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PATH_RESOLUTION(7)         Linux Programmer's Manual        PATH_RESOLUTION(7)



NAME
       Unix/Linux path resolution - find the file referred to by a filename

DESCRIPTION
       Some  Unix/Linux  system calls have as parameter one or more filenames.
       A filename (or pathname) is resolved as follows.

   Step 1: Start of the resolution process
       If the pathname starts with the  '/'  character,  the  starting  lookup
       directory  is  the  root  directory of the calling process.  (A process
       inherits its root directory from its parent.  Usually this will be  the
       root  directory  of  the file hierarchy.  A process may get a different
       root directory by use of the chroot(2) system call.  A process may  get
       an  entirely private namespace in case it -- or one of its ancestors --
       was started by an invocation of the clone(2) system call that  had  the
       CLONE_NEWNS flag set.)  This handles the '/' part of the pathname.

       If  the  pathname  does  not start with the '/' character, the starting
       lookup directory of the  resolution  process  is  the  current  working
       directory of the process.  (This is also inherited from the parent.  It
       can be changed by use of the chdir(2) system call.)

       Pathnames starting with a '/' character are called absolute  pathnames.
       Pathnames not starting with a '/' are called relative pathnames.

   Step 2: Walk along the path
       Set  the  current  lookup  directory  to the starting lookup directory.
       Now, for each non-final component of the pathname, where a component is
       a substring delimited by '/' characters, this component is looked up in
       the current lookup directory.

       If the process does not have search permission on  the  current  lookup
       directory, an EACCES error is returned ("Permission denied").

       If  the  component  is not found, an ENOENT error is returned ("No such
       file or directory").

       If the component is found, but is neither a directory  nor  a  symbolic
       link, an ENOTDIR error is returned ("Not a directory").

       If the component is found and is a directory, we set the current lookup
       directory to that directory, and go to the next component.

       If the component is found and is a symbolic link  (symlink),  we  first
       resolve this symbolic link (with the current lookup directory as start-
       ing lookup directory).  Upon error, that error  is  returned.   If  the
       result  is not a directory, an ENOTDIR error is returned.  If the reso-
       lution of the symlink is successful and returns a directory, we set the
       current  lookup  directory to that directory, and go to the next compo-
       nent.  Note that the resolution process here  involves  recursion.   In
       order to protect the kernel against stack overflow, and also to protect
       against denial of service, there are limits on  the  maximum  recursion
       depth,  and on the maximum number of symbolic links followed.  An ELOOP
       error is returned when the maximum is exceeded  ("Too  many  levels  of
       symbolic links").

   Step 3: Find the final entry
       The  lookup  of the final component of the pathname goes just like that
       of all other components, as described in the previous  step,  with  two
       differences:  (i) the final component need not be a directory (at least
       as far as the path resolution process is concerned -- it may have to be
       a  directory,  or  a  non-directory, because of the requirements of the
       specific system call), and (ii) it is not necessarily an error  if  the
       component  is  not found -- maybe we are just creating it.  The details
       on the treatment of the final entry are described in the  manual  pages
       of the specific system calls.

   . and ..
       By  convention,  every  directory  has  the entries "." and "..", which
       refer to the directory itself and  to  its  parent  directory,  respec-
       tively.

       The  path  resolution process will assume that these entries have their
       conventional meanings, regardless of whether they are actually  present
       in the physical file system.

       One cannot walk down past the root: "/.." is the same as "/".

   Mount points
       After  a  "mount  dev  path" command, the pathname "path" refers to the
       root of the file system hierarchy on the device "dev", and no longer to
       whatever it referred to earlier.

       One can walk out of a mounted file system: "path/.." refers to the par-
       ent directory of "path", outside of the file system hierarchy on "dev".

   Trailing slashes
       If a pathname ends in a '/', that forces resolution  of  the  preceding
       component  as  in  Step  2: it has to exist and resolve to a directory.
       Otherwise a trailing '/' is ignored.   (Or,  equivalently,  a  pathname
       with a trailing '/' is equivalent to the pathname obtained by appending
       '.' to it.)

   Final symlink
       If the last component of a pathname is a symbolic link, then it depends
       on  the  system  call whether the file referred to will be the symbolic
       link or the result of path resolution on its  contents.   For  example,
       the  system  call  lstat(2)  will operate on the symlink, while stat(2)
       operates on the file pointed to by the symlink.

   Length limit
       There is a maximum length for pathnames.   If  the  pathname  (or  some
       intermediate  pathname  obtained while resolving symbolic links) is too
       long, an ENAMETOOLONG error is returned ("File name too long").

   Empty pathname
       In the original Unix, the empty pathname referred to the current direc-
       tory.   Nowadays  POSIX  decrees  that  an  empty  pathname must not be
       resolved successfully.  Linux returns ENOENT in this case.

   Permissions
       The permission bits of a file consist of three groups  of  three  bits,
       cf.  chmod(1)  and  stat(2).  The first group of three is used when the
       effective user ID of the calling process equals the  owner  ID  of  the
       file.   The second group of three is used when the group ID of the file
       either equals the effective group ID of the calling process, or is  one
       of  the  supplementary group IDs of the calling process (as set by set-
       groups(2)).  When neither holds, the third group is used.

       Of the three bits used, the first bit determines read  permission,  the
       second  write  permission,  and  the last execute permission in case of
       ordinary files, or search permission in case of directories.

       Linux uses the fsuid instead of the effective  user  ID  in  permission
       checks.  Ordinarily the fsuid will equal the effective user ID, but the
       fsuid can be changed by the system call setfsuid(2).

       (Here "fsuid" stands for something like "file  system  user  ID".   The
       concept  was required for the implementation of a user space NFS server
       at a time when processes could send a signal to a process with the same
       effective  user  ID.   It  is  obsolete  now.   Nobody should use setf-
       suid(2).)

       Similarly, Linux uses the fsgid ("file system group ID") instead of the
       effective group ID.  See setfsgid(2).

   Bypassing permission checks: superuser and capabilities
       On  a  traditional Unix system, the superuser (root, user ID 0) is all-
       powerful, and bypasses  all  permissions  restrictions  when  accessing
       files.

       On Linux, superuser privileges are divided into capabilities (see capa-
       bilities(7)).  Two  capabilities  are  relevant  for  file  permissions
       checks: CAP_DAC_OVERRIDE and CAP_DAC_READ_SEARCH.  (A process has these
       capabilities if its fsuid is 0.)

       The CAP_DAC_OVERRIDE capability overrides all permission checking,  but
       only  grants  execute  permission when at least one of the file's three
       execute permission bits is set.

       The CAP_DAC_READ_SEARCH capability grants read and search permission on
       directories, and read permission on ordinary files.

SEE ALSO
       capabilities(7), credentials(7), symlink(7)

COLOPHON
       This  page  is  part of release 3.05 of the Linux man-pages project.  A
       description of the project, and information about reporting  bugs,  can
       be found at http://www.kernel.org/doc/man-pages/.



Linux                             2004-06-21                PATH_RESOLUTION(7)