How to recursively chmod all directories except files?



How to chmod 755 all directories but no file (recursively) ?

Inversely, how to chmod only files (recursively) but no directory ?

Olivier Lalonde

Posted 2010-01-06T01:56:57.027

Reputation: 8 127

Related: Change all files and folders permissions of a directory to 644/755 at SO

– kenorb – 2015-08-10T12:16:27.873

Related: Change all folder permissions with one command at U & L.

– Scott – 2018-10-09T23:07:33.457



To recursively give directories read&execute privileges:

find /path/to/base/dir -type d -exec chmod 755 {} +

To recursively give files read privileges:

find /path/to/base/dir -type f -exec chmod 644 {} +

Or, if there are many objects to process:

chmod 755 $(find /path/to/base/dir -type d)
chmod 644 $(find /path/to/base/dir -type f)

Or, to reduce chmod spawning:

find /path/to/base/dir -type d -print0 | xargs -0 chmod 755 
find /path/to/base/dir -type f -print0 | xargs -0 chmod 644


Posted 2010-01-06T01:56:57.027

Reputation: 50 788

7The first two examples fail for directories with too many files: -bash: /bin/chmod: Argument list too long. The last command works with many files, but when using sudo one must be careful to put it before xargs instead of chmod: find /path/to/base/dir -type d -print0 | sudo xargs -0 chmod 755 – Agargara – 2017-11-07T01:06:15.890

2Also to note, these commands are inclusive of the base dir. So in the above example, dir will also be set to 755. – CenterOrbit – 2018-01-16T00:16:14.723

2chmod ... $(find /path/to/base/dir -type ...) fails for filenames with spaces in the name. – Dan Dascalescu – 2018-02-06T01:58:45.160

8I think the most correct (but not fastest) version with respect to spaces and symbols in filenames and number of files is find /path/to/base/dir -type d -exec chmod 755 {} \; (find /path/to/base/dir -type f -exec chmod 644 {} \;). – Peter K – 2018-02-21T11:49:44.640

Note that this only goes to the first layer it can read. You will have to execute it several times to get deeper into the directory tree. – Henk Poley – 2019-04-14T18:56:04.173


A common reason for this sort of thing is to set directories to 755 but files to 644. In this case there's a slightly quicker way than nik's find example:

chmod -R u+rwX,go+rX,go-w /path


  • -R = recursively;
  • u+rwX = Users can read, write and execute;
  • go+rX = group and others can read and execute;
  • go-w = group and others can't write

The important thing to note here is that uppercase X acts differently to lowercase x. In manual we can read:

The execute/search bits if the file is a directory or any of the execute/search bits are set in the original (unmodified) mode.

In other words, chmod u+X on a file won't set the execute bit; and g+X will only set it if it's already set for the user.


Posted 2010-01-06T01:56:57.027

Reputation: 8 816

6go+rX,go-w -> go=rX isn't it ? – Pierre de LESPINAY – 2014-09-22T14:24:01.213

chmod -R u+rwX,g+rwX,o+rX * made my life so much easier when running fedora which has a fit on permissions for serving documents. – Tiny Giant – 2015-05-04T18:57:27.670

5You can also use chmod u-x,u+X in combination, etc., to remove execute bits for files, but add them for directories. – w0rp – 2016-04-04T18:27:17.987

24This pattern won't fix the situation when someone has done chmod -R 777 since the +X option will not reset existing execute bits on files. Using -x will reset directories, and prevent descending into them. – Andrew Vit – 2012-08-07T04:57:58.743

But how does your command answer the OP's question: set different ACL depending on file / dir? Your command will set ACL regardless if it's a dir or a file – Ring Ø – 2012-10-27T17:44:56.673

3@ring0: I am not intending to answer the question literally as posed - nik has already done that perfectly well. I'm pointing out a cheaper solution for the most common case. And yes, you do get different permissions for files and directories with X, as explained in the comments. – bobince – 2012-10-28T01:05:05.883

5-R = recursively; u+rwX = Users can read, write and execute; go+rX = group and others can read and execute; go-w = group and others can't write – släcker – 2010-01-06T07:08:45.883


If you want to make sure the files are set to 644 and there are files in the path which have the execute flag, you will have to remove the execute flag first. +X doesn't remove the execute flag from files who already have it.


chmod -R ugo-x,u+rwX,go+rX,go-w path

Update: this appears to fail because the first change (ugo-x) makes the directory unexecutable, so all the files underneath it are not changed.


Posted 2010-01-06T01:56:57.027

Reputation: 149

1This works for me, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t. (Sure, if you did just chmod -R ugo-x path, that might be a problem. But the complete command will do the chmod u+rwX on each directory before it tries to descend into it.) However, I believe that chmod R u=rw,go=r,a+X path is sufficient – and it’s shorter. – Scott – 2014-07-08T00:25:59.903

I found this worked properly; there were no issues with entering directories – SomeoneSomewhereSupportsMonica – 2018-06-16T12:54:39.723


I decided to write a little script for this myself.

Recursive chmod script for dirs and/or files — Gist:

# author: Francis Byrne
# date: 2011/02/12
# Generic Script for recursively setting permissions for directories and files
# to defined or default permissions using chmod.
# Takes a path to recurse through and options for specifying directory and/or 
# file permissions.
# Outputs a list of affected directories and files.
# If no options are specified, it recursively resets all directory and file
# permissions to the default for most OSs (dirs: 755, files: 644).

# Usage message
  echo "Usage: $0 PATH -d DIRPERMS -f FILEPERMS"
  echo "Arguments:"
  echo "PATH: path to the root directory you wish to modify permissions for"
  echo "Options:"
  echo " -d DIRPERMS, directory permissions"
  echo " -f FILEPERMS, file permissions"
  exit 1

# Check if user entered arguments
if [ $# -lt 1 ] ; then

# Get options
while getopts d:f: opt
  case "$opt" in
    \?) usage;;

# Shift option index so that $1 now refers to the first argument
shift $(($OPTIND - 1))

# Default directory and file permissions, if not set on command line
if [ -z "$DIRPERMS" ] && [ -z "$FILEPERMS" ] ; then

# Set the root path to be the argument entered by the user

# Check if the root path is a valid directory
if [ ! -d $ROOT ] ; then
 echo "$ROOT does not exist or isn't a directory!" ; exit 1

# Recursively set directory/file permissions based on the permission variables
if [ -n "$DIRPERMS" ] ; then
  find $ROOT -type d -print0 | xargs -0 chmod -v $DIRPERMS

if [ -n "$FILEPERMS" ] ; then
  find $ROOT -type f -print0 | xargs -0 chmod -v $FILEPERMS

It basically does the recursive chmod but also provides a bit of flexibility for command line options (sets directory and/or file permissions, or exclude both it automatically resets everything to 755-644). It also checks for a few error scenarios.

I also wrote about it on my blog.


Posted 2010-01-06T01:56:57.027

Reputation: 49


To recursively give directories read&execute privileges:

find /path/to/base/dir -type d -exec chmod 755 {} \;

To recursively give files read privileges:

find /path/to/base/dir -type f -exec chmod 644 {} \;

Better late than never let me upgrade nik's answer on the side of correctness. My solution is slower, but it works with any number of files, with any symbols in filenames, and you can run it with sudo normally (but beware that it might discover different files with sudo).

Peter K

Posted 2010-01-06T01:56:57.027

Reputation: 249

This is a *downgrade* of nik’s answer.  Why do you believe that there is anything wrong with nik’s answer?

– Scott – 2018-10-09T23:06:53.930

@Scott, nik's answer fails with (vey) large number of files. – Peter K – 2018-10-25T14:54:40.960

I’m 99% sure that you’re mistaken.  Can you provide any evidence to support your claim? – Scott – 2018-10-25T23:56:40.130

Yes, it looks I'm wrong indeed. find ... + seems to break the line into multiple commands, nice catch! – Peter K – 2018-10-28T13:40:30.117


Try this python script; it requires no spawning of processes and does only two syscalls per file. Apart from an implementation in C, it will probably be the fastest way of doing it (I needed it to fix a filesystem of 15 million files which were all set to 777)

import os
for par, dirs, files in os.walk('.'):
    for d in dirs:
        os.chmod(par + '/' + d, 0o755)
    for f in files:
        os.chmod(par + '/' + f, 0o644)

In my case, a try/catch was required around the last chmod, since chmodding some special files failed.


Posted 2010-01-06T01:56:57.027

Reputation: 259


You can also use tree:

tree -faid /your_directory | xargs -L1 -I{} bash -c 'sudo chmod 755 "$1"' -- '{}'

and if you want to also view the folder add an echo

 tree -faid /your_directory | xargs -L1 -I{} bash -c 'sudo chmod 755 "$1" && echo$1' -- '{}'

Eduard Florinescu

Posted 2010-01-06T01:56:57.027

Reputation: 2 116

@Scott 1) You are right about +x I changed to 755; 2) 3) to solve this I put the placeholder in single quote like this '{}' – Eduard Florinescu – 2018-10-10T05:53:17.447

@Scott I agree this is not the best answer also is slow but will leave here for "didactic" purposes also the comments will explain further, also people can learn about xargs issues. Single quotes in filenames are themselves a problem for many commands and script that's why I listed all the files containing single quotes and removed them (the quotes I mean) – Eduard Florinescu – 2018-10-10T06:16:00.367

@Scott On my systems I searched for all the files that contained single quotes and replaced the single quotes – Eduard Florinescu – 2018-10-10T06:42:14.280

@Scott How would you fix the fact that xargs doesn't solve correctly the single quotes? – Eduard Florinescu – 2018-10-10T07:20:59.483

Let us continue this discussion in chat.

– Eduard Florinescu – 2018-10-10T07:26:11.667


You could use the following bash script as an example. Be sure to give it executable permissions (755). Simply use ./ for the current directory, or ./ <dir> to specify a different one.


if [ -e $1 ]; then
    if [ -d $1 ];then
        echo "No such directory: $1"

for f in $(ls -l $dir | awk '{print $8}'); do
    if [ -d $f ];then
        chmod 755 $f
        chmod 644 $f


Posted 2010-01-06T01:56:57.027

Reputation: 272

2Wow! So many problems! (1) If $1 is not null, but is not the name of a directory (e.g., is a typo), then dir gets set to . with no message. (2) $1 should be "$1" and $dir should be "$dir". (3) You don’t need to say "./"; "." is fine (and, strictly speaking, you don’t need quotes here). (4) This is not a recursive solution. (5) On my system, ls -l … | awk '{ print $8 }' gets the files’ modification times. You need { print $9 } to get the first word of the filename. And even then, (6) this does not handle filenames with white space. … – Scott – 2014-07-07T22:59:08.100

1… And, last but not least (∞) if this script is in the current directory, it will chmod itself to 644, thus making itself non-executable! – Scott – 2014-07-07T23:00:01.240