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11.4 mv: Move (rename) files

mv moves or renames files (or directories). Synopses:

mv [option]… [-T] source dest
mv [option]… sourcedirectory
mv [option]… -t directory source

mv can move any type of file from one file system to another. Prior to version 4.0 of the fileutils, mv could move only regular files between file systems. For example, now mv can move an entire directory hierarchy including special device files from one partition to another. It first uses some of the same code that’s used by cp -a to copy the requested directories and files, then (assuming the copy succeeded) it removes the originals. If the copy fails, then the part that was copied to the destination partition is removed. If you were to copy three directories from one partition to another and the copy of the first directory succeeded, but the second didn’t, the first would be left on the destination partition and the second and third would be left on the original partition.

mv always tries to copy extended attributes (xattr), which may include SELinux context, ACLs or Capabilities. Upon failure all but ‘Operation not supported’ warnings are output.

If a destination file exists but is normally unwritable, standard input is a terminal, and the -f or --force option is not given, mv prompts the user for whether to replace the file. (You might own the file, or have write permission on its directory.) If the response is not affirmative, the file is skipped.

Warning: Avoid specifying a source name with a trailing slash, when it might be a symlink to a directory. Otherwise, mv may do something very surprising, since its behavior depends on the underlying rename system call. On a system with a modern Linux-based kernel, it fails with errno=ENOTDIR. However, on other systems (at least FreeBSD 6.1 and Solaris 10) it silently renames not the symlink but rather the directory referenced by the symlink. See Trailing slashes.

Note: mv will only replace empty directories in the destination. Conflicting populated directories are skipped with a diagnostic.

The program accepts the following options. Also see Common options.


See Backup options. Make a backup of each file that would otherwise be overwritten or removed.


Do not prompt the user before removing a destination file. If you specify more than one of the -i, -f, -n options, only the final one takes effect.


Prompt whether to overwrite each existing destination file, regardless of its permissions. If the response is not affirmative, the file is skipped. If you specify more than one of the -i, -f, -n options, only the final one takes effect.


Do not overwrite an existing file. If you specify more than one of the -i, -f, -n options, only the final one takes effect. This option is mutually exclusive with -b or --backup option.


Do not move a non-directory that has an existing destination with the same or newer modification timestamp. If the move is across file system boundaries, the comparison is to the source timestamp truncated to the resolutions of the destination file system and of the system calls used to update timestamps; this avoids duplicate work if several ‘mv -u’ commands are executed with the same source and destination.


Print the name of each file before moving it.


Remove any trailing slashes from each source argument. See Trailing slashes.

-S suffix

Append suffix to each backup file made with -b. See Backup options.

-t directory

Specify the destination directory. See Target directory.


Do not treat the last operand specially when it is a directory or a symbolic link to a directory. See Target directory.


This option functions similarly to the restorecon command, by adjusting the SELinux security context according to the system default type for destination files and each created directory.

An exit status of zero indicates success, and a nonzero value indicates failure.

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