$ sudo su
# dd if=/dev/zero of=./myext.img bs=1024 count=100
# modprobe loop
# losetup --find --show myext.img
# mkfs -t myext /dev/loop0
# mkdir mnt
# mount /dev/loop0 ./mnt
# cd mnt
# ls -al
total 17
drwxr-xr-x  3 root root  1024 Jul 21 02:22 .
drwxr-xr-x  11 shisui shisui  4096 Jul 21 02:22 ..
drwx------  2 root root 12288 Jul 21 02:22 lost+found

(Cut out some of the output of some commands). My first question is, why isn't mnt showing up in the ls -al output? All I see is root. I cd'd into \mnt so I expected to see it in my ls -al output.

But then what is the third link?

Finally, are all the link numbers in this ls -al output hard links? Or does this link count also include symbolic links?

  • 1
    root is the owner. The number of hard links is shown, that is, the number of references to that folder from other folders. A simple file would have 1 link/reference. The background is that only when that number reaches 0 the space on the disk will be de-allocated (made available for other files).
    – Ned64
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 8:58
  • 2
    @Ned64 not quite: the space is freed when the count reaches 0 and all open descriptions are closed (which I imagine you’re aware of, I just think it’s worth mentioning). Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 9:18
  • @StephenKitt Good point, yes.
    – Ned64
    Commented Dec 12, 2021 at 11:55
  • Does this answer your question? Why does a new directory have a hard link count of 2 before anything is added to it? Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 1:27

1 Answer 1


You don’t see mnt in the ls -al output because you’re inside mnt; it is represented by .

There’s another hard link to ., lost+found/..; this explains the count of 3 links to the directory:

  1. . which points to the directory itself;
  2. .. which also points to the directory, because it’s the root directory in the file system (see Why does a new directory have a hard link count of 2 before anything is added to it?);
  3. lost+found/.., which points back to the root directory (again, in the file system, so mnt here).

The link counts shown by ls -l count hard links only; symlinks aren’t included.


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