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I suppose the question would be OS specific, so I'll take the following scenarios:

  • Winodows (NTFS)
  • OSX (HFS)
  • Linux (ext2,ext3,ext4)

Each operating system has it's default filesystem it operates os (OSX, I beleive, only has the one choice available). I've noticed some utilities out there for OS's to read different file systems (which obvisouly is NOT apart of the kernel), which got me thinking: Are filesystem operations a function of a driver (ie, potentially modular), or is it truly apart of the kernel?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

In Linux, when you compile the kernel yourself, you have the option to compile support for each available filesystem (ext2, ext3, ext4, reiserfs or JFS for example) separated as modules or within the kernel. I've not tried if it works when compiled as modules but I suppose it certainly won't work for the filesystem of the boot partition but may work for the others.

No idea for Windows or OSX.

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In Windows I think these are implemented in certain DLL files; but it's indeed not clear whether to consider them part of the kernel or just drivers, since it's somewhat modular. OS X probably finds its root in Unix, which also had the filesystem in the kernel... – Tom Wijsman Sep 21 '12 at 21:42

In Windows, both the FAT and NTFS filesystems are implemented inside the kernel as device drivers loaded from fastfat.sys and ntfs.sys, both located in \Windows\System32\drivers.

Windows kernel FAT filesystem implementationWindows kernel NTFS filesystem implementation

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For Linux and OSX (I'm not sure about Windows), you might have a look at File System in Userspace and MacFuse. This allows FS implementations to be written not in the kernel, but as userspace drivers - which are naturally much less dangerous.

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Very interesting... I'll have to take a look. – hydroparadise Sep 21 '12 at 21:33

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