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Basic Unix - Managing Files and Directories

This article describes how to manage files and directories in the Unix operating system.

Unix has a series of commands for copying, moving or renaming, and deleting files. It also has special commands for creating or deleting directories.

Creating directories

To create a subdirectory within your home directory, use the "mkdir" command. For example, to create a directory called Information, type:

mkdir Information <ENTER>

Copying files (cp)

The cp command makes a copy of a specified file. To copy /usr/local/doc/getting-help to a file in your home directory called myhelp, type:

cp /usr/local/doc/getting-help myhelp <ENTER>

Note: if the file name you specify for the new file already exists (in this case, "myhelp"), it will be overwritten by the file you are copying; "cp" has an "-i" (interactive) option which will warn you before overwriting files:

cp -i firstfile secondfile <ENTER>

Renaming and moving files (mv)

A Unix file is renamed by "moving" it from one file name to another using the "mv" command. To rename the file myfile as MyHelpFile, type:

mv myfile MyHelpFile <ENTER>

You can also move a file from one directory to another. To move the file MyHelpFile to the Information
directory, type:

mv MyHelpFile Information <ENTER>

The "mv" command works exactly like "cp," except that the original file is deleted. Like "cp," "mv" has an "-i" option which will warn you if a file with the name you have indicated (in this case, MyHelpFile) already exists.

Deleting files (rm)

To delete a file or files from a directory, use the "rm" command.

Before you start experimenting, however, be aware that "rm" removes files permanently. Unless you are certain that the file is on a system backup (it is older than a week, say, and you have not touched it since), you should treat "rm" with a great deal of caution. To remove the file MyHelpFile from the Information directory, type:

rm -i Information/MyHelpFile <ENTER>

Deleting directories (rmdir)

The "rmdir" command removes a directory. Only empty directories can be deleted. To remove the directory Information, type:

rmdir -i Information <ENTER>

Keywords:manage file directory   Doc ID:16186
Owner:Larry T.Group:University of Chicago
Created:2010-12-08 18:00 CSTUpdated:2015-01-19 12:07 CST
Sites:University of Chicago, University of Chicago - Sandbox
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