Linux: Chmod and Chown
This is a short introduction to basic Linux file permissions and how to set them correctly. As a beginner, junior or experienced developer and/or administrator, you are going to need this!
Chmod: Change File Mode Bits
15:45:18 user@example temporary total 12K drwxr-xr-x 2 test users 4.0K Feb 1 14:29 . drwx------ 33 test users 4.0K Feb 3 15:45 .. -rw-r--r-- 1 test users 0 Jan 21 12:14 1 -rw-r--r-- 1 test users 0 Jan 21 12:14 3 -rw-r--r-- 1 test users 16 Feb 1 14:29 file.txt
In the above example output from left to right we have: filemode, number of links, user, group, size, date last modified, name of file.
We will focus on the filemode for now.
drwxr-xr-x 0123456789 <-- this is our reference marker.
0: is either
- meaning a file, or
signifying that it is a directory.
1-3: represents the user or owner of the file.
4-6: is reference to the group that owns the file.
7-9: everybody else, or other.
Change the filemodes:
chmod is used to change the mode files of
files. Its basic syntax is as follows:
chmod u+x file.txt the
user and the
means add and the
x refers to execute. This can be
stacked, and used to takeaway permissions.
chmod -R g+rwx directory would recursively
-R) change all
group files within
directory to read, write and execute.
Importantly, if the user or group does not own the file or directory
then the command
sudo must be used. Otherwise it is not
In the above examples we used
rwx to note what
permissions we wanted to add or remove from a file. Another method is to
use the octal notation; numeral.
chmod 777 file.txt would mean that we are giving
rwx to user, group and other. How does 7 equal
This is because
4 gives read access,
1, execute. When using octal we add the numbers
together, so if we wanted read, write and execute we simply add 4,2,1
which equals 7.
chmod 765 xxx.txt would mean: - user: read, write and
execute -group: read and write - other: read and execute
Using this is very simple, but how do I remove permissions? Previously,
chmod u-x i.e. we used the
signify removal of privilege. Using octal we just set new filemode to
what we want and it will add or subtract the mode accordingly. An
chmod a+rwx == give read, write and execute to all
(user,group a)nd other) or
But if we only wanted the user to have
rwx and everyone
else read and write we could call:
chmod 755. To use
non-octal here would be
Important note: As with all things linux there are many more advanced features. We are just touching the surface here.
Chown: Change File Owner and Group
chown command deals with changing the ownership of
files and directories.
drwxrwxr-x 1 test users 14.0K Jan 21 12:14 dir_1 -rw-r--r-- 1 admin root 16 Feb 1 14:29 file.txt [filemode] [owner] [grp]
Above we have a break down of the important parts of our
ls -la output.
In the faked output we have
admin in the first position
which is representing the owner/ creator of
postilion two we have the group that
file.txt belongs to,
in this case its
The owner of a file can make changes to the filemode and ownership of a file without super user privileges. However, if another user wanted to change the ownership they would require this access.
To make a change is as simple as
chown [user]:[group] [file/s].
$ sudo chown root file.txt # 1. $ ls -l -rw-r--r-- 1 root root 16 Feb 1 14:29 file.txt
The simplest usage of
chown is the command plus the new
owner and file or directory to be affected.
$ sudo chown -R admin dir_1 # 2. $ ls -l drwxrwxr-x 1 admin users 14.0K Jan 21 12:14 dir_1
If we wanted to make the changes to all files and directories inside a
directory we can add
-R. This is a recursive function
with the same syntax as
$ sudo chown admin:admin file.txt $ ls -l -rw-r--r-- 1 admin admin 16 Feb 1 14:29 file.txt
To specify a new owner and group the use of
: between the
owner and group can be used.
and so on.