14.2. Mounting an NFS Volume

The mounting of NFS volumes closely resembles regular file systems. Invoke mount using the following syntax:[1]
# mount -t nfs nfs_volume local_dir options 

nfs_volume is given as remote_host:remote_dir. Since this notation is unique to NFS filesystems, you can leave out the –t nfs option.

There are a number of additional options that you can specify to mount upon mounting an NFS volume. These may be given either following the –o switch on the command line or in the options field of the /etc/fstab entry for the volume. In both cases, multiple options are separated by commas and must not contain any whitespace characters. Options specified on the command line always override those given in the fstab file.

Here is a sample entry from /etc/fstab :
# volume              mount point       type  options
news:/var/spool/news  /var/spool/news   nfs   timeo=14,intr

This volume can then be mounted using this command:
# mount news:/var/spool/news

In the absence of an fstab entry, NFS mount invocations look a lot uglier. For instance, suppose you mount your users' home directories from a machine named moonshot, which uses a default block size of 4 K for read/write operations. You might increase the block size to 8 K to obtain better performance by issuing the command:
# mount moonshot:/home /home -o rsize=8192,wsize=8192

The list of all valid options is described in its entirety in the nfs(5) manual page. The following is a partial list of options you would probably want to use:

rsize=n and wsize=n

These specify the datagram size used by the NFS clients on read and write requests, respectively. The default depends on the version of kernel, but is normally 1,024 bytes.


This sets the time (in tenths of a second) the NFS client will wait for a request to complete. The default value is 7 (0.7 seconds). What happens after a timeout depends on whether you use the hard or soft option.


Explicitly mark this volume as hard-mounted. This is on by default. This option causes the server to report a message to the console when a major timeout occurs and continues trying indefinitely.


Soft-mount (as opposed to hard-mount) the driver. This option causes an I/O error to be reported to the process attempting a file operation when a major timeout occurs.


Allow signals to interrupt an NFS call. Useful for aborting when the server doesn't respond.

Except for rsize and wsize, all of these options apply to the client's behavior if the server should become temporarily inaccessible. They work together in the following way: Whenever the client sends a request to the NFS server, it expects the operation to have finished after a given interval (specified in the timeout option). If no confirmation is received within this time, a so-called minor timeout occurs, and the operation is retried with the timeout interval doubled. After reaching a maximum timeout of 60 seconds, a major timeout occurs.

By default, a major timeout causes the client to print a message to the console and start all over again, this time with an initial timeout interval twice that of the previous cascade. Potentially, this may go on forever. Volumes that stubbornly retry an operation until the server becomes available again are called hard-mounted. The opposite variety, called soft-mounted, generate an I/O error for the calling process whenever a major timeout occurs. Because of the write-behind introduced by the buffer cache, this error condition is not propagated to the process itself before it calls the write function the next time, so a program can never be sure that a write operation to a soft-mounted volume has succeeded at all.

Whether you hard- or soft-mount a volume depends partly on taste but also on the type of information you want to access from a volume. For example, if you mount your X programs by NFS, you certainly would not want your X session to go berserk just because someone brought the network to a grinding halt by firing up seven copies of Doom at the same time or by pulling the Ethernet plug for a moment. By hard-mounting the directory containing these programs, you make sure that your computer waits until it is able to re-establish contact with your NFS server. On the other hand, non-critical data such as NFS-mounted news partitions or FTP archives may also be soft-mounted, so if the remote machine is temporarily unreachable or down, it doesn't hang your session. If your network connection to the server is flaky or goes through a loaded router, you may either increase the initial timeout using the timeo option or hard-mount the volumes. NFS volumes are hard-mounted by default.

Hard mounts present a problem because, by default, the file operations are not interruptible. Thus, if a process attempts, for example, a write to a remote server and that server is unreachable, the user's application hangs and the user can't do anything to abort the operation. If you use the intr option in conjuction with a hard mount, any signals received by the process interrupt the NFS call so that users can still abort hanging file accesses and resume work (although without saving the file).

Usually, the rpc.mountd daemon in some way or other keeps track of which directories have been mounted by what hosts. This information can be displayed using the showmount program, which is also included in the NFS server package:
# showmount -e moonshot
Export list for localhost:
/home <anon clnt>

# showmount -d moonshot
Directories on localhost:

# showmount -a moonshot
All mount points on localhost:



One doesn't say filesystem because these are not proper filesystems.