SSH File System (sshfs)

What Is It?

  • Yet another network file system. Much like SMB and NFS, but simpler.

  • Requires a working SSH login on the remote machine

  • Implemented as File System in Userspace (Wikipedia, Linux kernel). Regular userspace program, sitting on top of

    • The SSH libraries ⟶ authentication, encryption, …

    • The kernel’s filesystem layer ⟶ mounting, permissions, …

Why Is It?

Question: why not use scp (here) to copy data back and forth?


  • scp is fine to copy data, but it won’t let me remove anything. ssh me@there 'rm ~/a/random/file' is not an option.

  • Copying is not enough. I want to use find on a remote tree, without being logged in. (Yes I know, remotely crawling a tree is slow.)

  • I want to use <insert whatever tool> that I have on my machine. The tool does not exist for ARM, nor do I want to deploy anything on the device.

  • I don’t want to be bothered with all that, I’m decadent.


Debianish (e.g. Ubuntu, Raspberry OS)
# apt install fuse-sshfs
# dnf install sshfs

Example Situation: The Raspi

  • I have a Raspi with an IP address of Substitute that with a real embedded device you are working with - the principles are the same for that matter.

  • The sshd service is enabled on the Raspi

  • jfasch is my account there. I have configured public key authentication, but this is not required.

What I want:

Say I have an application running on the Raspi which produces amounts of log data into $HOME that I want to inspect/manipulate/whatever (you’ll find a usecase for you I’m really bad at creating artificial problems).

  • I want to mount the Raspi log data directory, $HOME/logdata, to my local machine.

  • I want the directory to appear locally, under $HOME/raspi-logdata.

Mounting Remote $HOME/logdata

  • Create a local mountpoint

    $ mkdir ~/raspi-logdata
  • Mount remote directory

    $ sshfs ~/raspi-logdata/


    I did not specify a username for the remote login. sshfs (and ssh` in general) assumes in this case that the remote username equals the name that I am logged in under locally. It acts as if I had said,

    $ sshfs jfasch@ ~/raspi-logdata/
  • From here on, we’ll be using local tools only. ls -l for example, or rm.

    $ ls -l ~/raspi-logdata/
    total 16
    -rw-r--r--. 1 1001 1001 4096 Sep 21 16:57 data-0.log
    -rw-r--r--. 1 1001 1001 4096 Sep 21 16:57 data-1.log
    -rw-r--r--. 1 1001 1001 4096 Sep 21 16:57 data-2.log
    -rw-r--r--. 1 1001 1001 4096 Sep 21 16:57 data-3.log
    $ rm ~/raspi-logdata/data-{0,1}.log

Unmounting: fusermount -u, or Simply umount

  • The “canonical” way to unmount FUSE filesystems is,

    $ fusermount -u ~/raspi-logdata

    (man page here)

  • On newer systems (well, it’s been a while since they built FUSE functionality into umount), one can use the regular/historic way of unmounting,

    $ umount ~/raspi-logdata

User ID Mismatch: Problem

Potential problem: numeric file and group owners

When I mounted the remote directory, I did not specify a remote username - SSH chose that the remote username be jfasch, which is what I am logged in as locally.


  • The local and remote user IDs need not necessarily match

  • On the Raspi, user pi has ID 1000. jfasch is 1001

  • Locally, jfasch is 1000

Local UID
$ id -u jfasch
Remote UID
$ id -u jfasch


Unix, at the system level, does not care about names, but only about numbers. Users and groups have names which are defined in /etc/passwd and /etc/group, but which resolve to numbers for all system level operations.

Effect: no names, but only IDs

$ ls -l ~/raspi-logdata/
-rw-r--r--. 1 1001 1001 4096 Sep 21 16:57 data-0.log


User ID 1001 might locally resolve to an existing local user, with the implication that that user would be granted permission on your files.

User ID Mismatch: Solution (User Mapping)

Long story short: present remote files as locally owned by local user (and group which is also 1000, for that matter),

$ sshfs -o idmap=user -o uid=1000 -o gid=1000

Or, more generic 😲

$ sshfs -o idmap=user -o uid=$(id -u) -o gid=$(id -g)