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Chapter 12. Directory Services and NetInfo > Exploring Common Directories

12.5. Exploring Common Directories

This section explores several important directories that most every Mac OS X machine has in its NetInfo database. For solitary Macs, these all live in the local NetInfo domain. Macs living as leaves in a more complicated tree of bound NetInfo domains might find directories at different levels of the information hierarchy. For example, a lab might have all its Macs's local domains bound to a server domain that holds all login information in a single /Users directory.


Defines aliases used by this machine's mail server (usually sendmail). See Chapter 13 for more about running a mail server on Mac OS X.

This directory replaces the old Unix /etc/aliases flatfile.


Stores miscellaneous system config information. The Date & Time preference panel, for instance, keeps the address of the selected NTP host inside this directory.


Replaces the Unix /etc/groups flatfile, listing the system's groups with their names, GIDs, and member users.


Replaces /etc/hosts by assigning hostnames to machines via their IP or Ethernet (MAC) addresses. localhost is usually defined here, for example, pointing at, the network loopback address. Your computer consults the /machines directories of visible domains to find hosts that DNS can't locate. (All this work occurs transparently to you, courtesy of the lookupd daemon.)

Domains' /machines directories also play a special role in setting up NetInfo hierarchies, as described in the next section.


Contains references to network-hosted NFS filesystems that are currently mounted on the system.


The properties listed in this directory assign names to Internet network and subnet addresses.


Contains information about print services that this domain makes available. Note that this directory, even in the local NetInfo domain, is distinct from a Mac's internal printer list, which is managed by its own CUPS-based printing system, as Chapter 8 details.


Lists the network transport protocols that this machine recognizes.


Pairs the common names of network services with their default port numbers and communication protocols. It replaces the /etc/services flatfile.


Holds one subdirectory for every user on the system. Each of these is equivalent to one line of a standard Unix /etc/passwd flatfile, containing information about the user's name, UID, password (stored via one-way encryption), shell, and so forth. You can also find nontraditional information here, such as a path to the user's login-screen picture, if one is selected.



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