If I attempt to mount a folder that already has files in it, does linux give me an error message or go ahead and show both the mounted filesystem and the files that were already in the folder?

  • 2
    Could always try it out with some test files, no?
    – Chris
    Commented Oct 18, 2010 at 14:35
  • I would of if I could. It just worked out that I didn't have anything to test with. I tried unmounting and mounting the drive in question but the results were inconclusive because they both had the same files.
    – slim
    Commented Oct 18, 2010 at 14:39
  • Is there a way to make the folder unwriteable so that files can't exist there?
    – endolith
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 23:57

2 Answers 2


It will just be mounted, and the files disappear, coming back when the folder is umounted.

  • 2
    What do you mean by disappear? They continue to exist on the server and are just not shown or are the deleted?
    – slim
    Commented Oct 18, 2010 at 14:08
  • I'll go have a quick check, but I think they are deleted.
    – Azz
    Commented Oct 18, 2010 at 14:10
  • 21
    +1 The files are simply invisible while the directory is mounted "over" them. They never really go away, the are just inaccessible...
    – sleske
    Commented Oct 18, 2010 at 14:50
  • 13
    It works like a stack, if you mount something else, it hides the previous content. When you unmount, the previous stuff becomes visible again.
    – vtest
    Commented Oct 18, 2010 at 15:09
  • 6
    I'm confused by how someone who said "coming back when the folder is unmounted" was able to say 3 minutes later "I think they are deleted". Thankfully for everyone else, the former is the reality here. Commented Oct 6, 2015 at 0:24

When you mount a filesystem on a directory /mount-point, you can no longer access files under /mount-point directly. They still exist, but /mount-point now refers to the root of the mounted filesystem, not to the directory that served as a mount point, so the contents of this directory cannot be accessed, at least in this way. For example:

# touch /mount-point/somefile
# ls /mount-point/somefile
# mount /dev/something /mount-point
# ls /mount-point/somefile
ls: cannot access /mount-point/somefile: No such file or directory

There are ways to get a merged view of the mounted filesystem and the data that was already present, but you need an extra layer called a union filesystem.

Under Linux, there is a way to see the hidden files. You can use mount --bind to get another view of the filesystem where the mount point is. For example

mount --bind / /other-root-view

You'll see all the files in the root filesystem under /other-root-view.

# cat /other-root-view/etc/hostname 

In particular, /mount-point will now be accessible as /other-root-view/mount-point, and since /other-root-view/mount-point is not a mount point, you can see its contents there:

# ls /mount-point/somefile
ls: cannot access /mount-point/somefile: No such file or directory
# ls /other-root-view/mount-point/somefile
  • 7
    Gilles, this answer just saved my butt when I needed to get some asterisk recordings that got saved underneath an NSF mount point! I always thought --bind had the same perspective as the user. Thank you! Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 14:55
  • What about directories? If I mounted at /mount-point/1/ then mounted another filesystem on /mount-point/, can I still access /mount-point/1/? Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 12:57
  • @CMCDragonkai Yes, indirectly by using a bind mount as described in my answer. Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 17:46
  • Giles, this is a brilliant technique and has helped me analyze what’s on my own system. It has also helped with another question, which is how to check usage of all of the root directories without traversing mount points. Solution: mkdir /r; mount --bind / /r; du -sh /r/*. Thanks
    – Manngo
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 23:52
  • @Manngo for future reference, this is not necessary. du -x (equivalent to du --one-file-system) would have done that without the need for --bind shenanigans.
    – Darael
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 12:57

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