting in the loss of data.

  • Consistency semantics are directly related to the process synchronization algorithms.

  • The UNIX file system uses the following semantics:

    • Writes to an open file by a user are visible immediately to other users.

    • A file has a single image interleaving all accesses.

  • The session semantics enforces no constraints on scheduling accesses.

  • An immutable shared file is a file declared as shared, it cannot be modified.

Operating System Concepts


  • When information is kept in a computer system, we want to keep it safe from physical damage (reliability) and improper access (protection).

  • File owner/creator should be able to control:

    • what can be done

    • by whom

  • Types of access

    • Read

    • Write

    • Execute

    • Append

    • Delete

    • List

  • The most general access control is done by an access-control list (ACL), which specifies the user name and the types of access allowed for each users.

Operating System Concepts

Access Lists and Groups

  • Mode of access: read, write, execute

  • Three classes of users


    a) owner access 71 1 1RWX

    b) group access 6 1 1 0


    c) public access1 0 0 1

  • Ask manager to create a group (unique name), say G, and add some users to the group.

  • For a particular file (say game) or subdirectory, define an appropriate access.







Attach a group to a file chgrp G game

Operating System Concepts

Other Protection Approaches / UNIX

  • Associate a password with each file.

  • In UNIX, directory protection is handled similarly to file protection.

Operating System Concepts

  • Login