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man pages section 1: User Commands

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Updated: Wednesday, February 9, 2022



mv - move files


/usr/bin/mv [-finu] source target_file
/usr/bin/mv [-finu] source... target_dir
/usr/xpg4/bin/mv [-finu] source target_file
/usr/xpg4/bin/mv [-finu] source... target_dir


In the first synopsis form, the mv utility moves the file named by the source operand to the destination specified by the target_file. source and target_file can not have the same name. If target_file does not exist, mv creates a file named target_file. If target_file exists, its contents are overwritten. This first synopsis form is assumed when the final operand does not name an existing directory.

In the second synopsis form, mv moves each file named by a source operand to a destination file in the existing directory named by the target_dir operand. The destination path for each source is the concatenation of the target directory, a single slash character (/), and the last path name component of the source. This second form is assumed when the final operand names an existing directory.

If mv determines that the mode of target_file forbids writing, it prints the mode (see chmod(2)), ask for a response, and read the standard input for one line. If the response is affirmative, the mv occurs, if permissible; otherwise, the command exits. Notice that the mode displayed can not fully represent the access permission if target is associated with an ACL. When the parent directory of source is writable and has the sticky bit set, one or more of the following conditions must be true:

  • the user must own the file

  • the user must own the directory

  • the file must be writable by the user

  • the user must be a privileged user

If source is a file and target_file is a link to another file with links, the other links remain and target_file becomes a new file.

If source and target_file/target_dir are on different file systems, mv copies the source and deletes the original. Any hard links to other files are lost. mv attempts to duplicate the source file characteristics to the target, that is, the owner and group id, permission modes, modification and access times, ACLs, and extended attributes, if applicable. For symbolic links, mv preserves only the owner and group of the link itself.

If unable to preserve owner and group id, mv clears S_ISUID and S_ISGID bits in the target. mv prints a diagnostic message to stderr if unable to clear these bits, though the exit code is not affected. mv might be unable to preserve extended attributes if the target file system does not have extended attribute support. /usr/xpg4/bin/mv prints a diagnostic message to stderr for all other failed attempts to duplicate file characteristics. The exit code is not affected.

In order to preserve the source file characteristics, users must have the appropriate file access permissions. This includes having the {PRIV_FILE_CHOWN}, {PRIV_FILE_OWNER}, and {PRIV_FILE_SETID} privileges; or having the same owner id as the destination file.


The following options are supported:


mv moves the file(s) without prompting even if it is writing over an existing target. Note that this is the default if the standard input is not a terminal.


mv prompts for confirmation whenever the move would overwrite an existing target. This is done regardless of whether the input is coming from a terminal. If the prompt for confirmation fails, this is equivalent to the user answering in the negative. An affirmative answer means that the move should proceed. Any other answer prevents mv from overwriting target.


mv does not overwrite an existing target.


mv moves the file only when the target is older than the source file or when the target is missing.


Specifying both the –f and the –i options is not considered an error. The –f option overrides the –i, –n, and –u options. The –i option overrides the –n and –u options. The –n option overrides the –u option.


Specifying both the –f and the –i options is not considered an error. The last option specified determines the behavior of mv.


The following operands are supported:


A path name of a file or directory to be moved.


A new path name for the file or directory being moved.


A path name of an existing directory into which to move the input files.

Environment Variables

See environ(7) for descriptions of the following environment variables that affect the execution of mv: LANG, LC_ALL, LC_COLLATE, LC_CTYPE, LC_MESSAGES, and NLSPATH.

Affirmative responses are processed using the extended regular expression defined for the yesexpr keyword in the LC_MESSAGES category of the user's locale. The locale specified in the LC_COLLATE category defines the behavior of ranges, equivalence classes, and multi-character collating elements used in the expression defined for yesexpr. The locale specified in LC_CTYPE determines the locale for interpretation of sequences of bytes of text data a characters, the behavior of character classes used in the expression defined for the yesexpr. See locale(7).

Exit Status

The following exit values are returned:


All input files were moved successfully.


An error occurred.


See attributes(7) for descriptions of the following attributes:


Interface Stability


Interface Stability

See Also

cp(1), cpio(1), ln(1), rm(1), chmod(2), attributes(7), environ(7), fsattr(7), privileges(7), standards(7)


A -- permits the user to mark explicitly the end of any command line options, allowing mv to recognize filename arguments that begin with a -. As an aid to BSD migration, mv accepts - as a synonym for --. This migration aid might disappear in a future release.


Support for the –n and –u options was added to the mv command in Oracle Solaris 11.4.30.

The /usr/xpg4/bin/mv command was added in the Solaris 2.5 release.

The mv command, with support for the –f and –i options, has been present in all Sun and Oracle releases of Solaris.