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How to check the file/folder permission in CLI and change the ownership?
How to check the file/folder permission in CLI and change the ownership?
Rapyd Team avatar
Written by Rapyd Team
Updated over a week ago

In Linux and Unix-like operating systems, file and folder permissions are vital in determining who can read, write, and execute files. Likewise, ownership specifies which user and group own a file or folder. Understanding how to check and alter these attributes is essential for both system administration and security.

Introduction to File and Folder Permissions

Files and directories in Linux have three basic types of permissions: read (r), write (w), and execute (x). These permissions apply to three different categories of users: the file's owner, the file's group, and everyone else.

For instance, the permission string "rwxr-xr--" implies:

  • The owner has the ability to read, write, and execute the file.

  • The group can read and execute but not write.

  • Others can only read the file.

Checking Permissions and Ownership

To check permissions and ownership of a file or folder, you can use the ls command with the -l flag:

ls -l /path/to/file_or_directory

This output will display the permissions string, the owner, the group, and the filename.

Changing Ownership of Files and Folders

The chown command allows you to change the owner and group of a file or directory.

To change the owner:

sudo chown newowner /path/to/file_or_directory

To change the owner and group at the same time:

sudo chown newowner:newgroup /path/to/file_or_directory

To change ownership of a directory and its contents recursively:

sudo chown -R newowner:newgroup /path/to/directory

Modifying File and Folder Permissions

The chmod command helps in changing permissions on a file or directory.

To provide the owner of a file execute permission:

chmod u+x /path/to/file

To remove write permission for the group:

chmod g-w /path/to/file

To assign specific permissions using numeric mode (e.g., 755):

chmod 755 /path/to/file

Here, 7 corresponds to rwx for the owner, 5 corresponds to r-x for the group, and the last 5 corresponds to r-x for others.

To modify permissions of a directory and its content recursively:

chmod -R 755 /path/to/directory

Practical Tips

Be very careful when altering permissions, particularly when using recursive options. Incorrect permissions can either make software dysfunctional or reveal sensitive information. Utilize the man command (e.g., man chown or man chmod) to explore more options and understand their implications.


File and directory permissions and ownership are fundamental concepts in Linux and Unix systems. They play a crucial role in assuring data integrity, security, and the proper functioning of software applications. Gaining proficiency in inspecting and changing these attributes leads to a more secure and efficient system administration experience.

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