Linux mtools(1) Manual Page

Table of Contents


Mtools - a collection of tools for manipulating MSDOS files


mattrib - change MSDOS file attribute flags mbadblocks - tests a floppy disk, and marks the bad blocks in the FAT mcd - change MSDOS directory
mcopy - copy MSDOS files to/from Unix mdel - delete an MSDOS file
mdir - display an MSDOS directory
mformat - add an MSDOS filesystem to a low-level formatted floppy disk mlabel - make an MSDOS volume label
mmd - make an MSDOS subdirectory
mmount - mount an MSDOS disk
mrd - remove an MSDOS subdirectory
mmove - move or rename an MSDOS file or subdirectory mren - rename an existing MSDOS file
mtype - display contents of an MSDOS file mtest - tests and displays the configuration


Mtools is a public domain collection of programs to allow Unix systems to read, write, and manipulate files on an MSDOS filesystem (typically a floppy disk). Where reasonable, each program attempts to emulate the MSDOS equivalent command. However, unnecessary restrictions and oddities of DOS are not emulated. For instance, it is possible to move subdirectories from one subdirectory to another.

MSDOS filenames are optionally composed of a drive letter followed by a colon, a subdirectory, and a filename. Filenames without a drive letter refer to Unix files. Subdirectory names can use either the `/' or `\' separator. The use of the `\' separator or wildcards will require the names to be enclosed in quotes to protect them from the shell. (Note: Wildcards in Unix filenames should not be enclosed in quotes, because here we want the shell to expand them)


The regular expression "pattern matching" routines follow the Unix-style rules. For example, `*' matches all MSDOS files in lieu of `*.*'. The archive, hidden, read-only and system attribute bits are ignored during pattern matching.

All options use the `-' (minus) flag, not `/' as you'd expect in MSDOS.

Most mtools commands allow multiple filename parameters, which doesn't follow MSDOS conventions, but which is more user-friendly.


The mcd command is used to establish the device and the current working directory (relative to the MSDOS filesystem), otherwise the default is assumed to be A:/. However, unlike MSDOS, there is only one working directory, and not one per drive.

VFAT-style long filenames

This version of mtools supports VFAT style long filenames. If a Unix filename is too long to fit in a short DOS name, it is stored as a VFAT long name, and a companion short name is generated. This short name is what you see when you examine the disk with a pre-7.0 version of DOS. The following table shows some examples of short names:
            Unix name     MSDOS name   Reason for the change
            thisisatest   THISISAT     filename too long
            alain.knaff   ALAIN.KNA    extension too long
            prn.txt       XRN.TXT      PRN is a device name
            .abc          X.ABC        null filename
            hot+cold      HOTXCOLD     illegal character

             The  initial  Unix-style  filename  (whether long or
            short) is also called pprriimmaarryy name, and  the  derived
            short name is also called sseeccoonnddaarryy name.


             mcopy /etc/motd a:Reallylongname

             Mtools  creates a VFAT entry for Reallylongname, and
            uses REALLYLO as a short name. Reallylongname is  the
            primary name, and REALLYLO is the secondary name.

             mcopy /etc/motd a:motd

             Motd  fits  into  the  DOS  filename  limits. Mtools
            doesn't need to derivate another name.  Motd  is  the
            primary name, and there is no secondary name.

             In a nutshell: The primary name is the long name, if
            one exists, or the short name if  there  is  no  long


When writing a file to disk, its long name (primary name) or short name may collide with an already existing file or directory. This may happen for all commands which create new directory entries.B mcopy , mmd , mren , mmove , mwrite and mread

When a name clash happens, mtools asks you what it should do. It offers several choices:

Overwrites the existing file. It is not possible to overwrite a directory with a file.

rename Renames the newly created file. Mtools will prompt for the new filename

Renames the newly created file. Mtools will chose a name by itself, without prompting

Gives up on this file, and moves on to the next (if any)

To chose an option type its first letter at the prompt. If you use a lower case letter, the option only applies for this file only, if you use an upper case letter, the option applies to all files.

You may also chose options (for all files) on the command line, when invoking mtools:

Overwrites primary names by default.

Overwrites secondary names by default.

Renames primary name by default.

Renames secondary name by default.

Autorenames primary name by default.

Autorenames secondary name by default.

Skip primary name by default.

Skip secondary name by default.

Ask user what to do with primary name.

Ask user what to do with secondary name.

By default, the user is prompted if the primary name clashes, and the secondary name is autorenamed.

If a name clash occurs in a Unix directory, mtools only asks whether to overwrite the file, or to skip it.


The VFAT filesystem is able to remember the case of the filenames. However, filenames which differ only in case are not allowed to coexist in the same directory. For example if you store a file called LongFileName on a VFAT filesystem, mdir will show this file as LongFileName, and not as Longfilename. However, if you then try to add LongFilename to the same directory, it will be refused, because case is ignored for clash checks.

The VFAT filesystem allows to store the case of a filename in the attribute byte, if all letters of the filename are the same case, and if all letters of the extension are the same case too. Mtools uses this information when displaying the files, and also to generate the Unix when mcopying to a Unix directory. This may have unexpected results when applied to files written using an pre-7.0 version of DOS: Indeed, these filenames map to all upper case. This is different from the behavior of the old version of mtools which used to generate lower case Unix filenames.


Xdf is a high capacity format supported by OS/2. It can hold 1840 k per disc. That's not very high compared to the best 2m formats, but its main advantage is that it is fast: 600 milliseconds per track. That's faster than the good old 21 sector format, and almost as fast as the standard 18 sector format. In order to access these disks, set the use_xdf variable for the drive. See mtools (5) for details on how to do this. Fast Xdf access is only available for kernels more recent than 1.1.34.

Caution / Attention distributors: If mtools is compiled on Linux a kernel more recent than 1.3.34, it won't run on an older kernel. However, if has been compiled on an older kernel, it still runs on a newer kernel, except that Xdf access is slower. It is recommended that distribution authors only include mtools binaries compiled on kernels older than 1.3.34 until 2.0 comes out. When 2.0 will be out, mtools binaries compiled on newer kernels may (and should) be distributed. Mtools binaries compiled on kernels older than 1.3.34 won't run on any 2.1 kernel or later.


All the Mtools commands return 0 on success, 1 on utter failure, or 2 on partial failure. All the Mtools commands perform a few sanity checks before going ahead, to make sure that the disk is indeed an MSDOS disk (as opposed to, say an ext2 or minix disk). These checks may reject partially corrupted disks, which might otherwise still be readable. To avoid these checks, set the MTOOLS_SKIP_CHECK environmental variable.


mattrib(1), mbadblocks(1), mcd(1), mdel(1), mformat(1), mmove(1), mrd(1), mren(1), mtype(1), mcopy(1), mdir(1), mlabel(1), mmd(1), mmount(1)


An unfortunate side effect of not guessing the proper device (when multiple disk capacities are supported) is an occasional error message from the device driver. These can be safely ignored.

The fat checking code chokes on 1.72 Mb disks mformatted with pre-2.0.7 mtools. Set the environmental variable MTOOLS_FAT_COMPATIBILITY to bypass the fat checking.

The support for non-Linux OS variants has not been tested for a long time. It may contain bugs, or even not work at all.