mktemp - Linux


mktemp is a command used in Unix and Linux-based operating systems to create a temporary file or directory safely. The primary purpose of mktemp is to ensure that temporary files are created in a way that minimizes the chance of filename conflicts and enhances security. This tool proves most effective in scripting and programming scenarios where handling data temporarily is necessary, and avoiding file collisions or security risks is crucial.


The basic usage of mktemp is as follows:

mktemp [OPTION]... [TEMPLATE]
  • TEMPLATE: A filename template with at least some trailing Xs which will be replaced with random characters to ensure uniqueness. The default template is tmp.XXXXXX when no template is specified.

Optional Arguments

  • -d, –directory: Create a directory instead of a file.
  • -u, –dry-run: Do not create anything; merely print a name (unsafe).
  • -q, –quiet: Suppress diagnostic errors; no output is produced on failure.

Specified Options:

  • –tmpdir[=DIR]: Interpret TEMPLATE relative to DIR. If DIR is not specified, the directory will be used as designated by the environment variable TMPDIR if set, defaulting to /tmp if not.


  • -d, –directory: Useful for creating temporary directories for session-specific cache or runtime data.
  • -u, –dry-run: Useful for testing to see what filename would be generated without actually creating the file.
  • -q, –quiet: Ideal in scripts where you want to handle errors programmatically without error messages cluttering the output.
  • –tmpdir[=DIR]: Customizes the directory in which the temporary file or directory is created, enhancing flexibility for temporary storage management.


  1. Creating a Temporary File


    This will create a temporary file in the default temp directory with a unique name.

  2. Creating a Temporary Directory

    mktemp -d

    This creates a temporary directory instead of a file.

  3. Using a Custom Template

    mktemp mytemp.XXX

    Creates a temporary file prefixed with mytemp..

  4. Specifying a Directory for Temporary File

    mktemp --tmpdir=/my/temp/dir mytemp.XXX

    Creates a temporary file in /my/temp/dir using the provided template.

Common Issues

  • Permission Denied: Occurs if the user does not have write permissions in the directory specified by --tmpdir or the default temp directory.
  • Insufficient Number of X’s: The TEMPLATE must conclude with at least three consecutive ‘X’s. Failure to do so results in an error.


mktemp can be integrated with other commands for robust scripting solutions. For example, creating a temporary directory to hold log files during script execution:

temp_dir=$(mktemp -d)
./ > "${log_file}"
  • tempfile: Older command with similar functionality, considered deprecated in favor of mktemp.
  • rm: Often used in conjunction with mktemp to remove files or directories once they are no longer needed.

For more detailed information and updates, please refer to the official mktemp man page or online documentation at GNU Coreutils – Mktemp.