Linux mtools(1) Manual Page
Table of Contents
Mtools - a collection of tools for manipulating MSDOS
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
- Gives up on this file, and moves on to the next (if
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.
By default, the user is prompted if the primary name
clashes, and the secondary name is autorenamed.
- Ask user what to do with secondary name.
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
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
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