18.7. The /etc/exports Configuration File

18.7. The /etc/exports Configuration File

The /etc/exports file controls which file systems are exported to remote hosts and specifies options. Blank lines are ignored, comments can be made by starting a line with the hash mark (#), and long lines can be wrapped with a backslash (\). Each exported file system should be on its own individual line, and any lists of authorized hosts placed after an exported file system must be separated by space characters. Options for each of the hosts must be placed in parentheses directly after the host identifier, without any spaces separating the host and the first parenthesis. Valid host types are gss/krb5 gss/krb5i and gss/krb5p.

A line for an exported file system has the following structure:

<export> <host1>(<options>) <hostN>(<options>)...

In this structure, replace <export> with the directory being exported, replace <host1> with the host or network to which the export is being shared, and replace <options> with the options for that host or network. Additional hosts can be specified in a space separated list.

The following methods can be used to specify host names:

In its simplest form, the /etc/exports file only specifies the exported directory and the hosts permitted to access it, as in the following example:

/exported/directory bob.example.com

In the example, bob.example.com can mount /exported/directory/. Because no options are specified in this example, the following default NFS options take effect:


By default, access control lists (ACLs) are supported by NFS under Red Hat Enterprise Linux. To disable this feature, specify the no_acl option when exporting the file system.

Each default for every exported file system must be explicitly overridden. For example, if the rw option is not specified, then the exported file system is shared as read-only. The following is a sample line from /etc/exports which overrides two default options:


In this example can mount /another/exported/directory/ read/write and all transfers to disk are committed to the disk before the write request by the client is completed.

Additionally, other options are available where no default value is specified. These include the ability to disable sub-tree checking, allow access from insecure ports, and allow insecure file locks (necessary for certain early NFS client implementations). Refer to the exports man page for details on these lesser used options.


The format of the /etc/exports file is very precise, particularly in regards to use of the space character. Remember to always separate exported file systems from hosts and hosts from one another with a space character. However, there should be no other space characters in the file except on comment lines.

For example, the following two lines do not mean the same thing:

/home bob.example.com(rw) /home bob.example.com (rw)

The first line allows only users from bob.example.com read/write access to the /home directory. The second line allows users from bob.example.com to mount the directory as read-only (the default), while the rest of the world can mount it read/write.

18.7.1. The exportfs Command

Every file system being exported to remote users via NFS, as well as the access level for those file systems, are listed in the /etc/exports file. When the nfs service starts, the /usr/sbin/exportfs command launches and reads this file, passes control to rpc.mountd (if NFSv2 or NFSv3) for the actual mounting process, then to rpc.nfsd where the file systems are then available to remote users.

When issued manually, the /usr/sbin/exportfs command allows the root user to selectively export or unexport directories without restarting the NFS service. When given the proper options, the /usr/sbin/exportfs command writes the exported file systems to /var/lib/nfs/xtab. Since rpc.mountd refers to the xtab file when deciding access privileges to a file system, changes to the list of exported file systems take effect immediately.

The following is a list of commonly used options available for /usr/sbin/exportfs:

  • -r — Causes all directories listed in /etc/exports to be exported by constructing a new export list in /etc/lib/nfs/xtab. This option effectively refreshes the export list with any changes that have been made to /etc/exports.

  • -a — Causes all directories to be exported or unexported, depending on what other options are passed to /usr/sbin/exportfs. If no other options are specified, /usr/sbin/exportfs exports all file systems specified in /etc/exports.

  • -o file-systems — Specifies directories to be exported that are not listed in /etc/exports. Replace file-systems with additional file systems to be exported. These file systems must be formatted in the same way they are specified in /etc/exports. Refer to Section 18.7, “The /etc/exports Configuration File” for more information on /etc/exports syntax. This option is often used to test an exported file system before adding it permanently to the list of file systems to be exported.

  • -i — Ignores /etc/exports; only options given from the command line are used to define exported file systems.

  • -u — Unexports all shared directories. The command /usr/sbin/exportfs -ua suspends NFS file sharing while keeping all NFS daemons up. To re-enable NFS sharing, type exportfs -r.

  • -v — Verbose operation, where the file systems being exported or unexported are displayed in greater detail when the exportfs command is executed.

If no options are passed to the /usr/sbin/exportfs command, it displays a list of currently exported file systems.

For more information about the /usr/sbin/exportfs command, refer to the exportfs man page. Using exportfs with NFSv4

The exportfs command is used in maintaining the NFS table of exported file systems. When typed in a terminal with no arguments, the exportfs command shows all the exported directories.

Since NFSv4 no longer utilizes the rpc.mountd protocol as was used in NFSv2 and NFSv3, the mounting of file systems has changed.

An NFSv4 client now has the ability to see all of the exports served by the NFSv4 server as a single file system, called the NFSv4 pseudo-file system. On Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the pseudo-file system is identified as a single, real file system, identified at export with the fsid=0 option.

For example, the following commands could be executed on an NFSv4 server:

mkdir /exports 
mkdir /exports/opt 
mkdir /exports/etc 
mount --bind /usr/local/opt /exports/opt 
mount --bind /usr/local/etc /exports/etc 
exportfs -o fsid=0,insecure,no_subtree_check gss/krb5p:/exports 
exportfs -o rw,nohide,insecure,no_subtree_check gss/krb5p:/exports/opt 
exportfs -o rw,nohide,insecure,no_subtree_check gss/krb5p:/exports/etc

In this example, clients are provided with multiple file systems to mount, by using the --bind option which creates unbreakeable links.

Because of the pseudo-file systems feature, NFS version 2, 3 and 4 export configurations are not always compatible. For example, given the following directory tree:


and the export:

/home *(rw,fsid=0,sync)

Using NFS version 2,3 and 4 the following would work:

mount server:/home /mnt/home
ls /mnt/home/joe

Using v4 the following would work:

mount -t nfs4 server:/ /mnt/home
ls /mnt/home/joe

The difference being "server:/home" and "server:/". To make the exports configurations compatible for all version, one needs to export (read only) the root filesystem with an fsid=0. The fsid=0 signals the NFS server that this export is the root.

/ *(ro,fsid=0)
/home *(rw,sync,nohide)

Now with these exports, both "mount server:/home /mnt/home" and "mount -t nfs server:/home /mnt/home" will work as expected.