Question from which this arose is here: What does it mean to mount something?

Since asking about which is "better" or which "worse" can lead to subjective and argumentative answers, I'd like to know about the technical differences between the two.

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    To be honest I believe this question is highly subjective and argumentative. It is certainly more flexible because it allows you to "attach" storage into any path in a way which is transparent to the applications. Stating that it is best is subjective, this flexibility is not usually required on the desktop and it can be managed in other ways on servers. Jan 28, 2011 at 18:25
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    @Michael Mrozek: Try not to change the actual question when editing someone else's question. Thanks.
    – Mussnoon
    Jan 28, 2011 at 18:44
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    @Mussnoon I made it less subjective and wrote "Is there an advantage to the UNIX way versus the Windows way?". Your made the title "What advantages does the UNIX mounting system have over that of Windows?". How did I change your question? Jan 28, 2011 at 18:49
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    @Mussnoon Yes, I entirely rewrote the question, but I didn't change the meaning of the question -- question bodies like "As the title says" are useless. Anyway, I'm not really interested in an edit war; if you want to change it back, feel free Jan 28, 2011 at 18:56
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    @Michael Mrozek: Yes, "As the title says" part was useless. But you also added the why one calls mount but the other does not - which actually misled people about what the question was actually about. I have now edited the title and the body to both avoid argumentation and make it a better sounding question. Thanks for pointing out the useless part. Much appreciated.
    – Mussnoon
    Jan 28, 2011 at 19:13

2 Answers 2


Basic technical differences between Unix mounting (single tree) and Windows drive letters (multi forested):

  1. The Unix root file system allows for other file system to be placed inside it, giving it a branched structure from a single point.
  2. The Windows drives allow for multiple root file systems, but don't allow any other file system inside.
  3. Each Unix mount point has group/owner/all permissions for reading, writing and access.
  4. Unix mount points can be removed and added through commands, including reading to custom locations for testing and fixing.
  5. Windows drives have a natural list of available partitions/drives which is easily visible from the desktop and reflected directly in the file system structure.
  6. There is a fixed limit to the number of drive letters available in windows, there s no such limit to unix mounting.
  7. Network mounting is transparent and files from the network are placed in a location specific for the client machine.
  8. Unix mounting allows for fusefs which provides interesting access to data. Generative folders which are not possible unless you have unix like mounting.
  9. In unix A drive can be mounted into a specific location according to the booting operating system. In one os on the same machine a partition may be mounted to /media/backup and in another os it might be mounted to /home/
  10. Any part of your operating system's files can be put onto their own mount. Either a different partition, disk or even network or cloud storage mounts. This enables thin clients to load their operating system from the network (nfs).
  11. The chroot process allows you to change the root in a unix file system an effectively swap out the running system for a new one, without restarting. This is impossible with drive letters as they're all pre-assigned.

This isn't an exhaustive list and may need to be cleaned up in the future.

  • Here's the answer to points 1, 2, 6 & 9: i.imgur.com/JFH8l.png. I've never really tried to mount anything to an NTFS folder (have changed drive letters) but it seems to counter those points. 7 - for which?
    – Mussnoon
    Jan 29, 2011 at 15:58
  • Is that a core part of the new windows file system? Jan 29, 2011 at 16:13
  • If by "new file system" you mean NTFS, then I think yes. I have used it since XP, but it seems you could do it on 2000 as well. Check: computerhope.com/issues/ch000038.htm and technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc938934.aspx. However, if your emphasis was on "core part", then that is beyond me...I don't even know what "core part" here means.
    – Mussnoon
    Jan 29, 2011 at 16:31
  • As in, it's a part of the very nature of how file systems work. I presume they fixed the forest, but the question is how. (and why they don't take advantage of it more) Jan 29, 2011 at 16:48
  • Windows can mount only partitions attached to system and windows (SMB) and UNIX (NFS) shares. Unix/Linux support a lot of protocols for mounting local filesystems or remote shares. Only thing that I know that is the same for Linux and Windows are SMB and NFS protocols. Some of supported protocols for mounting on Linux are: HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, SSH, WebDAV, ... Windows cannot mount over these protocols (at least without third party software).
    – Asmerito
    Feb 27, 2011 at 8:46

mount is just terminology. It has long roots and it ended up staying until today. Other obscure terms are patch (software patch, that changes the main software in a small way so as to fix a problem) which comes from the clothing industry. Or bug, a generic software defect, that comes from an actual bug that short-circuited the circuits of the first ever computers. Or daemon to describe a system service.

When the original software was developed there was no market as we have today, so the codewords that the programmers chose ended up reaching the end-users.

Currently there is a process to remove these awkward words with more neutral and descriptive terms. For example, instead of daemon, we have service.

Desktop environments such as GNOME are in the process of removing these obscure terms.

Update: And to answer your question, all operating systems perform this task. It's just you got exposed to mount which might have confused you.

  • Read my question again now. My original question wasn't about buzzwords at all. Someone else edited it without understanding my actual question. It has been fixed now.
    – Mussnoon
    Jan 28, 2011 at 18:59

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