On my Arch Linux system (Linux Kernel 3.14.2) bind mounts do not respect the read only option

# mkdir test
# mount --bind -o ro test/ /mnt
# touch /mnt/foo

creates the file /mnt/foo. The relevant entry in /proc/mounts is

/dev/sda2 /mnt ext4 rw,noatime,data=ordered 0 0

The mount options do not match my requested options, but do match both the read/write behaviour of the bind mount and the options used to originally mount /dev/sda2 on /

/dev/sda2 / ext4 rw,noatime,data=ordered 0 0

If, however, I remount the mount then it respects the read only option

# mount --bind -o remount,ro test/ /mnt
# touch /mnt/bar
touch: cannot touch ‘/mnt/bar’: Read-only file system

and the relevant entry in /proc/mounts/

/dev/sda2 /mnt ext4 ro,relatime,data=ordered 0 0

looks like what I might expect (although in truth I would expect to see the full path of the test directory). The entry in /proc/mounts/ for the orignal mount of /dev/sda2/ on / is also unchanged and remains read/write

/dev/sda2 / ext4 rw,noatime,data=ordered 0 0

This behaviour and the work around have been known since at least 2008 and are documented in the man page of mount

Note that the filesystem mount options will remain the same as those on the original mount point, and cannot be changed by passing the -o option along with --bind/--rbind. The mount options can be changed by a separate remount command

Not all distributions behave the same. Arch seems to silently fail to respect the options while Debian generates a warning when the bind mount does not get mount read-only

mount: warning: /mnt seems to be mounted read-write.

There are reports that this behaviour was "fixed" in Debian Lenny and Squeeze although it does not appear to be a universal fix nor does it still work in Debian Wheezy. What is the difficultly associated with making bind mount respect the read only option on the initial mount?

  • Do you have an /etc/mtab?
    – eyoung100
    May 7, 2014 at 15:58
  • See also thread.gmane.org/gmane.linux.utilities.util-linux-ng/2979 and a workaround by using mount -t bind and a helper script at bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/mountall/+bug/519380 May 7, 2014 at 16:06
  • @ECarterYoung yes I have an /etc/mtab. After the initial mount the entry says the mount is rw and after the remount it says ro, so it is reporting the state of the mount correctly. It is just the mount command that fails.
    – StrongBad
    May 7, 2014 at 16:10
  • 3
    I tested on two Debian testing/unstable machines, one running a Debian kernel and one running a kernel.org kernel, neither work with mount --bind -o ro, they both spit out a message mount: warning: «mountpoint» seems to be mounted read-write. So it seems Debian dropped or lost the patch at some point... Remount works, though.
    – derobert
    May 7, 2014 at 16:50
  • 2
    @StrongBad Tested that as requested, and it doesn't work either.
    – derobert
    May 7, 2014 at 17:09

3 Answers 3


Bind mount is just... well... a bind mount. I.e. it's not a new mount. It just "links"/"exposes"/"considers" a subdirectory as a new mount point. As such it cannot alter the mount parameters. That's why you're getting complaints:

# mount /mnt/1/lala /mnt/2 -o bind,ro
mount: warning: /mnt/2 seems to be mounted read-write.

But as you said a normal bind mount works:

# mount /mnt/1/lala /mnt/2 -o bind

And then a ro remount also works:

# mount /mnt/1/lala /mnt/2 -o bind,remount,ro 

However what happens is that you're changing the whole mount and not just this bind mount. If you take a look at /proc/mounts you'll see that both bind mount and the original mount change to read-only:

/dev/loop0 /mnt/1 ext2 ro,relatime,errors=continue,user_xattr,acl 0 0
/dev/loop0 /mnt/2 ext2 ro,relatime,errors=continue,user_xattr,acl 0 0

So what you're doing is like changing the initial mount to a read-only mount and then doing a bind mount which will of course be read-only.

UPDATE 2016-07-20:

The following are true for 4.5 kernels, but not true for 4.3 kernels (This is wrong. See update #2 below):

The kernel has two flags that control read-only:

  • The MS_READONLY: Indicating whether the mount is read-only
  • The MNT_READONLY: Indicating whether the "user" wants it read-only

On a 4.5 kernel, doing a mount -o bind,ro will actually do the trick. For example, this:

# mkdir /tmp/test
# mkdir /tmp/test/a /tmp/test/b
# mount -t tmpfs none /tmp/test/a
# mkdir /tmp/test/a/d
# mount -o bind,ro /tmp/test/a/d /tmp/test/b

will create a read-only bind mount of /tmp/test/a/d to /tmp/test/b, which will be visible in /proc/mounts as:

none /tmp/test/a tmpfs rw,relatime 0 0
none /tmp/test/b tmpfs ro,relatime 0 0

A more detailed view is visible in /proc/self/mountinfo, which takes into consideration the user view (namespace). The relevant lines will be these:

363 74 0:49 / /tmp/test/a rw,relatime shared:273 - tmpfs none rw
368 74 0:49 /d /tmp/test/b ro,relatime shared:273 - tmpfs none rw

Where on the second line, you can see that it says both ro (MNT_READONLY) and rw (!MS_READONLY).

The end result is this:

# echo a > /tmp/test/a/d/f
# echo a > /tmp/test/b/f
-su: /tmp/test/b/f: Read-only file system

UPDATE 2016-07-20 #2:

A bit more digging into this shows that the behavior in fact depends on the version of libmount which is part of util-linux. Support for this was added with this commit and was released with version 2.27:

commit 9ac77b8a78452eab0612523d27fee52159f5016a
Author: Karel Zak 
Date:   Mon Aug 17 11:54:26 2015 +0200

    libmount: add support for "bind,ro"

    Now it's necessary t use two mount(8) calls to create a read-only

      mount /foo /bar -o bind
      mount /bar -o remount,ro,bind

    This patch allows to specify "bind,ro" and the remount is done
    automatically by libmount by additional mount(2) syscall. It's not
    atomic of course.

    Signed-off-by: Karel Zak 

which also provides the workaround. The behavior can be seen using strace on an older and a newer mount:


mount("/tmp/test/a/d", "/tmp/test/b", 0x222e240, MS_MGC_VAL|MS_RDONLY|MS_BIND, NULL) = 0 <0.000681>


mount("/tmp/test/a/d", "/tmp/test/b", 0x1a8ee90, MS_MGC_VAL|MS_RDONLY|MS_BIND, NULL) = 0 <0.011492>
mount("none", "/tmp/test/b", NULL, MS_RDONLY|MS_REMOUNT|MS_BIND, NULL) = 0 <0.006281>


To achieve the desired result one needs to run two commands (as @Thomas already said):

mount SRC DST -o bind
mount DST -o remount,ro,bind

Newer versions of mount (util-linux >=2.27) do this automatically when one runs

mount SRC DST -o bind,ro
  • 3
    Yes, but no. IIRC there is some support in the kernel for different mount points (not filesystems) to have different options. Debian used to have a patch that made mount -o bind,ro create a read-only view of a read-write filesystem (but it no longer seems to be there in wheezy). May 7, 2014 at 23:07
  • I don't see how this contradicts the above. Hacks can allow all sorts of stuff, including things that don't make much sense. Currently the read-only remount on 3.14 kernel is eventually handled by this call: mnt_make_readonly(real_mount(mnt)), which as you can see uses real_mount(), so it practically affects the real mount and that causes bind mounts to reflect the new (read-only) mount flag. At least that's my understanding.
    – V13
    May 7, 2014 at 23:21
  • So this would be a consequence of the “spread struct mount” patch (specifically this commit), first appearing in kernel 3.3. Do you know if the consequences of this patch were discussed on lkml or lwn? May 8, 2014 at 4:07
  • 7
    mount --bind /tmp/ /mnt/tmp/; mount -o remount,bind,ro /mnt/tmp/ ... then touch /tmp/a is OK, but touch /mnt/tmp/b gives touch: cannot touch ‘/mnt/tmp/b’: Read-only file system. That works on both Debian 3.13 and kernel.org 3.14.2. So it doesn't just change the whole mount. At least not with recent kernels.
    – derobert
    May 8, 2014 at 5:46
  • 1
    Presumably the statement that a "Bind mount is just... well... a bind mount." is really important but means nothing to me. I also don't understand why it then works the second time with the remount option.
    – StrongBad
    May 8, 2014 at 12:00

The proper solution is really to mount it twice. On the command line:

mount -t none -o bind /source/dir /destination/dir
mount -t none -o bind,remount,ro /source/dir /destination/dir

In /etc/fstab:

/source/dir            /destination/dir    none  bind            0 0
/source/dir            /destination/dir    none  remount,bind,ro 0 0

The manual (man mount) states it that way:

   The bind mounts.
          Since Linux 2.4.0 it is possible to remount part of the file hierarchy somewhere else. The call is
                 mount --bind olddir newdir
          Note that the filesystem mount options will remain the same as those on the original mount point, and cannot be changed  by  passing  the  -o  option
          along with --bind/--rbind. The mount options can be changed by a separate remount command, for example:
                 mount --bind olddir newdir
                 mount -o remount,ro newdir
          Note  that  behavior  of  the remount operation depends on the /etc/mtab file. The first command stores the 'bind' flag to the /etc/mtab file and the
          second command reads the flag from the file.  If you have a system without the /etc/mtab file or if you explicitly define source and target  for  the
          remount command (then mount(8) does not read /etc/mtab), then you have to use bind flag (or option) for the remount command too. For example:
                 mount --bind olddir newdir
                 mount -o remount,ro,bind olddir newdir
  • This does seem to work with at least Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and kernel 3.19.0-51-lowlatency. Nice! Jun 2, 2016 at 6:42

You're asking from the perspective of the mount(8) command line (which is acceptable on this site). That command has been discussed in the other answers and in some cases, abstracts away the necessary second mount(2) system call.

But why is the second system call needed? Why can't a single mount(2) call create the read-only bind mount?

The mount(2) man page explains that there are, as others have pointed out, two sets of flags being set:

  • The underlying file system flags
  • The VFS mount-point flags

It says:

Since Linux 2.6.16, MS_RDONLY can be set or cleared on a per-mount-point basis as well as on the underlying filesystem. The mounted filesystem will be writable only if neither the filesystem nor the mountpoint are flagged as read-only.

And regarding MS_REMOUNT:

Since Linux 2.6.26, this flag can be used with MS_BIND to modify only the per-mount-point flags. This is particularly useful for setting or clearing the "read-only" flag on a mount point without changing the underlying filesystem. Specifying mountflags as:


will make access through this mountpoint read-only, without affecting other mount points.

I think the problem came about when bind mounts were first introduced:

If mountflags includes MS_BIND (available since Linux 2.4), then perform a bind mount. ... The remaining bits in the mountflags argument are also ignored, with the exception of MS_REC. (The bind mount has the same mount options as the underlying mount point.)

It seems that, instead of using MS_BIND | MS_REMOUNT as the signal to set just the VFS flags, they could have chosen to except (and accept) MS_RDONLY along with the initial MS_BIND, and apply it to the mount point.

So because of the somewhat odd semantics of the mount(2) system call:

  • The first call creates the bind mount and all other flags are ignored
  • The second call (with remount) sets the mount-point flags to read-only

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