28.3. Network File System (NFS)

Reorganized and enhanced by Tom Rhodes.
Written by Bill Swingle.

FreeBSD supports the Network File System (NFS), which allows a server to share directories and files with clients over a network. With NFS, users and programs can access files on remote systems as if they were stored locally.

NFS has many practical uses. Some of the more common uses include:

NFS consists of a server and one or more clients. The client remotely accesses the data that is stored on the server machine. In order for this to function properly, a few processes have to be configured and running.

These daemons must be running on the server:

nfsdThe NFS daemon which services requests from NFS clients.
mountdThe NFS mount daemon which carries out requests received from nfsd.
rpcbind This daemon allows NFS clients to discover which port the NFS server is using.

Running nfsiod(8) on the client can improve performance, but is not required.

28.3.1. Configuring the Server

The file systems which the NFS server will share are specified in /etc/exports. Each line in this file specifies a file system to be exported, which clients have access to that file system, and any access options. When adding entries to this file, each exported file system, its properties, and allowed hosts must occur on a single line. If no clients are listed in the entry, then any client on the network can mount that file system.

The following /etc/exports entries demonstrate how to export file systems. The examples can be modified to match the file systems and client names on the reader's network. There are many options that can be used in this file, but only a few will be mentioned here. See exports(5) for the full list of options.

This example shows how to export /cdrom to three hosts named alpha, bravo, and charlie:

/cdrom -ro alpha bravo charlie

The -ro flag makes the file system read-only, preventing clients from making any changes to the exported file system. This example assumes that the host names are either in DNS or in /etc/hosts. Refer to hosts(5) if the network does not have a DNS server.

The next example exports /home to three clients by IP address. This can be useful for networks without DNS or /etc/hosts entries. The -alldirs flag allows subdirectories to be mount points. In other words, it will not automatically mount the subdirectories, but will permit the client to mount the directories that are required as needed.

/home  -alldirs

This next example exports /a so that two clients from different domains may access that file system. The -maproot=root allows root on the remote system to write data on the exported file system as root. If -maproot=root is not specified, the client's root user will be mapped to the server's nobody account and will be subject to the access limitations defined for nobody.

/a  -maproot=root  host.example.com box.example.org

A client can only be specified once per file system. For example, if /usr is a single file system, these entries would be invalid as both entries specify the same host:

# Invalid when /usr is one file system
/usr/src   client
/usr/ports client

The correct format for this situation is to use one entry:

/usr/src /usr/ports  client

The following is an example of a valid export list, where /usr and /exports are local file systems:

# Export src and ports to client01 and client02, but only
# client01 has root privileges on it
/usr/src /usr/ports -maproot=root    client01
/usr/src /usr/ports               client02
# The client machines have root and can mount anywhere
# on /exports. Anyone in the world can mount /exports/obj read-only
/exports -alldirs -maproot=root      client01 client02
/exports/obj -ro

To enable the processes required by the NFS server at boot time, add these options to /etc/rc.conf:


The server can be started now by running this command:

# service nfsd start

Whenever the NFS server is started, mountd also starts automatically. However, mountd only reads /etc/exports when it is started. To make subsequent /etc/exports edits take effect immediately, force mountd to reread it:

# service mountd reload

28.3.2. Configuring the Client

To enable NFS clients, set this option in each client's /etc/rc.conf:


Then, run this command on each NFS client:

# service nfsclient start

The client now has everything it needs to mount a remote file system. In these examples, the server's name is server and the client's name is client. To mount /home on server to the /mnt mount point on client:

# mount server:/home /mnt

The files and directories in /home will now be available on client, in the /mnt directory.

To mount a remote file system each time the client boots, add it to /etc/fstab:

server:/home	/mnt	nfs	rw	0	0

Refer to fstab(5) for a description of all available options.

28.3.3. Locking

Some applications require file locking to operate correctly. To enable locking, add these lines to /etc/rc.conf on both the client and server:


Then start the applications:

# service lockd start
# service statd start

If locking is not required on the server, the NFS client can be configured to lock locally by including -L when running mount. Refer to mount_nfs(8) for further details.

28.3.4. Automating Mounts

Contributed by Wylie Stilwell.
Rewritten by Chern Lee.

The automatic mounter daemon, amd, automatically mounts a remote file system whenever a file or directory within that file system is accessed. File systems that are inactive for a period of time will be automatically unmounted by amd.

This daemon provides an alternative to modifying /etc/fstab to list every client. It operates by attaching itself as an NFS server to the /host and /net directories. When a file is accessed within one of these directories, amd looks up the corresponding remote mount and automatically mounts it. /net is used to mount an exported file system from an IP address while /host is used to mount an export from a remote hostname. For instance, an attempt to access a file within /host/foobar/usr would tell amd to mount the /usr export on the host foobar.

Example 28.2. Mounting an Export with amd

In this example, showmount -e shows the exported file systems that can be mounted from the NFS server, foobar:

% showmount -e foobar
Exports list on foobar:
% cd /host/foobar/usr

The output from showmount shows /usr as an export. When changing directories to /host/foobar/usr, amd intercepts the request and attempts to resolve the hostname foobar. If successful, amd automatically mounts the desired export.

To enable amd at boot time, add this line to /etc/rc.conf:


To start amd now:

# service amd start

Custom flags can be passed to amd from the amd_flags environment variable. By default, amd_flags is set to:

amd_flags="-a /.amd_mnt -l syslog /host /etc/amd.map /net /etc/amd.map"

The default options with which exports are mounted are defined in /etc/amd.map. Some of the more advanced features of amd are defined in /etc/amd.conf.

Consult amd(8) and amd.conf(5) for more information.

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