The /root directory on CentOS 6 has permissions 0550 but on Debian 7 it is 0700. The Filesystem Hierarchy Standard (FHS) tells about directory organization but remains silent about permissions. Do distributions aspire to be compatible to any standard or it is mostly a matter of following tradition?

EDIT 2. Further, /usr/local on CentOS has permissions 0755 while on Debian it is 2775. My hope is that the good folks here might be able to tell (or point to a document) about common practices along with justifications. The FHS would have been the right place but alas it does not say anything about permissions.

  • 3
    /root is the home directory of the the root user. I am not sure it is a system directory.
    – Emmanuel
    Commented Sep 10, 2015 at 16:24
  • Updated the question with a /usr/local example. These days /root is among the directories created during installation.
    – pdp
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 6:40

2 Answers 2


All else being default, 0550 and 0700 have no practical differences for /root: the directory has group "root" so the group permissions make no difference, and whether or not the "root" user is given write permission is moot, because he's root anyway.

The difference between 2775 and 0775 for /usr/local also does not usually make a difference: the sticky bit for directories ensures that only the creator of files may delete them, but the default permissions only allow user "root" to create files anyway, who is also the only user given permission to delete them. The sticky bit would become relevant if you allow a non-root user to create files or subdirectories in there.

Therefore, these two choices only represent different philosophies and don't usually offer any practical differences.

I'm sorry that I haven't been able to point to relevant standards here, except to say I don't think there are any. How you set up your file permissions is up to you, the system administrator, and distributions just have their own way of doing it for you that balance security and usefulness.


There are two schools of linux distributions regarding the organization of users. For the one school, newly created users have their primary group set to users, so all users share the primary group. The other school create a new group for each user, so user foo has foo as primary group.
Another distinction is the handling of root user access. Some distributions allow direct login, while others only allow sudoing to become root.
Then there are different levels of paranoia: is this a server system without normal users or an enduser system?

So there is no point in standardize permissions without also talking about system type (server/desktop) and user and group management model.

  • Hum, this common versus unique primary group also relates to the default umask value in /etc/profile. If users have a common group then a more restrictive umask setting like 022 (instead of 002) is used.
    – pdp
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 7:56

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