6.7 Configuring Systems to Mount File Systems on Demand with autofs

6.7 Configuring Systems to Mount File Systems on Demand with autofs


In Linux, mounting file systems permanently using the /etc/fstab configuration can sometimes lead to resource inefficiencies, especially when the mounted file system is rarely accessed. An alternative approach to conserving system resources is to utilize the autofs service, which allows file systems to be mounted and unmounted automatically on-demand. This guide will walk you through the process of setting up and configuring autofs to mount file systems such as NFS, AFS, SMBFS, CIFS, and local file systems.

Introduction to autofs

The autofs service is a kernel-based tool that automatically mounts and unmounts file systems on demand. By utilizing autofs, system resources can be conserved as file systems are only mounted when they are accessed, reducing the overhead of permanently mounted file systems.

Setting Up NFS Server

Before configuring autofs, ensure that the NFS server is installed and running on your system. You can install the NFS server and start the service using the following commands:

sudo dnf install nfs-utils
sudo systemctl start nfs-server.service
sudo systemctl enable nfs-server.service

Once the NFS server is running, you can define the exported file systems in the /etc/exports configuration file. For example, to export the /etc directory to a specific IP address with read-only access, add the following line to /etc/exports:


After updating the /etc/exports file, reload the NFS server configuration:

sudo systemctl reload nfs-server.service

Installing and Configuring autofs

Next, install the autofs package on your system:

sudo dnf install autofs

Start the autofs service and enable it to start automatically at boot:

sudo systemctl start autofs.service
sudo systemctl enable autofs.service

Configuring autofs

Editing the /etc/auto.master File

The /etc/auto.master file is the main configuration file for autofs and defines the directories to be automatically mounted. Edit this file to specify the mount points and their corresponding configuration files:

sudo vi /etc/auto.master

Add an entry in the /etc/auto.master file to define the directory for automounting and specify the location of the configuration file for autofs options. For example:

/shares/ /etc/auto.shares --timeout=400

In this example, /shares/ is the directory for automounting, and /etc/auto.shares is the configuration file containing autofs options. The --timeout=400 option sets the timeout value for unmounting the file systems after a period of inactivity.

Creating the Configuration File for autofs

Create the configuration file specified in the /etc/auto.master file:

sudo vi /etc/auto.shares

In this configuration file, define the mount points and their corresponding file system locations. For example:

mynetworkshare -fstype=auto

In this example, mynetworkshare is the name of the mount point, -fstype=auto specifies the file system type to be automatically determined, and is the location of the NFS share to be mounted on-demand.

Reloading the autofs Service

After configuring autofs, reload the service to apply the changes:

sudo systemctl reload autofs.service


By configuring autofs to mount file systems on demand, you can efficiently manage system resources and reduce overhead associated with permanently mounted file systems. This guide has provided step-by-step instructions for setting up and configuring autofs to automatically mount file systems such as NFS shares on-demand, enhancing the flexibility and performance of your Linux system.

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