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The chown command is used on Unix-like systems to change the owner of a file. In most implementations, it can only be executed by the superuser. Unprivileged (regular) users who wish to change the group of a file that they own may use chgrp.



The general syntax for the chown command is:

chown [-R] [[user]][:group] target1 [[target2 ..]]
  • The optional user parameter indicates the new user who should take ownership of the targets.
  • The optional group parameter (which must be prefixed with a colon, :) indicates the group with which the targets should be associated.
  • The target parameters indicate the files or directories for which the user and/or group will be changed.
  • A widely supported option is -R which specifies a recursive change for any named target directory and files within.


  • One of either user or group must be specified. The chown command will not execute properly without at least one of those parameters.
  • The user and group parameters can be either symbolic names or identifiers (i.e. a User ID or Group ID).

Usage examples

  • Note, these commands ought to be run as root
# chown root /var/run/
  • Change the owner of /var/run/ to 'root' (the standard name for the Superuser).
# chown rob:developers strace.log
  • Change the owner of strace.log to 'rob' and the group identifier to 'developers'.
# chown nobody:nogroup /tmp /var/tmp
  • Change the owner of /tmp and /var/tmp to ‘nobody’ (not a good idea)
  • Change the group of /tmp and /var/tmp to ‘nogroup’
# chown :512 /home
  • Change the group identifier of /home to 512 (regardless of whether a group name is associated with the identifier 512 or not).
# chown -R us base
  • Change the ownership of base to the user us and make it recursive (-R)

See also

External links


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