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Understanding the `mv` Command in Linux

The mv command in Linux is a powerful utility for moving or renaming files and directories within the file system. It stands for "move," and as the name suggests, it allows you to move files from one location to another. It can also be used to rename files or directories.


The general syntax of the mv command is as follows:

mv [options] source destination
  • source: The file or directory that you want to move or rename.
  • destination: The destination path where you want to move the file or directory.
  • options: Additional options that can be used to modify the behavior of the mv command.

Basic Examples

  1. Moving a single file to another directory

    mv file1.txt /path/to/destination/directory/
  2. Renaming a file

    mv old_filename.txt new_filename.txt
  3. Moving multiple files to another directory

    mv file1.txt file2.txt /path/to/destination/directory/
  4. Renaming a directory

    mv old_directory_name new_directory_name

Options and their Shorthands

Here is a table describing various options that can be used with the mv command:

--backup-bMake a backup of each existing destination file.
--force-fDo not prompt for confirmation before overwriting the destination file.
--interactive-iPrompt for confirmation before overwriting.
--no-clobber-nDo not overwrite an existing file. The move is skipped for that file.
--suffix-SWhen using -b, override the usual backup suffix.
--target-directory-tMove all SOURCE arguments into DIRECTORY.
--update-uMove only when the source file is newer than the destination file.
--verbose-vDisplay what is being done, i.e., the names of files being moved.
--no-target-directory-TTreat DEST as a regular file and not as a directory.
--helpDisplay a help message and exit.
--versionDisplay version information and exit.

Advanced Examples

1. Overwriting files without prompt

If you're certain you want to overwrite destination files without a confirmation prompt, use the -f option.

mv -f source_file.txt /path/to/destination/

2. Prompt before overwriting files

To make sure you don't accidentally overwrite an existing file, use the -i option. It will prompt you for confirmation before overwriting.

mv -i source_file.txt /path/to/destination/

3. Move multiple files into a target directory

You can specify a target directory using the -t option.

mv -t /path/to/destination/ file1.txt file2.txt file3.txt

4. Moving only updated files

If you only want to move files that are newer than those at the destination, you can use the -u option.

mv -u source_file.txt /path/to/destination/

5. Verbose mode

To monitor the files being moved, you can use the -v option for a verbose output.

mv -v file1.txt /path/to/destination/

6. -t or --target-directory

The -t option specifies the directory where all SOURCE files will be moved. This is especially useful when you're moving multiple files and you want to specify the destination directory only once. This is the opposite of -T in that the destination is explicitly treated as a directory.

Here are some examples:

  1. Using -t for single file

    mv -t /path/to/destination/ file.txt
  2. Using -t for multiple files

    # Moves all listed source files to the specified directory
    mv -t /path/to/destination/ file1.txt file2.txt file3.txt

Combining Options

Multiple options can be combined together to perform more complex operations. For instance, if you want to move files but only overwrite those that are older and still want to be prompted before overwriting, you could use:

mv -ui source_file.txt /path/to/destination/

In this example, the -u option ensures that only newer files are considered for moving. The -i option will then prompt you before overwriting any older files.


The mv command in Linux is a versatile tool for moving and renaming files and directories. It offers a range of options to customize behavior according to your needs. Mastering this command can greatly enhance your efficiency when managing files in a Linux environment.

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