So let's say I have a symbolic link of a file in my home directory to another file on a different partition. How would I find the target location of the linked file? By this, I mean, let's say I have file2 in /home/user/; but it's a symbolic link to another file1. How would I find file1 without manually having to go through each partition/directory to find the file?

  • 2
    Please expand on "original file". What if file1 is a symlink to file0 ? Do you want to find the last target of your symlink (file0) or just the next one (file1) ? Nov 12, 2014 at 20:30
  • Drag and drop the link to firefox. Firefox will show the original file address as URL.
    – Guest
    Feb 11, 2020 at 7:03

5 Answers 5


Use readlink:

readlink -f /path/file

( last target of your symlink if there's more than one level )

If you just want the next level of symbolic link, use:

readlink /path/file

You can also use realpath on modern systems with GNU coreutils (e.g. Linux), FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD or DragonFly:

realpath /path/file

which is similar to readlink -f.

  • im getting no output
    – k-Rocker
    Nov 12, 2014 at 20:09
  • You should have one ! Error or a path Nov 12, 2014 at 20:11
  • no nothing: user@shell a5$ readlink -f ./student1.java and i get user@shell a5$
    – k-Rocker
    Nov 12, 2014 at 20:13
  • 4
    FWIW readlink /path/file will return the next target. Nov 12, 2014 at 20:43
  • 1
    I think nowadays realpath(1) is considered the right way; usage is v similar to readlink..
    – kaiwan
    Dec 4, 2019 at 8:27


ls -l bin


lrwxrwxrwx 1 az az 14 Ноя 12 22:13 bin -> ../Gdrive/bin/


file bin


bin: symbolic link to `../Gdrive/bin/' 


stat bin


File: «bin» -> «../Gdrive/bin/»
  • ok well im trying to make a script, so how would i use these? im new to linux.
    – k-Rocker
    Nov 12, 2014 at 20:21
  • 2
    @k-Rocker If you explain what you intend to do it would be better.
    – Costas
    Nov 12, 2014 at 20:29

Simplest way: cd to where the symbolic link is located and do ls -l to list the details of the files.

The part to the right of -> after the symbolic link is the destination to which it is pointing.


lrwxrwxrwx 1 userName groupName 22 Jan 17 13:29 Link to temp.txt -> /home/user/temp.txt

Here we have "Link to temp.txt" that points to (->) "/home/user/temp.txt".

But, like @Gilles Quenot points out, you can also just do readlink -f /path/to/symbolic_link


Expanding on Costas

Suppose you have

ln -s test.txt sym_link_1.txt
ls -l sym_link_1.txt
lrwxrwxrwx. 1 a1 g1 8 Jan  7 16:59 sym_link_1.txt -> test.txt

In a script you can do (use backticks)

ln -s `readlink sym_link_1.txt` sym_link_2.txt

Then you have

ls -l sym_link_*.txt
lrwxrwxrwx. 1 a1 g1 8 Jan  7 16:59 sym_link_1.txt -> test.txt
lrwxrwxrwx. 1 a1 g1 8 Jan  7 17:01 sym_link_2.txt -> test.txt

Another method (which are not answered previously) to find link files is to use the below command,

file -h <path_to_dir>/* | grep link


file -h /home/prateek/* | grep link


/home/prateek/Music: symbolic link to /media/prateek/HD-E1/Music

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