Assume that I have invented a new file system, and now I want to create a file system driver for it.

How would I implement this file system driver, is this done using a kernel module?

And how can the file system driver access the hard disk, should the file system driver contain code to access the hard disk, or does Linux contain a device driver to access the hard disk that is used by all the file system drivers?

closed as too broad by Gilles, muru, Michael Homer, jimmij, msp9011 Mar 25 at 10:47

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Yes, filesystems in Linux can be implemented as kernel modules. But there is also the FUSE (Filesystem in USErspace) interface, which can allow a regular user-space process to act as a filesystem driver. If you're prototyping a new filesystem, implementing it first using the FUSE interface could make the testing and development easier. Once you have the internals of the filesystem worked out in FUSE form, you might then start implementing a performance-optimized kernel module version of it.

Here's some basic information on implementing a filesystem within kernel space. It's rather old (from 1996!), but that should at least give you a basic idea for the kind of things you'll need to do.

If you choose to go to the FUSE route, here's libfuse, the reference implementation of the userspace side of the FUSE interface.

Filesystem driver as a kernel module

Basically, the initialization function of your filesystem driver module needs just to call a register_filesystem() function, and give it as a parameter a structure that includes a function pointer that identifies the function in your filesystem driver that will be used as the first step in identifying your filesystem type and mounting it. Nothing more happens at that stage.

When a filesystem is being mounted, and either the filesystem type is specified to match your driver, or filesystem type auto-detection is being performed, the kernel's Virtual FileSystem (VFS for short) layer will call that function. It basically says "Here's a pointer to a kernel-level representation of a standard Linux block device. Take a look at it, see if it's something you can handle, and then tell me what you can do with it."

At that point, your driver is supposed to read whatever it needs to verify it's the right driver for the filesystem, and then return a structure that includes pointers to further functions your driver can do with that particular filesystem. Or if the filesystem driver does not recognize the data on the disk, it is supposed to return an appropriate error result, and then VFS will either report a failure to userspace or - if filesystem type auto-detection is being performed - will ask another filesystem driver to try.

The other drivers in the kernel will provide the standard block device interface, so the filesystem driver won't have to implement hardware support. Basically, the filesystem driver can read and write disk blocks using standard kernel-level functions with the device pointer given to it.

The VFS layer expects the filesystem driver to make a number of standard functions available to the VFS layer; a few of these are mandatory in order for the VFS layer to do anything meaningful with the filesystem, others are optional and you can just return a NULL in place of a pointer to such an optional function.

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    This is a pretty good answer though to fully answer the question as stated you'd also need to say a bit about the functionality the block device layer provides for the file system layer to build upon. – kasperd Mar 24 at 21:06
  • I sort of alluded to that with the "here's a pointer to a standard block device" bit, but good point; I expanded on that. – telcoM Mar 24 at 21:59
  • This answer, specifically the description of what happens in what order, is divine. Is there some sort of book/website I could read that has descriptions like that for all of "how linux works"? – Adam Barnes Mar 25 at 0:10
  • You might be interested in Linux Kernel Internals or Linux Device Drivers, 3rd Edition. And of course, there's the option of reading the actual source code. – telcoM Mar 25 at 0:16

Yes a kernel driver can manage a file-system .

The best solution to mock up , prototype a file-system is to use FUSE . And after you can think about transform it into a kernel driver .

Wikipedia => https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filesystem_in_Userspace

Source => https://github.com/libfuse/libfuse

a tutorial => https://developer.ibm.com/articles/l-fuse/


Yes this would typically be done using a kernel driver that can either be loaded as a kernel module or compiled into the kernel.

You can check out similar filesystem drivers and how they work here.

These drivers likely use internal kernel functions to access storage devices as blocks of bytes but you could also use blockdevices as exposed by drivers in the block devices and character devices folders.


You can use fuse, to make a user-land file-system, or write a kernel module. It is easier to do with fuse, as you have a choice of languages, and won't crash the kernel (and therefore the whole system).

Kernel modules can be faster, but the first rule of optimisation is: Don't do it until you have tested working code. The second is like it: Don't do it until you have evidence that it is too slow. And the third: Don't keep it unless you have evidence that it makes it faster/smaller.

And yes the kernel already has drivers for the hardware, you don't re-implement them.

  • There are major downsides to FUSE other than performance: it's hard to use it for your root filesystem. (Maybe possible with an initrd, but the FUSE binary couldn't be freed after booting because it would still be executing from the ramdisk.) – Peter Cordes Mar 24 at 19:52
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    @PeterCordes It couldn't be freed, but that doesn't mean it can't be unlinked. If there's still a reference to it, it'll be kept in memory regardless of whether or not you left the initramfs and deleted the underlying binary. – forest Mar 25 at 8:39
  • @forest: right, therefore you can't unmount the initrd after pivot_root, because there are still busy inodes in the initramfs. – Peter Cordes Mar 25 at 8:53
  • A normal /init started from an initramfs will (I think) execve /init after pivot_root, to transfer control to the real root FS's /init. But a FUSE binary couldn't replace itself with execve if access to the root FS depended on the FUSE process responding to the kernel. Well maybe by priming the pagecache first, but that doesn't sound reliable. – Peter Cordes Mar 25 at 8:58

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