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I was doing a mass recursive change of permissions of some files that I had migrated to a unix system. I changed them to ug+rw, but then I found that I could not traverse subdirectories. I looked at the man page for chmod and didn't see any explanation for excluding directories, so I googled a little and found that people used find to recursively change the permissions on directories to 'execute' for user and group. I did that and then I could look into them.

But it seemed to me that I should be able to be able to do this find chmod -- to recursively change the files to read/write but not make the directories untraversable. Have I done this the 'right' way or is there a simpler way to do it?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The better solution should be

chmod -R ug=rwX,o=rX /path

where the capital X means: set execute bit if

the file is a directory or already has execute permission for some user

(quoted from chmod man page).

Or also, if you want to use find

find /path \( -type f -exec chmod ug=rw,o=r   {} + \) -o \
           \( -type d -exec chmod ug=rwx,o=rx {} + \)
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I used the wide open for everyone version of this command for my USB hard drive: chmod -v -R ugo=rwX /path Thanks! – The Dude Sep 10 '14 at 14:08

Using find is the 'right' way, and the only programmatic way, although there are variations:

find . -type f -exec chmod ug+rw {} +  # "+" may not be on all systems


find . -type f -print0 | xargs -r0 chmod ug+rw  # similar to the -exec + functionality

or the slowest:

find . -type f -exec chmod ug+rw {} \;  # in case xargs is not installed

Each of these selects a file (not directory, not symlink) and applies the chmod command on it. The first two reduce the number of calls to chmod by appending the file to the end of an internal command line each time until a maximum is reached (often 10), then calls the command and starts rebuilding a new command. The last statement spawns a new process for each file, so it is less efficient.

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