beanz Magazine

File Systems

Marcin Wichary on Flickr

‘Files’ may be easy concepts for humans, but not for computers. What’s going on inside your operating system?

Operating systems are complex beasts, full of many moving parts that allow the user to interact with the hardware. In this article, we’ll be talking about one of the more important and more easily overlooked services every OS has to provide: the file system.

By file system I don’t mean things like the explorers in OSX or Windows that let you see visually where all your files and directories are. I mean the code beneath all of that that makes the concept of “file” even make sense to the computer.

“Files” aren’t actually something a hard drive, a USB drive, or an SD card naturally understand. All these pieces of storage hardware know how to do is read data from & write data to different locations in the device’s storage, but nothing else. Anything beyond “this value is stored in this tiny box for data” is implemented by the file system and was coded as a part of the OS.

OSX, Windows, and Linux all have their own file systems. Linux actually has a bunch of file systems you can choose from. In the rest of this article, we’ll discuss some of the duties of a file system and how different file systems handle these duties.


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