How to Mount Storage Devices
With muLinux

muLinux is a miniaturized, but nearly full-featured distribution (i.e., version) of Linux that can fit on a single floppy disk. It allows almost any personal computer to be converted nearly instantaneously into a temporarily but powerful command line (i.e., all-text mode) Linux machine by simply inserting the floppy disk and rebooting (i.e., restarting) the computer.

Consequently, muLinux is widely used for educational purposes, for system repair and as a forensic tool. For example, it is often employed by system administrators and others to facilitate repairing computers that will not boot (i.e., start) and to restore lost passwords. This can be done not only for Linux systems but also for computers running Microsoft Windows and other operating systems.

A key to the effective use of muLinux is mounting (i.e., logically attaching) storage devices, particularly hard disk drive (HDD) partitions (i.e., logically independent sections of the HDD), to the muLinux filesystem. Fortunately, this is very easy, although it is slightly different than conventional mounting in that different directories are supplied as mountpoints (i.e., the directories in which filesystems are mounted), and thus it might be confusing to new users.

In particular, muLinux provides directory names for mountpoints based on the MS-DOS device naming system. This is logical, because muLinux is commonly used to examine and repair Microsoft Windows systems, which use the MS-DOS device naming system.

Thus, muLinux provides a directory named /c for mounting any partition of the HDD and a directory named /a for use as the mountpoint for floppy disks. This contrasts with most Linux distributions, which, for example, typically use /mnt/floppy as the mountpoint for the floppy drive.

Because of the small size and limited capabilities of muLinux, partitions or other devices should only be mounted as needed, and they should be unmounted as soon as access to them is no longer required. As is usually the case, this is accomplished using the standard mount and umount commands.

SCSI disks are still not supported. Also, caution should be exercised with regard to NTFS partitions because they can only be mounted with just read access, i.e., using the -r option for the mount command.

The names of the partitions on any system can be found by using the dmesg command (which is used to show the kernel messages in Unix-like operating systems). It is convenient to pipe (i.e., send) dmesg's output to the grep filter to search for lines that contain the string (i.e., sequence of characters) hd (because the names of the HDD partitions begin with this string), i.e.,

dmesg | grep "hd"

The second partition on the first HDD, for example, would be mounted with the following command:

mount /dev/hda2 /c

The mount command's -r option is used to mount partitions for reading only, which is generally done for forensic analysis. In the case of /dev/hda2 the command would be

mount -r /dev/hda2 /c

After mounting, the contents of the partition or other device can be viewed by using the ls (i.e., list) command with /c as an argument (i.e., input), that is,

ls /c

Any partition or other device should be unmounted when access to it is no longer needed. This can be accomplished with the umount command, e.g.,

umount /c

A floppy disk can be accessed by inserting it into the floppy disk drive after the muLinux floppy has been removed. (The muLinux floppy can be removed as soon as the system has booted, because the contents of the disk have been loaded into the computer's memory). The floppy can then be mounted in the a/ directory on muLinux, i.e.,

mount /dev/fd0 /a

Microsoft Windows NT filesystems are supported for reading but not for writing. This support can be enabled by issuing the following command:

setup -f ntfs

With regard to the CDROM drive, the first thing is to test whether the drive was detected by the kernel. This can likewise be done by looking at the output from dmesg, i.e.,

dmesg | grep "CDROM"

Support for reading CDROMs can be enabled with the following command:

setup -f cdrom

The mountpoint for the CDROM drive is /cdrom (in contrast to /mnt/cdrom on most Linux distributions), and thus a CDROM can then be inserted into the drive and mounted as follows:

mount /dev/hdc /cdrom

The contents of the CDROM can then likewise be viewed with the ls command, i.e.,

ls /cdrom

As is the case with HDD partitions and floppies, the CDROM should be unmounted when access to it is no longer required, i.e.,

umount /cdrom

Created August 29, 2005.
Copyright © 2005 The Linux Information Project. All Rights Reserved.