FHS compliant

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The FHS is an acronym for the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard. It defined the directory and file structure on Linux distributions.

View FHS

Use the tree command as follows:

sudo tree -d / 
sudo tree -d / | more
sudo -L 1 -d tree /
Typical RHEL filesystem hierarchy (FHS)
Typical RHEL filesystem hierarchy (FHS)

Description of the filesystem hierarchy

A typical Linux system has, among others, the following directories:

Directory structure
Directory Purpose
/ This is the root directory. This is where the whole tree starts.
/bin This directory contains executable programs which are needed in single user mode and to bring the system up or repair it.
/boot Contains static files for the boot loader. This directory holds only the files which are needed during the boot process. The map installer and configuration files should go to /sbin and /etc. The operating system kernel (initrd for example) must be located in either / or /boot.
/dev Special or device files, which refer to physical devices. See mknod(1).
/etc Contains configuration files which are local to the machine. Some larger software packages, like X11, can have their own subdirectories below /etc. Site-wide configuration files may be placed here or in /usr/etc. Nevertheless, programs should always look for these files in /etc and you may have links for these files to /usr/etc.
/etc/opt Host-specific configuration files for add-on applications installed in /opt.
/etc/sgml This directory contains the configuration files for SGML (optional).
/etc/skel When a new user account is created, files from this directory are usually copied into the user's home directory.
/etc/X11 Configuration files for the X11 window system (optional).
/etc/xml This directory contains the configuration files for XML (optional).
/home On machines with home directories for users, these are usually beneath this directory, directly or not. The structure of this directory depends on local administration decisions (optional).
/lib This directory should hold those shared libraries that are necessary to boot the system and to run the commands in the root filesystem.
/lib<qual> These directories are variants of /lib on system which support more than one binary format requiring separate libraries (optional).
/lib/modules Loadable kernel modules (optional).
/lost+found This directory contains items lost in the filesystem. These items are usually chunks of files mangled as a consequence of a faulty disk or a system crash.
/media This directory contains mount points for removable media such as CD and DVD disks or USB sticks. On systems where more than one device exists for mounting a certain type of media, mount directories can be created by appending a digit to the name of those available above starting with '0', but the unqualified name must also exist.
/media/floppy[1-9] Floppy drive (optional).
/media/cdrom[1-9] CD-ROM drive (optional).
/media/cdrecorder[1-9] CD writer (optional).
/media/zip[1-9] Zip drive (optional).
/media/usb[1-9] USB drive (optional).
/mnt This directory is a mount point for a temporarily mounted filesystem. In some distributions, /mnt contains subdirectories intended to be used as mount points for several temporary filesystems.
/opt This directory should contain add-on packages that contain static files.
/proc This is a mount point for the proc filesystem, which provides information about running processes and the kernel. This pseudo-filesystem is described in more detail in proc(5).
/root This directory is usually the home directory for the root user (optional).
/sbin Like /bin, this directory holds commands needed to boot the system, but which are usually not executed by normal users.
/srv This directory contains site-specific data that is served by this system.
/sys This is a mount point for the sysfs filesystem, which provides information about the kernel like /proc, but better structured, following the formalism of kobject infrastructure.
/tmp This directory contains temporary files which may be deleted with no notice, such as by a regular job or at system boot up.
/usr This directory is usually mounted from a separate partition. It should hold only shareable, read-only data, so that it can be mounted by various machines running Linux.
/usr/X11R6 The X-Window system, version 11 release 6 (optional).
/usr/X11R6/bin Binaries which belong to the X-Window system; often, there is a symbolic link from the more traditional /usr/bin/X11 to here.
/usr/X11R6/lib Data files associated with the X-Window system.
/usr/X11R6/lib/X11 These contain miscellaneous files needed to run X; Often, there is a symbolic link from /usr/lib/X11 to this directory.
/usr/X11R6/include/X11 Contains include files needed for compiling programs using the X11 window system. Often, there is a symbolic link from /usr/include/X11 to this directory.
/usr/bin This is the primary directory for executable programs. Most programs executed by normal users which are not needed for booting or for repairing the system and which are not installed locally should be placed in this directory.
/usr/bin/mh Commands for the MH mail handling system (optional).
/usr/bin/X11 is the traditional place to look for X11 executables; on Linux, it usually is a symbolic link to /usr/X11R6/bin.
/usr/dict Replaced by /usr/share/dict.
/usr/doc Replaced by /usr/share/doc.
/usr/etc Site-wide configuration files to be shared between several machines may be stored in this directory. However, commands should always reference those files using the /etc directory. Links from files in /etc should point to the appropriate files in /usr/etc.
/usr/games Binaries for games and educational programs (optional).
/usr/include Include files for the C compiler.
/usr/include/bsd BSD compatibility include files (optional).
/usr/include/X11 Include files for the C compiler and the X-Window system. This is usually a symbolic link to /usr/X11R6/include/X11.
/usr/include/asm Include files which declare some assembler functions. This used to be a symbolic link to /usr/src/linux/include/asm.
/usr/include/linux This contains information which may change from system release to system release and used to be a symbolic link to /usr/src/linux/include/linux to get at operating-system-specific information. (Note that one should have include files there that work correctly with the current libc and in user space. However, Linux kernel source is not designed to be used with user programs and does not know anything about the libc you are using. It is very likely that things will break if you let /usr/include/asm and /usr/include/linux point at a random kernel tree. Debian systems don't do this and use headers from a known good kernel version, provided in the libc*-dev package.)
/usr/include/g++ Include files to use with the GNU C++ compiler.
/usr/lib Object libraries, including dynamic libraries, plus some executables which usually are not invoked directly. More complicated programs may have whole subdirectories there.
/usr/lib<qual> These directories are variants of /usr/lib on system which support more than one binary format requiring separate libraries, except that the symbolic link /usr/lib<qual>/X11 is not required (optional).
/usr/lib/X11 The usual place for data files associated with X programs, and configuration files for the X system itself. On Linux, it usually is a symbolic link to /usr/X11R6/lib/X11.
/usr/lib/gcc-lib contains executables and include files for the GNU C compiler, gcc(1).
/usr/lib/groff Files for the GNU groff document formatting system.
/usr/lib/uucp Files for uucp(1).
/usr/local This is where programs which are local to the site typically go.
/usr/local/bin Binaries for programs local to the site.
/usr/local/doc Local documentation.
/usr/local/etc Configuration files associated with locally installed programs.
/usr/local/games Binaries for locally installed games.
/usr/local/lib Files associated with locally installed programs.
/usr/local/lib<qual> These directories are variants of /usr/local/lib on system which support more than one binary format requiring separate libraries (optional).
/usr/local/include Header files for the local C compiler.
/usr/local/info Info pages associated with locally installed programs.
/usr/local/man Man pages associated with locally installed programs.
/usr/local/sbin Locally installed programs for system administration.
/usr/local/share Local application data that can be shared among different architectures of the same OS.
/usr/local/src Source code for locally installed software.
/usr/man Replaced by /usr/share/man.
/usr/sbin This directory contains program binaries for system administration which are not essential for the boot process, for mounting /usr, or for system repair.
/usr/share This directory contains subdirectories with specific application data, that can be shared among different architectures of the same OS. Often one finds stuff here that used to live in /usr/doc or /usr/lib or /usr/man.
/usr/share/dict Contains the word lists used by spell checkers (optional).
/usr/share/dict/words List of English words (optional).
/usr/share/doc Documentation about installed programs (optional).
/usr/share/games Static data files for games in /usr/games (optional).
/usr/share/info Info pages go here (optional).
/usr/share/locale Locale information goes here (optional).
/usr/share/man Manual pages go here in subdirectories according to the man page sections.
/usr/share/man/<locale>/man[1-9] These directories contain manual pages for the specific locale in source code form. Systems which use a unique language and code set for all manual pages may omit the <locale> substring.
/usr/share/misc Miscellaneous data that can be shared among different architectures of the same OS.
/usr/share/nls The message catalogs for native language support go here (optional).
/usr/share/sgml Files for SGML (optional).
/usr/share/sgml/docbook DocBook DTD (optional).
/usr/share/sgml/tei TEI DTD (optional).
/usr/share/sgml/html HTML DTD (optional).
/usr/share/sgml/mathtml MathML DTD (optional).
/usr/share/terminfo The database for terminfo (optional).
/usr/share/tmac Troff macros that are not distributed with groff (optional).
/usr/share/xml Files for XML (optional).
/usr/share/xml/docbook DocBook DTD (optional).
/usr/share/xml/xhtml XHTML DTD (optional).
/usr/share/xml/mathml MathML DTD (optional).
/usr/share/zoneinfo Files for timezone information (optional).
/usr/src Source files for different parts of the system, included with some packages for reference purposes. Don't work here with your own projects, as files below /usr should be read-only except when installing software (optional).
/usr/src/linux This was the traditional place for the kernel source. Some distributions put here the source for the default kernel they ship. You should probably use another directory when building your own kernel.
/usr/tmp Obsolete. This should be a link to /var/tmp. This link is present only for compatibility reasons and shouldn't be used.
/var This directory contains files which may change in size, such as spool and log files.
/var/account Process accounting logs (optional).
/var/adm This directory is superseded by /var/log and should be a symbolic link to /var/log.
/var/backups Reserved for historical reasons.
/var/cache Data cached for programs.
/var/cache/fonts Locally-generated fonts (optional).
/var/cache/man Locally-formatted man pages (optional).
/var/cache/www WWW proxy or cache data (optional).
/var/cache/<package> Package specific cache data (optional).
/var/catman/cat[1-9] or /var/cache/man/cat[1-9] These directories contain preformatted manual pages according to their man page section. (The use of preformatted manual pages is deprecated.)
/var/crash System crash dumps (optional).
/var/cron Reserved for historical reasons.
/var/games Variable game data (optional).
/var/lib Variable state information for programs.
/var/lib/hwclock State directory for hwclock (optional).
/var/lib/misc Miscellaneous state data.
/var/lib/xdm X display manager variable data (optional).
/var/lib/<editor> Editor backup files and state (optional).
/var/lib/<name> These directories must be used for all distribution packaging support.
/var/lib/<package> State data for packages and subsystems (optional).
/var/lib/<pkgtool> Packaging support files (optional).
/var/local Variable data for /usr/local.
/var/lock Lock files are placed in this directory. The naming convention for device lock files is LCK..<device> where <device> is the device's name in the filesystem. The format used is that of HDU UUCP lock files, that is, lock files contain a PID as a 10-byte ASCII decimal number, followed by a newline character.
/var/log Miscellaneous log files.
/var/opt Variable data for /opt.
/var/mail Users' mailboxes. Replaces /var/spool/mail.
/var/msgs Reserved for historical reasons.
/var/preserve Reserved for historical reasons.
/var/run Run-time variable files, like files holding process identifiers (PIDs) and logged user information (utmp). Files in this directory are usually cleared when the system boots.
/var/spool Spooled (or queued) files for various programs.
/var/spool/at Spooled jobs for at(1).
/var/spool/cron Spooled jobs for cron(8).
/var/spool/lpd Spooled files for printing (optional).
/var/spool/lpd/printer Spools for a specific printer (optional).
/var/spool/mail Replaced by /var/mail.
/var/spool/mqueue Queued outgoing mail (optional).
/var/spool/news Spool directory for news (optional).
/var/spool/rwho Spooled files for rwhod(8) (optional).
/var/spool/smail Spooled files for the smail(1) mail delivery program.
/var/spool/uucp Spooled files for uucp(1) (optional).
/var/tmp Like /tmp, this directory holds temporary files stored for an unspecified duration.
/var/yp Database files for NIS, formerly known as the Sun Yellow Pages (YP).

FHS compliance

Most Linux distributions follow the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard. However, they may declare their own policy to maintain FHS compliance. Hence, reading the local man page might help to get an exact idea. Type the following man command to read the man page about the filesystem hierarchy:

man 7 hier
man 'hier(7)'
man hier.7

See also