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Disks without filesystems

Not all disks or partitions are used as filesystems. A swap partition, for example, will not have a filesystem on it. Many floppies are used in a tape-drive emulating fashion, so that a tar or other file is written directly on the raw disk, without a filesystem. This has the advantages of making more of the disk usable (a filesystem always has some bookkeeping overhead) and more easily compatible with other systems: the tar file format is the same on all systems, while filesystems are different on most systems. You will quickly get used to disks without filesystems if you need them. Bootable Linux floppies also do not necessarily have a filesystem, although that is also possible.

One reason to use raw disks is to make image copies of them. For instance, if the disk contains a partially damaged filesystem, it is a good idea to make an exact copy of it before trying to fix it, since then you can start again if your fixing breaks things even more. One way to do this is to use dd(1):


The first dd makes an exact image of the floppy to the file floppy-image, the second one writes the image to the floppy. (The user has presumably switched the floppy before the second command. Otherwise the command pair is of doubtful usefulness.)

Andrew Anderson
Thu Mar 7 22:36:29 EST 1996