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XATTR(7)                            Linux Programmer's Manual                            XATTR(7)

NAME
       attr - Extended attributes

DESCRIPTION
       Extended  attributes  are  name:value pairs associated permanently with files and directo‐
       ries, similar to the environment strings associated with a process.  An attribute  may  be
       defined or undefined.  If it is defined, its value may be empty or non-empty.

       Extended  attributes are extensions to the normal attributes which are associated with all
       inodes in the system (i.e., the stat(2) data).  They are often used to provide  additional
       functionality  to  a  filesystem—for  example, additional security features such as Access
       Control Lists (ACLs) may be implemented using extended attributes.

       Users with search access to a file or directory may use listxattr(2) to retrieve a list of
       attribute names defined for that file or directory.

       Extended  attributes  are accessed as atomic objects.  Reading (getxattr(2)) retrieves the
       whole value of an attribute and stores it in a buffer.  Writing (setxattr(2)) replaces any
       previous value with the new value.

       Space  consumed for extended attributes may be counted towards the disk quotas of the file
       owner and file group.

   Extended attribute namespaces
       Attribute names are null-terminated strings.  The attribute name is  always  specified  in
       the fully qualified namespace.attribute form, for example, user.mime_type, trusted.md5sum,
       system.posix_acl_access, or security.selinux.

       The namespace mechanism is used to define different classes of extended attributes.  These
       different classes exist for several reasons; for example, the permissions and capabilities
       required for manipulating extended attributes of one namespace may differ to another.

       Currently, the security, system, trusted, and user extended attribute classes are  defined
       as described below.  Additional classes may be added in the future.

   Extended security attributes
       The  security  attribute  namespace  is  used by kernel security modules, such as Security
       Enhanced Linux, and also to implement file capabilities (see capabilities(7)).   Read  and
       write  access permissions to security attributes depend on the policy implemented for each
       security attribute by the security module.  When no security module is  loaded,  all  pro‐
       cesses  have  read  access to extended security attributes, and write access is limited to
       processes that have the CAP_SYS_ADMIN capability.

   Extended system attributes
       Extended system attributes are used by the kernel to store system objects such  as  Access
       Control  Lists.  Read and write access permissions to system attributes depend on the pol‐
       icy implemented for each system attribute implemented by filesystems in the kernel.

   Trusted extended attributes
       Trusted extended attributes are visible and accessible only to  processes  that  have  the
       CAP_SYS_ADMIN  capability.   Attributes  in this class are used to implement mechanisms in
       user space (i.e., outside the kernel) which keep information  in  extended  attributes  to
       which ordinary processes should not have access.

   Extended user attributes
       Extended  user  attributes  may be assigned to files and directories for storing arbitrary
       additional information such as the mime type, character set or encoding of  a  file.   The
       access  permissions for user attributes are defined by the file permission bits: read per‐
       mission is required to retrieve the attribute value, and writer permission is required  to
       change it.

       The file permission bits of regular files and directories are interpreted differently from
       the file permission bits of special files and  symbolic  links.   For  regular  files  and
       directories  the  file  permission  bits  define  access to the file's contents, while for
       device special files they define access to the device described by the special file.   The
       file permissions of symbolic links are not used in access checks.  These differences would
       allow users to consume filesystem resources in a way not controllable by disk  quotas  for
       group or world writable special files and directories.

       For  this reason, extended user attributes are allowed only for regular files and directo‐
       ries, and access to extended user attributes is restricted to the owner and to users  with
       appropriate  capabilities for directories with the sticky bit set (see the chmod(1) manual
       page for an explanation of the sticky bit).

   Filesystem differences
       The kernel and the filesystem may place limits on the maximum number and size of  extended
       attributes  that  can  be  associated  with  a  file.  The VFS imposes limitations that an
       attribute names is limited to 255 bytes and an attribute value is limited to 64  kB.   The
       list  of attribute names that can be returned is also limited to 64 kB (see BUGS in listx‐
       attr(2)).

       Some filesystems, such as  Reiserfs  (and,  historically,  ext2  and  ext3),  require  the
       filesystem  to  be  mounted  with  the  user_xattr mount option in order for extended user
       attributes to be used.

       In the current ext2, ext3, and ext4 filesystem implementations, the total  bytes  used  by
       the names and values of all of a files extended attributes must fit in a single filesystem
       block (1024, 2048 or 4096 bytes, depending on the block size specified when the filesystem
       was created).

       In the Btrfs, XFS, and Reiserfs filesystem implementations, there is no practical limit on
       the number of extended attributes associated with a file, and the algorithms used to store
       extended attribute information on disk are scalable.

       In the JFS, XFS, and Reiserfs filesystem implementations, the limit on bytes used in an EA
       value is the ceiling imposed by the VFS.

       In the Btrfs filesystem implementation, the total bytes used  for  the  name,  value,  and
       implementation  overhead  bytes  is  limited  to  the  filesystem nodesize value (16 kB by
       default).

CONFORMING TO
       Extended attributes are not specified in POSIX.1, but some other systems (e.g.,  the  BSDs
       and Solaris) provide a similar feature.

NOTES
       Since the filesystems on which extended attributes are stored might also be used on archi‐
       tectures with a different byte order and machine word size, care should be taken to  store
       attribute values in an architecture-independent format.

       This page was formerly named attr(5).

SEE ALSO
       getfattr(1),  setfattr(1), getxattr(2), listxattr(2), removexattr(2), setxattr(2), acl(5),
       capabilities(7)

COLOPHON
       This page is part of release 4.04 of the Linux man-pages project.  A  description  of  the
       project,  information  about  reporting  bugs, and the latest version of this page, can be
       found at http://www.kernel.org/doc/man-pages/.

Linux                                       2015-05-01                                   XATTR(7)

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