World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Home directory

Article Id: WHEBN0000274144
Reproduction Date:

Title: Home directory  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Retirement Systems of Alabama, Working directory, Passwd, Root directory, Home (2015 animated film)
Collection: Computer File Systems
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Home directory

A home directory is a file system directory on a multi-user operating system containing files for a given user of the system. The specifics of the home directory (such as its name and location) is defined by the operating system involved; for example, Windows systems between 2000 and 2003 keep home directories in a folder called Documents and Settings.


  • Description 1
  • Benefits 2
  • Default home directory per operating system 3
  • Other features per operating system 4
    • Unix 4.1
    • VMS 4.2
  • Contrast with single-user operating systems 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7


A user's home directory is intended to contain that user's files; including text documents, music, pictures or videos, etc. It may also include their configuration files of preferred settings for any software they have used there and might have tailored to their liking: web browser bookmarks, favorite desktop wallpaper and themes, passwords to any external services accessed via a given software, etc. The user can install executable software in this directory, but it will only be available to users with permission to this directory. The home directory can be organized further with the use of sub-directories.

The content of a user's home directory is protected by file system permissions, and by default is accessible to all authenticated users and administrators. Any other user that has been granted administrator privileges has authority to access any protected location on the filesystem including other users home directories.


Separating user data from system-wide data avoids redundancy and makes backups of important files relatively simple. Furthermore, Trojan horses, viruses and worms running under the user's name and with their privileges will in most cases only be able to alter the files in the user's home directory, and perhaps some files belonging to workgroups the user is a part of, but not actual system files.

Default home directory per operating system

Operating system Path Environment variable
Microsoft Windows NT \WINNT\Profiles\ %UserProfile%
Microsoft Windows 2000, XP and 2003 \Documents and Settings\
Microsoft Windows Vista, 7 and 8 \Users\
Unix-Based [1] /home/ $HOME
Unix-Derived /var/users/
SunOS / Solaris /export/home/
Linux / BSD (FHS) /home/
AT&T Unix (original version) /usr/ $HOME
Mac OS X /Users/ $HOME
Android /data/media/

Other features per operating system


In Unix, a user will be automatically placed into their home directory upon login. The ~user shorthand variable refers to a user's home directory (allowing the user to navigate to it from anywhere else in the filesystem, or use it in other Unix commands). The ~ (tilde character) shorthand command refers to that particular user's home directory.

The Unix superuser has access to all directories on the filesystem, and hence can access home directories of all users. The superuser's home directory on older systems was /, but on many newer systems it is located at /root (Linux, BSD), or /var/root (Mac OS X).


In the OpenVMS operating system, a user's home directory is called the "root directory", and the equivalent of a Unix/DOS/Windows/AmigaOS "root directory" is referred to as the "Master File Directory".

Contrast with single-user operating systems

Single-user operating systems simply have a single directory or partitions for all users files, there is no individual directory setup per user (though users can still setup and maintain directories inside this main working directory manually).

  • AmigaOS versions 2 and up have "System" and "Work" partitions on hard disks by default.
  • BeOS (and its successors) have a /home directory which contain the files belonging to the single user of the system.
  • Versions of Windows prior Windows 95 OEM Service Release 2 did not have a user folder, but since that release, \My Documents became in effect the single user's home directory.
  • NeXTSTEP and OPENSTEP in a single user, non-networked setup, /me is used, as well as /root when logged in as superuser.

See also


  1. ^ "Home Directory Definition". Accessed on July 23, 2009
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.