SSHFS-File System

How To Use SSHFS to Mount Remote File Systems Over SSH

UpdatedNovember 9, 2016 918.2k views Linux Basics


SSHFS-File System is the savior for so many people. In many cases it can become cumbersome to transfer files to and from a droplet. Imagine a development usage scenario where you are coding apps remotely and find yourself uploading a script repeatedly to your virtual server to test. This can become quite a hassle in a very short period of time. Luckily there is a way to mount your VPS SSHFS -file system to your local computer so you can make changes on the fly and treat your droplet as local storage. In this article, we will show you how to do exactly that.

Installing SSHFS

On Ubuntu/Debian

SSHFS is Linux based software that needs to be installed on your local computer. On Ubuntu and Debian based systems it can be installed through apt-get.

sudo apt-get install sshfs

On Mac OSX

You can install SSHFS on Mac OSX. You will need to download FUSE and SSHFS from the osxfuse site

On Windows

To install SSHFS in Windows you will need to grab the latest win-sshfs package from the google code repository. A direct download link can be found below. After you have downloaded the package, double click to launch the installer. You may be prompted to download additional files, if so the installer will download the .NET Framework 4.0 and install it for you.

Mounting the Remote SSHFS-File System

The following instructions will work for both Ubuntu/Debian and OSX. Instructions for Windows systems can be found at the bottom of the tutorial.

To start we will need to create a local directory in which to mount the droplet’s SSHFS-file system.

sudo mkdir /mnt/droplet <--replace "droplet" whatever you prefer

Now we can use sshfs to mount the SSHFS file system locally with the following command. If your VPS was created with a password login the following command will do the trick. You will be asked for your virtual server’s root password during this step.

sudo sshfs -o allow_other,defer_permissions /mnt/droplet

If your droplet is configured for login via ssh key authorization, you will need to tell sshfs to use your public keys with the following command. You will be asked to enter the passphrase you used during the creation of your keys with ssh-keygen.

sudo sshfs -o allow_other,defer_permissions,IdentityFile=~/.ssh/id_rsa /mnt/droplet

Now you can work with files on your droplet as if it were a physical device attached to your local machine. For instance, if you move to the /mnt/droplet directory on your local machine you can create a file locally and the file will appear on your virtual server. Likewise you can copy files into the /mnt/droplet folder and they will be uploaded to your droplet in the background.

It is important to note that this process provides only a temporary mount point to your droplet. If the virtual server or local machine is powered off or restarted, you will need to use the same process to mount it again.

Unmounting the Remote SSHFS-File System

When you no longer need the mount point you can simply unmount it with the command

sudo umount /mnt/droplet

Permanently Mounting the Remote SSHFS-File System

SSHFS also allows for setting up permanent mount points to remote SSHFS-file systems. This would set a mount point that would persist through restarts of both your local machine and droplets. In order to set up a permanent mount point, we will need to edit the /etc/fstab file on the local machine to automatically mount the SSHFS-file system each time the system is booted.

First we need to edit the /etc/fstab file with a text editor.

sudo nano /etc/fstab

Scroll to the bottom of the file and add the following entry /mnt/droplet

Save the changes to /etc/fstab and reboot if necessary.

It should be noted that permanently mounting your VPS SSHFS-file system locally is a potential security risk. If your local machine is compromised it allows for a direct route to your droplet. Therefore it is not recommended to setup permanent mounts on production servers.

Using Win-SSHFS to Mount Remote SSHFS-File Systems on Windows

After launching the win-sshfs program, you will be presented with a graphical interface to make the process of mounting a remote file share simple.

  • Step 1: Click the Add button in the lower left corner of the window.
  • Step 2: Enter a name for the file share in the Drive Name field.
  • Step 3. Enter the IP of your droplet in the Host field.
  • Step 4. Enter your SSH port. (Leave as port 22 unless you have changed the SSH port manually).
  • Step 5. Enter your username in the Username field. (Unless you have set up user accounts manually you will enter root in this field).
  • Step 6. Enter your SSH password in the password field. (Note on Windows you will need to have your droplet configured for password logins rather than ssh-key-authentication).
  • Step 7. Enter your desired mount point in the Directory field. (Enter / to mount the SSHFS-file system from root. Likewise you can enter /var/www or ~/ for your home directory).
  • Step 8. Select the drive letter you would like Windows to use for your droplets file system.
  • Step 9. Click the Mount button to connect to the droplet and mount the file system.

Now your virtual server’s file system will be available through My Computer as the drive letter you chose in step 8.

Usage of the Remote Mount Point

The remote mount behaves similarly to locally mounted storage: you are able to create, copy, move, edit, compress or perform any file system operations you would be able to do on the droplet, but you are not able to launch programs or scripts on the remote server.

One typical usage of this would be if you host a website on your VPS and need to make changes to the website on a regular basis. Mounting the SSHFS-file system locally allows you to launch whatever code editor, IDE, or text editor you wish to edit the site, and any changes you make will reflect on the virtual server as soon as they are made on your local machine.

Similarly, on droplets used for testing purposes of coding projects, it allows for much simpler code modifications which can be tested immediately without the need to modify the code locally as well as remotely (and eliminates the hassle of uploading new copies of files for small code changes).

I am using the following command to mount a ssh ubuntu directory to my ubuntu pc.

sshfs user@192.xx.xx.xx.xx:/dir/dir /home/username/mount/xxx

My question is, can I create a script for this in my desktop where I can make a double click and run this script when ever I need to mount the drive without manually typing the command always.

shareimprove this question

up vote 12 down vote accepted

You could create a launcher and add it to your launcher bar by drag&dropping the .desktop-file there:

    #!/usr/bin/env xdg-open

    [Desktop Entry]
    Name[en_US]=Connect to xy
    Exec=shfs user@192.xx.xx.xx.xx:/dir/dir /home/username/mount/xxx
    #OR: to mount and than open in nautilus (note the '/dir' where ':dir' used to be)
    #Exec=nautilus sftp://user@192.xx.xx.xx.xx/dir/dir
    Comment[en_US]=Connect to xy via ssh
    Name=Connect to xy
    Comment=Connect to xy via ssh

Suggestion – even less work:

If you want even less work (=autoconnect) and a graphical user interface, you might want to check out Gigolo SSHFS-File System. It has the capability of auto-mounting a bookmark, whenever the bookmarked filesystem is present. You might want to check that out.

sudo apt-get install gigolo   # or use the install link above

Run gigolo. There is an option in the preferences that puts it into autostart and another to activate the tray icon. Check both. Then add your bookmark.

Here is a screenshot:

SSHFS-File System

Shell way

Another solution would be to put the following line in your crontab (edit /etc/crontab with sudo privileges):

@reboot sshfs user@192.xx.xx.xx.xx:/dir/dir /home/username/mount/xxx

But since Ubuntu’s password manager is not present when the command is run you need to use a password-less private/public key pair to authenticate with the ssh server in question (or a similar method of authentication). This would mount it on every reboot.

Yet another solution would be to edit your /etc/fstab (providing your Ubuntu-Version provides that option).

shareimprove this answer
I can not use gigolo. Coz I want to use a specific mounting point within my home folder. Your first solution seems good. But I am not clear about the file naming. YOu have given “.desktop-file” Is that the file name or extension to be. Please give me more example on the file naming. THen I can try it. – BlueBird May 18 ’11 at 10:33
It’s the extension. All launchers in ubuntu end with “.desktop”. Create an empty file. Copy the text I posted above into it. Replace the text behind “Name=” by whatever suits you and substitute the real paths in the the text behind “Exec=”. Then Save it as “connect.desktop” or “mountxy.desktop” (for example). After you saved the file Drag&Drop it into your launcher panel or where ever you want it. – con-f-use May 18 ’11 at 14:34

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