Van's NFSv3 mini-HOWTO


I recently needed to setup NFS between some Red Hat Linux systems. I had two different types of NFS connections to setup: a permanent read-only (RO) directory for copying software, and some automatically mounted home directories. Although you can use the redhat-config-nfs GUI tool, it is good to know what is going on under the hood. These are my notes on setting up NFS in both scenarios.

The notes were based on a stock Red Hat 8 NFS server, and a stock Red Hat 9 client. The NFS server is named "im" and has IP address with a /24 netmask. The NFS client is named "tp1" and has IP address with a /24 netmask. In this example, I will force the use of NFSv3.

Exporting a Read-Only File System Mapped to the Anonymous UID/GID:

This is an example of a directory that you want available throughout your LAN, but you don't want anyone writing to that directory.

  1. Add the following entry to /etc/exports:
    # Van's NFS export file

    (There should already be a user called "nfsnobody" with UID/GID=65534)

  2. Add the following entry to /etc/hosts.deny:
    portmap: ALL
  3. Add the following entry to /etc/hosts.allow:

    This prevents hosts from other networks from connecting to the portmapper.

  4. Now start the portmapper, nfsd, and related daemons:
    # /etc/init.d/portmap start
    Starting portmapper:                                       [  OK  ]
    # /etc/init.d/nfs start
    Starting NFS services:                                     [  OK  ]
    Starting NFS quotas:                                       [  OK  ]
    Starting NFS daemon:                                       [  OK  ]
    Starting NFS mountd:                                       [  OK  ]
    # /etc/init.d/nfslock start
    Starting NFS statd:                                        [  OK  ]
  5. When you make changes to /etc/exports, you should enter the following command to re-read the export table:
    # exportfs -rv
    exportfs: No 'sync' or 'async' option specified for export "".
      Assuming default behaviour ('sync').
      NOTE: this default has changed from previous versions
  6. Now, let's make sure everything is working properly:
    # rpcinfo -p
       program vers proto   port
        100000    2   tcp    111  portmapper
        100000    2   udp    111  portmapper
        100011    1   udp    762  rquotad
        100011    2   udp    762  rquotad
        100011    1   tcp    765  rquotad
        100011    2   tcp    765  rquotad
        100003    2   udp   2049  nfs
        100003    3   udp   2049  nfs
        100021    1   udp  32781  nlockmgr
        100021    3   udp  32781  nlockmgr
        100021    4   udp  32781  nlockmgr
        100005    1   udp  32782  mountd
        100005    1   tcp  33396  mountd
        100005    2   udp  32782  mountd
        100005    2   tcp  33396  mountd
        100005    3   udp  32782  mountd
        100005    3   tcp  33396  mountd
        100024    1   udp  32783  status
        100024    1   tcp  33397  status
    # showmount -e
    Export list for
    # exportfs

    The netstat -tuap command should also give you a good idea of what TCP and UDP ports are listening now.

  7. Final server setup: You will want to make sure that the portmapper and all the NFS-related daemons start at boot time. You can do this with the following commands:
    # chkconfig portmap off
    # chkconfig nfs off
    # chkconfig nfslock off
    # chkconfig --level 345 portmap on
    # chkconfig --level 345 nfs on
    # chkconfig --level 345 nfslock on

    Also, you need to make sure that you don't have a Linux firewall like iptables automatically blocking the connections.

Mounting the Read-Only NFS filesystem on the NFS Client:

Prerequisites: The client must be running the portmapper service and the rpc.statd service. If you need file locking, you must also be running the NFS lock daemon. You do not need to be running rquotad, nfsd, or mountd. By running /etc/init.d/portmap and /etc/init.d/nfslock, I had everything ready for the NFS mount. After mounting the NFS partition, running rpcinfo -p on the client showed me that the "status" RPC service had been started automatically. This is called "rpc.statd" in the ps listings. You will probably want to secure the portmapper and other RPC services with /etc/hosts.allow and /etc/hosts.deny, just like you did on the server.

  1. On the client, make sure you do not have a firewall like iptables enabled, or it will prevent you from making the NFS connection. Now, let's check RPC and UDP connectivity to the NFS server:
    [tp1]# ping im
    [tp1]# showmount -e im
    Export list for im:
    [tp1]# rpcinfo -p im
    [tp1]# tracepath im/2049
     1?: [LOCALHOST]     pmtu 1500
     1:  im (                                       0.371ms reached
         Resume: pmtu 1500 hops 1 back 1

    Based on the output of these commands, you should be able to see if the client will be able to make an NFS connection to the server or not.

  2. Make a mountpoint for the directory:
    [TP1]# mkdir /mnt/Photos
  3. Mount the NFS server manually:
    [tp1]# mount -t nfs -o hard,intr,ro,rsize=2048,wsize=2048,nfsvers=3 im:/Data/Photos /mnt/Photos
    [tp1]# mount
    im:/Data/Photos on /mnt/Photos type nfs (ro,hard,intr,rsize=2048,wsize=2048,addr=
  4. Test from root and non-root accounts on tp1 to see if directory and file read operations work. Commands like df, du, ls, cd, and cp should work just fine.

  5. Now, let's look at stats back on the server:
    # showmount -a
    All mount points on
    # nfsstat
    # nfsstat -o net
    Warning: /proc/net/rpc/nfs: No such file or directory
    Server packet stats:
    packets    udp        tcp        tcpconn
    353441     353441     0          0
    Client packet stats:
    packets    udp        tcp        tcpconn
    0          0          0          0
    # ifconfig eth0
    eth0      Link encap:Ethernet  HWaddr 00:E0:29:42:F8:C2
              inet addr:  Bcast:  Mask:
              UP BROADCAST RUNNING MULTICAST  MTU:1500  Metric:1
              RX packets:391457 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:37
              TX packets:698615 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
              collisions:0 txqueuelen:100
              RX bytes:89280722 (85.1 Mb)  TX bytes:846404790 (807.1 Mb)
              Interrupt:10 Base address:0xb400
    # netstat -s
    # cat /proc/net/snmp
  6. Back on the client, let's make sure that no process or user is accessing files via NFS, including having a shell open in the NFS directory. Then we will unmount the NFS directory like this:
    [tp1]# umount /mnt/Photos
  7. Let us setup our /etc/fstab file on the client so that the NFS mount happens automatically on boot:
    im:/Data/Photos  /mnt/Photos  nfs  ro,hard,intr,rsize=2048,wsize=2048,nfsvers=3,bg 0 0

    You can test this with the mount -av command without rebooting the server.

Final Comments on Read-Only NFS

I selected the rsize=2048 and wsize=2048 option for this NFS mount based on some testing I did with copying 90MB worth of files over the network to the client with different rsize settings. I tried a number of settings, and 2048 was the 2nd fastest next to 8192. 8192 produced UDP datagrams fragmented into 6 IP packets, 5 of which were max size at 1514 bytes on the wire. I don't want that many max sized packets or fragments on my LAN. 2048 gave reasonable performance and only produced 2 IP fragments per UDP datagram. This leaves more space on the LAN for other traffic, especially if you are using a repeater instead of a switch.

Using the Automounter to Mount Home Directories over the Network:

What if you would like users on a remote host to be able to mount their home directories from a central server? With conventional NFS mounts, only root can mount and unmount NFS directories. With the automount utility (a.k.a. autofs), NFS directories can be mounted and unmounted automatically as needed by regular users.

This section will show you how to set up the automounter on an NFS client so that machine tp1's users can login to their home directories on a central NFS server. This has several advantages:

In this scenaro, host "im" is the NFS server, host "tp1" is the client. User "gishj" will have his home directory located on the NFS server. Also, the partition /dev/hdb2 is mounted to /ahome as ext3. This partition has user quota support enabled.

Note:  NFS assumes that users have the same UID and GID on the client machine as they do on the server machine. The UIDs, GIDs, and usernames can be synchronized via several mechanisms, which are outside the scope of this mini-HOWTO. Here is a short list of possibilities:

  1. On the server, identify a directory for NFS-mounted user homes. Create the directory and partition as needed. Each user's home directory needs to be "chown"ed and "chmod"ed appropriately. For this example, I will create a new user and group for "gishj" on the server and the client with the same UID and GID.
    [root@im /]# mkdir /ahome
    [root@im /]# useradd -d /ahome/gishj -u 600 gishj

    Note that the /etc/skel files were put here by the useradd utility, allowing you to create a standard user environment for every user on the server.

  2. Now, let's export the filesystem via NFS with appropriate options. Add this line to /etc/exports:
    Activate the NFS export and verify it with these commands:
    # exportfs -rv
    # showmount -e
    Export list for
    # exportfs -v
  3. On the client, let's make sure we can see the NFS export on the server:
    [tp1]# showmount -e im
    Export list for im:
  4. On the client, let's setup the automount map by adding this to /etc/auto.master:
    /autohome       /etc/auto.autohome      --timeout=120
    Create a new file called /etc/auto.autohome and add these lines:
    # This is for mounting user homes over NFS
    # Format = key [-mount-options-separated-by-comma] location
    *       -fstype=nfs,rw,hard,intr,rsize=2048,wsize=2048,nosuid,nfsvers=3 im:/ahome/&

    The wildcards "*" and "&" allow usernames to be inserted as NFS paths. "rw" allows read and write operations, and "nosuid" is a security option. If you want to read more about the allowable wildcards in the autofs maps, try man 5 autofs.

  5. Now, let's create the mountpoint and activate the automounter, and set it up to start automatically on boot:
    [tp1]# mkdir /autohome
    [tp1]# /etc/init.d/autofs start
    Starting automount:                                        [  OK  ]
    [tp1]# chkconfig autofs off
    [tp1]# chkconfig --level 345 autofs on
  6. We need to make an account and add a password for user "gishj". Remember, the UID/GID needs to be the same on the client as on the server, and we will be configuring Joe Gish's home directory to be at /ahome/gishj.
    [root@tp1 /]# useradd -M -d /autohome/gishj -u 600 gishj
    [root@tp1 /]# passwd gishj
    Changing password for user gishj.
    New password: ********
    Retype new password: ******
    passwd: all authentication tokens updated successfully.
  7. Now, login on tp1 as "gishj". You should be able to login. If you issue a pwd command, you will see that you are in the /autohome/gishj directory, and you will be able to read and write files with no problem. If you use the "mount" command, you will see this:
    automount(pid1510) on /autohome type autofs (rw,fd=5,pgrp=1510,minproto=2,maxproto=3)
    im:/ahome/gishj on /autohome/gishj type nfs (rw,nosuid,hard,intr,rsize=2048,wsize=2048,nfsvers=3,addr=
    After Joe Gish logs out, 2 minutes later the auto-mounter will unmount the NFS directory. When you use the mount command on tp1 again (as root), here is what you will see:
    automount(pid1510) on /autohome type autofs (rw,fd=5,pgrp=1510,minproto=2,maxproto=3)

Final Comments on Automounting NFS directories:

The automount maps can be distributed via NIS, NIS+, LDAP, or other means. Back on the NFS server, you can watch the automount operation with watch showmount -a. Note that the user on the NFS clients does not need to be able to login to the NFS server. If you don't run passwd for the user on the server, they will not be able to login, but they can still use their home directory over the network.

Limiting the disk space for each user on the NFS server with quotas:

If you are using ext2/ext3 or ReiserFS for your automount partition on the server, then you can setup quotas for each user. This limits how much disk space each user can have. This may also be possible in some kernels with JFS and XFS, but I have not looked into this. When quotas are enabled, the user on the NFS client can still view his or her quota by typing the quota command. I tested the quota function by logging in as one of the users and copying lots of files to my home directory. As expected, when I exceeded my quota, further copy operations failed with an error. Removing some files fixed my quota problem, and I could write to the NFS directory again.


This mini-HOWTO has focused on NFSv3 for Linux. The NFSv2 and NFSv3 implementations for Linux are fairly mature now, with the exception of TCP support (client and server) for NFSv3, which will be incorporated in future kernels. NFSv4 is being actively developed for Solaris and Linux. NFSv4 will become an Internet standard for filesharing over a network. It has some key improvements over NFSv3:

NFSv4 will be part of the standard 2.6 Linux kernels.



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