Root 101

Friday, 28 February 2003, 3:04 PM EST

For many who are accustomed to single-user operating systems like Windows 98 or Mac OS 9, the concept of root is an unfamiliar one. This article is intended to help explain what root access is, whether you need it, what you can do with it, and how you can get it.

Of course, as is common with technology terms, there are two very different definitions of root. Here is an explanation for one, just to get it out of the way:

root (1): a file system term describing the top level directory of a drive or storage volume.

For example, a file in the root directory of a computer running Windows would have a file path such as c:MyFile.doc. A file in the root directory of a computer running Mac OS 9 would have a file path such as Macintosh HD:My File. A file in the root directory of a computer running a Unix-based operating system (including Mac OS X) would have a file path such as /myfile.txt. Note that, in Unix, the first slash in a file path denotes the root, or highest-level directory on that drive or volume.

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