A symbolic link, also known as a symlink or soft link, is a special type of file that points to another file or directory.
In this guide, we will cover how to use the
ln command to create symbolic links.
There are two types of links in Linux/UNIX systems:
- Hard links. You can think a hard link as an additional name for an existing file. Hard links are associating two or more file names with the same inode. You can create one or more hard links for a single file. Hard links cannot be created for directories and files on a different filesystem or partition.
- Soft links. A soft link is something like a shortcut in Windows. It is an indirect pointer to a file or directory. Unlike a hard link, a symbolic link can point to a file or a directory on a different filesystem or partition.
How to Use the
ln is a command-line utility for creating links between files. By default, the
ln command creates hard links. To create a symbolic link use, the
ln command syntax for creating symbolic links is as follows:
ln -s [OPTIONS] FILE LINK
- If both the
lnwill create a link from the file specified as the first argument (
FILE) to the file specified as the second argument (
- If only one file is given as an argument or the second argument is a dot (
lnwill create a link to that file in the current working directory. The name of the symlink will be the same as the name of the file it points to.
By default, on success,
ln doesn’t produce any output and returns zero.
Creating Symlink To a File
To create a symbolic link to a given file, open your terminal and type:
ln -s source_file symbolic_link
source_file with the name of the existing file for which you want to create the symbolic link and
symbolic_link with the name of the symbolic link.
symbolic_link parameter is optional. If you do not specify the symbolic link, the
lncommand will create a new link in your current directory:
In the following example, we are creating a symbolic link named
my_link.txt to a file named
ln -s my_file.txt my_link.txt
To verify that the symlink was successfully created, use the
ls -l my_link.txt
The output will look something like this:
lrwxrwxrwx 1 linuxhowto users 4 Nov 2 23:03 my_link.txt -> my_file.txt
l character is a file type flag that represents a symbolic link. The
-> symbol shows the file the symlink points to.
Creating Symlinks To a Directory
The command for creating a symbolic link to a directory is the same as when creating a symbolic link to a file. Specify the directory name as the first parameter and the symlink as the second parameter.
For example, if you want to create a symbolic link from the
/mnt/my_drive/movies directory to the
~/my_movies directory you would run:
ln -s /mnt/my_drive/movies ~/my_movies
If you try to create a symbolic link that already exists, the
ln command will print an error message.
ln -s my_file.txt my_link.txt ln: failed to create symbolic link 'my_link.txt': File exists
To overwrite the destination path of the symlink, use the
ln -sf my_file.txt my_link.txt
To delete/remove symbolic links use either the
The syntax of the
unlink is very simple:
Removing a symbolic link using the
rm command is the same as when removing a file:
No matter which command you use, when removing a symbolic link not append the
/ trailing slash at the end of its name.
If you delete or move the source file to a different location, the symbolic file will be left dangling (broken) and should be removed.
To create a symbolic link is Linux use the
ln command with the
For more information about the
ln command, visit the ln man page or type
man ln in your terminal.
If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to leave a comment.