touch - Linux


The touch command in Linux is primarily used to create empty files and to update the access and modification timestamps of existing files. It is a versatile tool in file management, scripting, and makefile operations, allowing users to handle file dates and times effectively or to ensure that a file exists.


The basic syntax of the touch command is as follows:

touch [OPTION]... FILE...
  • FILE…: Specifies one or more files to be touched.


  • Creating multiple files at once:
    touch file1.txt file2.txt file3.txt


  • -a : Changes only the access time of the file.
  • -c or --no-create: Does not create any files that do not exist.
  • -d or --date: Update the access and modification times to the specified time. The time should be provided in a format that is accepted by the system.
  • -m: Changes only the modification time of the file.
  • -r or --reference: Use the times of the specified reference file.
  • -t : Update the access and modification times to the specified time. The time should be specified in the format [[CC]YY]MMDDhhmm[.ss].


  1. Create a new empty file:
    touch newfile.txt
  2. Update the modification time of an existing file:
    touch -m existingfile.txt
  3. Set the access and modification time by referencing another file:
    touch -r referencefile.txt targetfile.txt
  4. Create multiple new files:
    touch file1.txt file2.log file3.conf

Common Issues

  • File not found: When using the -c option, users might expect touch to report an error if the file does not exist. However, -c prevents such errors by design.
  • Permission Denied: Attempting to touch files in directories where you do not have write permission can lead to errors. Ensure appropriate permissions or use sudo if necessary.


touch can be combined with other commands for more complex tasks:

  • Using find to update times of all files in a directory:
    find /path/to/dir -type f -exec touch {} +
  • Creating multiple files and writing initial content with a loop:
    for i in {1..5}; do touch "file$i.txt" && echo "Initial content" > "file$i.txt"; done
  • ls: List directory contents, which can help verify the changes made with touch.
  • date: Used to get current date and time or to format it, which can then be used with touch’s -t or -d options.
  • find: Useful for applying touch across multiple files in a directory structure.

For further reading and more detailed information, refer to the official touch man page (man touch on most Linux distributions).