chmod - Linux


The chmod command in Linux is used to change the file access permissions of files and directories. It can alter the read, write, and execute permissions for the user (owner), group, and others (world). This command is crucial for managing the security and accessibility of files within a Linux system, particularly in multi-user environments.


The basic syntax of the chmod command is:

  • MODE specifies the permissions to be set. It can be provided in numeric (e.g., 644, 755) or symbolic (e.g., u+rwx,g-w) format.
  • FILE... refers to one or more files or directories to change permissions for.


  • -c, --changes: Like verbose but reports only when a change is made.
  • -v, --verbose: Displays a diagnostic for every file processed.
  • -f, --silent, --quiet: Suppresses most error messages.
  • --no-preserve-root: Do not treat ‘/’ specially (the default).
  • --preserve-root: Fail to operate recursively on ‘/’.
  • -R, --recursive: Change files and directories recursively.


  1. Setting permissions using numeric mode:

    chmod 755 filename

    This sets the read, write, and execute permissions for the owner and read and execute permissions for the group and others.

  2. Setting permissions using symbolic mode:

    chmod u+x filename

    Adds execute permission to the user (owner) of the file.

  3. Using recursive option to change permissions on a directory and all its contents:

    chmod -R 644 dirname

    Sets read and write permissions for the user, and read-only for group and others on all files in dirname and subdirectories.

Common Issues

  • Permission Denied: Users might encounter the “Permission Denied” error if they try to change permissions on files they do not own. Only the owner of the file or a privileged user (like root) can change its permissions.

  • Incorrect Permission Code: Users new to chmod often use incorrect numeric codes which can expose sensitive files or restrict access unintentionally. Review and double-check permission codes before applying them.


Combining chmod with other commands can automate file management tasks. For example, finding all text files and removing write permissions for the group and others can be done using:

find /path/to/files -type f -name "*.txt" -exec chmod go-w {} \;
  • chown: Change file owner and group.
  • umask: Sets the default file creation permissions mask.
  • ls -l: Lists files with permissions, useful to verify changes made by chmod.

For additional information and advanced usage examples, the official GNU documentation for chmod can be found here.