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In Unix/Linux terminology, are the words 'device' and 'drive' synonymous?

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No. Drives are devices, but not all devices are drives.

The Wikipedia article on device files lists a number of non-drive devices. For example, audio hardware is a device. Serial & parallel ports are devices. USB-connected gadgets are devices.

Keep in mind that some devices that are not drives may identify as such, a noteworthy example is most Android devices that identify as a drive but use a mechanism other than a drive unless it is mounted as USB storage.

  • thanks. what are some devices that are not drives, for example? – amphibient Oct 11 '12 at 18:51
  • but USB-connected gadgets are also drives, no? – amphibient Oct 11 '12 at 19:04
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    @foampile, not if they're mice or keyboards or missile launchers or ... – cjm Oct 11 '12 at 19:06
  • oops, i meant USB thumb drives, cameras etc. – amphibient Oct 11 '12 at 19:07
  • @foampile: "dumb" thumb drives usually present only a storage interface, but cameras could present other types of interface (light sensor, specialized i/o interface for software to control the camera, ...). Same thing with MP3 players, phones, ... – Mat Oct 11 '12 at 19:23

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