System Administration Guide, Volume 1

Virtual File Systems

Virtual file systems are memory-based file systems that provide access to special kernel information and facilities. Most virtual file systems do not use file system disk space. However, the Cache File System (CacheFS) uses a file system on the disk to contain the cache, and some virtual file systems, such as the Temporary File System (TMPFS), use the swap space on a disk.

The Cache File System

The Cache File System (CacheFSTM) can be used to improve performance of remote file systems or slow devices such as CD-ROM drives. When a file system is cached, the data read from the remote file system or CD-ROM is stored in a cache on the local system. See Chapter 37, The Cache File System (Tasks) for detailed information on setting up and administering CacheFS File Systems.

The Temporary File System

The Temporary File System (TMPFS) uses local memory for file system reads and writes, which is typically much faster than a UFS file system. Using TMPFS can improve system performance by saving the cost of reading and writing temporary files to a local disk or across the network. For example, temporary files are created when you compile a program, and the operating system generates a lot of disk or network activity while manipulating these files. Using TMPFS to hold these temporary files can significantly speed up their creation, manipulation, and deletion.

Files in TMPFS file systems are not permanent. They are deleted when the file system is unmounted and when the system is shut down or rebooted.

TMPFS is the default file system type for the /tmp directory in the Solaris operating environment. You can copy or move files into or out of the /tmp directory, just as you would in a UFS file system.

The TMPFS file system uses swap space as a temporary backing store. If a system with a TMPFS file system does not have adequate swap space, two problems can occur:

See Chapter 35, Creating File Systems (Tasks) for information about creating TMPFS file systems. See Chapter 38, Configuring Additional Swap Space (Tasks) for information about increasing swap space.

The Loopback File System

The Loopback File System (LOFS) lets you create a new virtual file system, so you can access files by using an alternative path name. For example, you can create a loopback mount of root (/) on /tmp/newroot, which will make the entire file system hierarchy look like it is duplicated under /tmp/newroot, including any file systems mounted from NFS servers. All files will be accessible either with a path name starting from root (/), or with a path name starting from /tmp/newroot.

See Chapter 35, Creating File Systems (Tasks) for information on how to create LOFS file systems.

The Process File System

The Process File System (PROCFS) resides in memory. It contains a list of active processes, by process number, in the /proc directory. Information in the /proc directory is used by commands like ps. Debuggers and other development tools can also access the address space of the processes by using file system calls.

Caution - Caution -

Do not delete the files in the /proc directory. Deleting processes from the /proc directory will not kill them. Remember, /proc files do not use disk space, so there is little reason to delete files from this directory.

The /proc directory does not require system administration.

Additional Virtual File Systems

These additional types of virtual file systems are listed for your information. They do not require administration.

Virtual File System 


FIFOFS (first-in first-out) 

Named pipe files that give processes common access to data

FDFS (file descriptors) 

Provides explicit names for opening files using file descriptors


Used mostly by STREAMS for dynamic mounts of file descriptors on top of files

SPECFS (special) 

Provides access to character special and block devices


File system used by the kernel for swapping