How to Setup NFS (Network File System) on RHEL/CentOS/Fedora and Debian/Ubuntu

NFS (Network File System) is basically developed for sharing of files and folders between Linux/Unix systems by Sun Microsystems in 1980. It allows you to mount your local file systems over a network and remote hosts to interact with them as they are mounted locally on the same system. With the help of NFS, we can set up file sharing between Unix to Linux system and Linux to Unix system.

Install NFS Server in Linux

Setup NFS Server and NFS Client in Linux

Benefits of NFS
  1. NFS allows local access to remote files.
  2. It uses standard client/server architecture for file sharing between all *nix based machines.
  3. With NFS it is not necessary that both machines run on the same OS.
  4. With the help of NFS we can configure centralized storage solutions.
  5. Users get their data irrespective of physical location.
  6. No manual refresh needed for new files.
  7. Newer version of NFS also supports acl, pseudo root mounts.
  8. Can be secured with Firewalls and Kerberos.
NFS Services

Its a System V-launched service. The NFS server package includes three facilities, included in the portmap and nfs-utils packages.

  1. portmap : It maps calls made from other machines to the correct RPC service (not required with NFSv4).
  2. nfs: It translates remote file sharing requests into requests on the local file system.
  3. rpc.mountd: This service is responsible for mounting and unmounting of file systems.
Important Files for NFS Configuration
  1. /etc/exports : Its a main configuration file of NFS, all exported files and directories are defined in this file at the NFS Server end.
  2. /etc/fstab : To mount a NFS directory on your system across the reboots, we need to make an entry in /etc/fstab.
  3. /etc/sysconfig/nfs : Configuration file of NFS to control on which port rpc and other services are listening.

Setup and Configure NFS Mounts on Linux Server

To setup NFS mounts, we’ll be needing at least two Linux/Unix machines. Here in this tutorial, I’ll be using two servers.

  1. NFS Server: nfsserver.example.com with IP-192.168.0.100
  2. NFS Client : nfsclient.example.com with IP-192.168.0.101
Installing NFS Server and NFS Client

We need to install NFS packages on our NFS Server as well as on NFS Client machine. We can install it via “yum” (Red Hat Linux) and “apt-get” (Debian and Ubuntu) package installers.

[[email protected] ~]# yum install nfs-utils nfs-utils-lib
[[email protected] ~]# yum install portmap (not required with NFSv4)
[[email protected] ~]# apt-get install nfs-utils nfs-utils-lib

Now start the services on both machines.

[[email protected] ~]# /etc/init.d/portmap start
[[email protected] ~]# /etc/init.d/nfs start
[[email protected] ~]# chkconfig --level 35 portmap on
[[email protected] ~]# chkconfig --level 35 nfs on

After installing packages and starting services on both the machines, we need to configure both the machines for file sharing.

Setting Up the NFS Server

First we will be configuring the NFS server.

Configure Export directory

For sharing a directory with NFS, we need to make an entry in “/etc/exports” configuration file. Here I’ll be creating a new directory named “nfsshare” in “/” partition to share with client server, you can also share an already existing directory with NFS.

[[email protected] ~]# mkdir /nfsshare

Now we need to make an entry in “/etc/exports” and restart the services to make our directory shareable in the network.

[[email protected] ~]# vi /etc/exports

/nfsshare 192.168.0.101(rw,sync,no_root_squash)

In the above example, there is a directory in / partition named “nfsshare” is being shared with client IP “192.168.0.101” with read and write (rw) privilege, you can also use hostname of the client in the place of IP in above example.

NFS Options

Some other options we can use in “/etc/exports” file for file sharing is as follows.

  1. ro: With the help of this option we can provide read only access to the shared files i.e client will only be able to read.
  2. rw: This option allows the client server to both read and write access within the shared directory.
  3. sync: Sync confirms requests to the shared directory only once the changes have been committed.
  4. no_subtree_check: This option prevents the subtree checking. When a shared directory is the subdirectory of a larger file system, nfs performs scans of every directory above it, in order to verify its permissions and details. Disabling the subtree check may increase the reliability of NFS, but reduce security.
  5. no_root_squash: This phrase allows root to connect to the designated directory.

For more options with “/etc/exports“, you are recommended to read the man pages for export.

Setting Up the NFS Client

After configuring the NFS server, we need to mount that shared directory or partition in the client server.

Mount Shared Directories on NFS Client

Now at the NFS client end, we need to mount that directory in our server to access it locally. To do so, first we need to find out that shares available on the remote server or NFS Server.

[[email protected] ~]# showmount -e 192.168.0.100

Export list for 192.168.0.100:
/nfsshare 192.168.0.101

Above command shows that a directory named “nfsshare” is available at “192.168.0.100” to share with your server.

Mount Shared NFS Directory

To mount that shared NFS directory we can use following mount command.

[[email protected] ~]# mount -t nfs 192.168.0.100:/nfsshare /mnt/nfsshare

The above command will mount that shared directory in “/mnt/nfsshare” on the client server. You can verify it following command.

[[email protected] ~]# mount | grep nfs

sunrpc on /var/lib/nfs/rpc_pipefs type rpc_pipefs (rw)
nfsd on /proc/fs/nfsd type nfsd (rw)
192.168.0.100:/nfsshare on /mnt type nfs (rw,addr=192.168.0.100)

The above mount command mounted the nfs shared directory on to nfs client temporarily, to mount an NFS directory permanently on your system across the reboots, we need to make an entry in “/etc/fstab“.

[[email protected] ~]# vi /etc/fstab

Add the following new line as shown below.

192.168.0.100:/nfsshare /mnt  nfs defaults 0 0

Test the Working of NFS Setup

We can test our NFS server setup by creating a test file on the server end and check its availability at nfs client side or vice-versa.

At the nfsserver end

I have created a new text file named “nfstest.txt’ in that shared directory.

[[email protected] ~]# cat > /nfsshare/nfstest.txt

This is a test file to test the working of NFS server setup.
At the nfsclient end

Go to that shared directory in client server and you’ll find that shared file without any manual refresh or service restart.

[[email protected]]# ll /mnt/nfsshare
total 4
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 61 Sep 21 21:44 nfstest.txt
[email protected] ~]# cat /mnt/nfsshare/nfstest.txt
This is a test file to test the working of NFS server setup.

Removing the NFS Mount

If you want to unmount that shared directory from your server after you are done with the file sharing, you can simply unmount that particular directory with “umount” command. See this example below.

[email protected] ~]# umount /mnt/nfsshare

You can see that the mounts were removed by then looking at the filesystem again.

[[email protected] ~]# df -h -F nfs

You’ll see that those shared directories are not available any more.

Important commands for NFS

Some more important commands for NFS.

  1. showmount -e : Shows the available shares on your local machine
  2. showmount -e <server-ip or hostname>: Lists the available shares at the remote server
  3. showmount -d : Lists all the sub directories
  4. exportfs -v : Displays a list of shares files and options on a server
  5. exportfs -a : Exports all shares listed in /etc/exports, or given name
  6. exportfs -u : Unexports all shares listed in /etc/exports, or given name
  7. exportfs -r : Refresh the server’s list after modifying /etc/exports

This is it with NFS mounts for now, this was just a start, I’ll come up with more option and features of NFS in our future articles. Till then, Stay connected with Tecmint.com for more exciting and interesting tutorials in future. Do leave your comments and suggestions below in the comment box.

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Tarunika Shrivastava

I am a linux server admin and love to play with Linux and all other distributions of it. I am working as System Engineer with a Web Hosting Company.

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122 Responses

  1. Sai Prasad Manchikanti says:

    Thank you for the article. I think you need to add the line “run exportfs -a command” after creating a entry in /etc/exports file without running that command shares wont be accessible from clients.

  2. Ghata Saxena says:

    Hi,

    I have mounted directory from windows server to Linux server. When I run mount -a on Linux server, it gives error:

    mount.nfs: /directory_name is busy or already mounted.
    

    I want to know the root cause for this. I know this can be solved by unmounting that directory and mounting again but what is the root cause?

  3. RL says:

    This information is spread out in so many places across the web, so thank you for this concise write-up.

    I got this up and running except I’m unable to permanently mount the export directory so that my client automatically loads it. I did something bad to fstab and my computer (R Pi) would not boot. Had no choice but to reformat it.

    Got it to work fine by manually mounting, so I know I’m close…thanks for any pointers!

  4. Leonard Mbibi says:

    First, I thank you for your lessons, they’re one of the best.

    In preparation for the LFCS exam, knowing that some commands are deprecated and some files changed, for example:

    [[email protected] ~]# /etc/init.d/portmap start
    [[email protected] ~]# /etc/init.d/nfs start
    [[email protected] ~]# chkconfig --level 35 portmap on
    [[email protected] ~]# chkconfig --level 35 nfs on
    

    These are not available in latest Centos 7.

    Does one has a choice of the version of Linux machine to use in the exam? As I am new to Linux, I am only conversant with latest commands.

    Regards,
    Chiadi

  5. Jim Fecteau says:

    Excellent summary of the topic. Thank you!

  6. jagan says:

    clnt_create: RPC: Program not registered (how to solve)

  7. Gautam says:

    Thank you so much for sharing article and easy to understand and helpful.

  8. Zafar says:

    Hi Tarunika,

    Thanks for such a nice article on NFS server and client. It will help the readers to resolve NFS related issue.

    Best Regards
    Zafar

  9. Dinesh Kumar says:

    Hi ,

    Thank you for sharing this article, very helpful 

  10. sivakrishna says:

    Hi ,

    Thank you for sharing this article, very helpful ,

    when we are mounting with rw permissions in client side, can we restrict root/normal user to delete this nfs shared folders from client side.

    My Export config in server side

    /files   (rw,all_squash,anonuid=99,anongid=99)
    

    Mounting with below command

    mount -t nfs -o rw   ipaddresss:/files/frontend_shared /fe_shared/
    

    please advise.

    Thanks.

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