30.3. Network File System (NFS)

Reorganized and enhanced by Tom Rhodes.
Written by Bill Swingle.

FreeBSD supports the Network File System (NFS), which allows a server to share directories and files with clients over a network. With NFS, users and programs can access files on remote systems as if they were stored locally.

NFS has many practical uses. Some of the more common uses include:

NFS consists of a server and one or more clients. The client remotely accesses the data that is stored on the server machine. In order for this to function properly, a few processes have to be configured and running.

These daemons must be running on the server:

nfsdThe NFS daemon which services requests from NFS clients.
mountdThe NFS mount daemon which carries out requests received from nfsd.
rpcbind This daemon allows NFS clients to discover which port the NFS server is using.

Running nfsiod(8) on the client can improve performance, but is not required.

30.3.1. Configuring the Server

The file systems which the NFS server will share are specified in /etc/exports. Each line in this file specifies a file system to be exported, which clients have access to that file system, and any access options. When adding entries to this file, each exported file system, its properties, and allowed hosts must occur on a single line. If no clients are listed in the entry, then any client on the network can mount that file system.

The following /etc/exports entries demonstrate how to export file systems. The examples can be modified to match the file systems and client names on the reader's network. There are many options that can be used in this file, but only a few will be mentioned here. See exports(5) for the full list of options.

This example shows how to export /cdrom to three hosts named alpha, bravo, and charlie:

/cdrom -ro alpha bravo charlie

The -ro flag makes the file system read-only, preventing clients from making any changes to the exported file system. This example assumes that the host names are either in DNS or in /etc/hosts. Refer to hosts(5) if the network does not have a DNS server.

The next example exports /home to three clients by IP address. This can be useful for networks without DNS or /etc/hosts entries. The -alldirs flag allows subdirectories to be mount points. In other words, it will not automatically mount the subdirectories, but will permit the client to mount the directories that are required as needed.

/usr/home  -alldirs

This next example exports /a so that two clients from different domains may access that file system. The -maproot=root allows root on the remote system to write data on the exported file system as root. If -maproot=root is not specified, the client's root user will be mapped to the server's nobody account and will be subject to the access limitations defined for nobody.

/a  -maproot=root  host.example.com box.example.org

A client can only be specified once per file system. For example, if /usr is a single file system, these entries would be invalid as both entries specify the same host:

# Invalid when /usr is one file system
/usr/src   client
/usr/ports client

The correct format for this situation is to use one entry:

/usr/src /usr/ports  client

The following is an example of a valid export list, where /usr and /exports are local file systems:

# Export src and ports to client01 and client02, but only
# client01 has root privileges on it
/usr/src /usr/ports -maproot=root    client01
/usr/src /usr/ports               client02
# The client machines have root and can mount anywhere
# on /exports. Anyone in the world can mount /exports/obj read-only
/exports -alldirs -maproot=root      client01 client02
/exports/obj -ro

To enable the processes required by the NFS server at boot time, add these options to /etc/rc.conf:


The server can be started now by running this command:

# service nfsd start

Whenever the NFS server is started, mountd also starts automatically. However, mountd only reads /etc/exports when it is started. To make subsequent /etc/exports edits take effect immediately, force mountd to reread it:

# service mountd reload

30.3.2. Configuring the Client

To enable NFS clients, set this option in each client's /etc/rc.conf:


Then, run this command on each NFS client:

# service nfsclient start

The client now has everything it needs to mount a remote file system. In these examples, the server's name is server and the client's name is client. To mount /home on server to the /mnt mount point on client:

# mount server:/home /mnt

The files and directories in /home will now be available on client, in the /mnt directory.

To mount a remote file system each time the client boots, add it to /etc/fstab:

server:/home	/mnt	nfs	rw	0	0

Refer to fstab(5) for a description of all available options.

30.3.3. Locking

Some applications require file locking to operate correctly. To enable locking, add these lines to /etc/rc.conf on both the client and server:


Then start the applications:

# service lockd start
# service statd start

If locking is not required on the server, the NFS client can be configured to lock locally by including -L when running mount. Refer to mount_nfs(8) for further details.

30.3.4. Automating Mounts with autofs(5)


The autofs(5) automount facility is supported starting with FreeBSD 10.1-RELEASE. To use the automounter functionality in older versions of FreeBSD, use amd(8) instead. This chapter only describes the autofs(5) automounter.

The autofs(5) facility is a common name for several components that, together, allow for automatic mounting of remote and local filesystems whenever a file or directory within that file system is accessed. It consists of the kernel component, autofs(5), and several userspace applications: automount(8), automountd(8) and autounmountd(8). It serves as an alternative for amd(8) from previous FreeBSD releases. Amd is still provided for backward compatibility purposes, as the two use different map format; the one used by autofs is the same as with other SVR4 automounters, such as the ones in Solaris, MacOS X, and Linux.

The autofs(5) virtual filesystem is mounted on specified mountpoints by automount(8), usually invoked during boot.

Whenever a process attempts to access file within the autofs(5) mountpoint, the kernel will notify automountd(8) daemon and pause the triggering process. The automountd(8) daemon will handle kernel requests by finding the proper map and mounting the filesystem according to it, then signal the kernel to release blocked process. The autounmountd(8) daemon automatically unmounts automounted filesystems after some time, unless they are still being used.

The primary autofs configuration file is /etc/auto_master. It assigns individual maps to top-level mounts. For an explanation of auto_master and the map syntax, refer to auto_master(5).

There is a special automounter map mounted on /net. When a file is accessed within this directory, autofs(5) looks up the corresponding remote mount and automatically mounts it. For instance, an attempt to access a file within /net/foobar/usr would tell automountd(8) to mount the /usr export from the host foobar.

Example 30.2. Mounting an Export with autofs(5)

In this example, showmount -e shows the exported file systems that can be mounted from the NFS server, foobar:

% showmount -e foobar
Exports list on foobar:
% cd /net/foobar/usr

The output from showmount shows /usr as an export. When changing directories to /host/foobar/usr, automountd(8) intercepts the request and attempts to resolve the hostname foobar. If successful, automountd(8) automatically mounts the source export.

To enable autofs(5) at boot time, add this line to /etc/rc.conf:


Then autofs(5) can be started by running:

# service automount start
# service automountd start
# service autounmountd start

The autofs(5) map format is the same as in other operating systems. Information about this format from other sources can be useful, like the Mac OS X document.

Consult the automount(8), automountd(8), autounmountd(8), and auto_master(5) manual pages for more information.

All FreeBSD documents are available for download at https://download.freebsd.org/ftp/doc/

Questions that are not answered by the documentation may be sent to <freebsd-questions@FreeBSD.org>.
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