I hear and read the term all the time, but what does it mean?

I just accidentally mounted a shared folder hosted on a remote computer. The only difference I see is the presence of a desktop shortcut. I was able to access the folder before I mounted it with no problems.

So What does it mean to mount something?


5 Answers 5


When you 'mount' something you are placing access to the file system contained within onto your root file system structure. Effectively giving the files a location. This is similar to the C:/D: drive labels in windows, but more flexible.

Mounting /dev/sdb1 to /mnt/disk1 places all the files and folders contained within the device standard disk B partition 1 into the directory /mnt/disk1 where you can access them.

Modern systems have ways to auto-mount drives just as windows auto-mounts drives to drive letters, but the location mounting system in Unix is much more flexible. And unmounting is obviously the removal of the access to those files/folders from that location. You can find out what file systems are mounted by running the command:


Parts of ubuntu involved: mount, umount, fstab (for fixed mounts), udev, gvfs (for automatic mounting)

  • Where can I read up more on the "the location mounting system in Unix is much more flexible" part?
    – Mussnoon
    Jan 28, 2011 at 17:35
  • Please report this as a new question, I can answer it for you. I've added a link to help, but it's not formatted data. Jan 28, 2011 at 17:43
  • Done: askubuntu.com/q/23750/4152
    – Mussnoon
    Jan 28, 2011 at 18:01
  • I posted the question as you'd asked me to right away, but you're not answering it.
    – Mussnoon
    Jan 29, 2011 at 8:22
  • 5
    Patience my young padiwan learner. Jan 29, 2011 at 13:52

You know the drives you have in Windows? Like C:/ and D:/ and stuff. One of them is just your hard drive, and one of them is your cd drive, and if you plug in a flash drive or external hard drive, that'll make another letter appear. Your shared folder is the same; it's not your computer's hard drive, it's some other drive, somewhere else.

Now, that flash drive, and your shared folder, and all of these--they're not on your computer the second you plug them in, or connect remotely, or whatever. They're not in your "file system". They have to get thrown into the mix, and your computer has to read them, and know that they're there, and give you a way to access them. This is "mounting"--plopping the drive into your file system, where you can get to it.

In Windows, when a drive is mounted, Windows will pick another letter, and assign that letter to the drive--and then you can access it from "My Computer". On Unix like systems such as Ubuntu, They go with the much nicer system of placing that icon on your desktop. So when you plug in your flash drive, instead of getting some stupid autorun dialog that is totally annoying and sometimes unsafe, you get a nice icon on your desktop to symbolize the piece of hardware you just stuck into your computer.

  • 4
    Autorun dialogs aren't stupid -- users who choose to execute unsafe contents are. Windows caters to the needs of the masses -- who get lost if the installer doesn't run automatically when you pop in a CD. And some people might find the icon totally annoying (I do) and the autorun dialog not only nice, but also very useful (I don't). Good thing you can turn off both autorun prompts and desktop icon placement. And "My Computer" is an ancient thing -- it has been just "Computer" for quite some time now.
    – Mussnoon
    Jan 28, 2011 at 17:53

A physical device can be either "unmounted" or "mounted". However, while the "unmounted" state for a physical device still appears on your desktop and still is under Places, a shared folder has a different behavior.

When you connect to a shared folder by using the "Connect to server" menu option, what Ubuntu does is it creates a sort of virtual folder. It's not actually mounted under "/media", but is using a special virtual network filesystem. In fact this is closer to mapping a network drive under Windows; they do not appear under your C:\ drive, but are instead given a different drive letter, which is basically just a convenient link to the folder. In Ubuntu, the listing under Places and the icon on your desktop is the same, just a convenient link. If you connect to the folder by going through Network, you're browsing straight to the folder, just like you can in Windows.


You cannot access unmounted filesystems without mounting it first. filesystems and their mount-points are defined within the /etc/fstab file and you can control the mounting operation from there. The syntax of the mount command is.

mount [options] device file mount point

Linux recognizes and can mount several type of file systems ( including windows NTFS) provided you have the right filesystem driver.



What is meant by mounting a drive? Before your computer can use any kind of storage device (such as a hard drive, CD-ROM, or network share), you or your operating system must make it accessible through the computer's file system. This process is called mounting. You can only access files on mounted media.

Formats and mounting Your computer stores data in specific, structured file formats written on a piece of media (such as a disk or CD-ROM). Your computer must be able to read the format on this media in order to interpret its data properly; if the computer does not recognize the format, it will return errors. Also, forcing your computer to work with corrupted or unrecognized formats will cause it to write data incorrectly, possibly rendering unrecoverable all the files stored on the media.

Mounting ensures that your computer recognizes the media's format; if your computer cannot recognize that format, the device cannot be mounted. When media is successfully mounted, your computer incorporates the media's file system into your local file system, and creates a mount point, a locally available link through which you access an external device. In Windows or Mac OS X, the mount point is represented by a disk or other icon; in Unix or Linux, the mount point is a directory. Most operating systems handle mounting and unmounting for you.

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