Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In Linux, is there a way to access files on a mounted filesystem that have been "shadowed" when another file system was mounted over a subdirectory?

E.g.

cd /
mkdir /foo
touch /foo/bar
mount /dev/sda1 /foo
# now, can I still get to /foo/bar on the / filesystem?

The solution of my dreams would not require elevated permissions or be specific to a certain file system, but I'll take whatever scraps I can get without risking a corrupted file system.

share|improve this question
up vote 15 down vote accepted

You can use the mount command to access the underlying filesystem.

$ mkdir /mnt/root
$ sudo mount --bind / /mnt/root
$ cat /mnt/root/foo/bar

There is no issue with corruption with doing this, but it does require permission to mount the file system.

share|improve this answer
    
+1, I thought that mount --bind was the answer. But I wasn't sure. – Dan D. Feb 13 '12 at 9:38
1  
+0.95, I completely forgot about binds being nonrecursive by default. However, last time I bindmounted / elsewhere, I could not umount it without rebooting; might have been some GUI component grabbing it though. Have you tested that? – grawity Feb 13 '12 at 9:41
    
Thanks! I thought about bind mounts for a second, but thought they'd work based on path name rewriting and thus be recursive... – themel Feb 13 '12 at 9:51

If you have root, you can mount --move the mounted filesystem on top of a temporary directory, then move it back afterwards.

mkdir /bar
mount --move /foo /bar

Having root also allows accessing the underlying block devices, if any, directly. For ext4, you can use debugfs to export files.

Read-only access can never corrupt the filesystem.


Directories can have handles, or file descriptors, obtained for them. The "current directory" is a handle too, not a path. If you have a handle to a directory, you can access files inside even if that location has been mounted over. This does not need special privileges, only special preparation.

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .