Virtual File System

What Does Virtual File System Mean?

A virtual file system (VFS) is an abstraction layer that resides above a file system and provides an interface between the kernel and file system. Through a VFS, client applications can access different file systems.


A VFS is also known as a virtual file system switch (VFS).

Techopedia Explains Virtual File System

Think of a virtual file system (VFS) as a manageable container that virtually provides the functionality of a file system.

During each file system initialization, the file system registers itself with the VFS. This occurs as the operating system (OS) initializes itself at startup. The real file systems are generally built as loadable modules or built directly into the kernel.

The VFS also keeps a cache of directory lookups so that inodes for frequently accessed directories can be located easily. For example, a VFS can transparently access local and network storage devices without the client application, knowing the actual file systems, and even can bridge the disparity among Windows, Mac OS and UNIX file systems.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.