I am trying to update the timestamps of all folders in the cwd using this:

for file in `ls`; do touch $file; done

But it doesn't seem to work. Any ideas why?

6 Answers 6


All the answers so far (as well as your example in the question) assume that you want to touch everything in the directory, even though you said "touch all folders". If it turns out the directory contains files and folders and you only want to update the folders, you can use find:

$ find . -maxdepth 1 -mindepth 1 -type d -exec touch {} +

Or if your find implementation doesn't support the non-standard -mindepth/-maxdepth predicates:

$ find . ! -name . -prune -type d -exec touch {} +


$ touch -c -- */

Should work in most shells except that:

  • it will also touch symlinks to directories in addition to plain directories
  • it will omit hidden ones
  • if there's no directory or symlink to directory, it would create a file called * in shells other than csh, tcsh, zsh, fish or the Thompson shell (which would report an error instead). Here, we're using -c to work around it, though that could still touch a non-directory file called *.

With zsh, to touch directories only, including hidden ones:

touch -- *(D/)
  • What is the '{} \+' about? Oct 8, 2011 at 1:25
  • 3
    The {} \+ is special find syntax - read the man page for more. I think touch -c ./*/ would work as well.
    – jw013
    Oct 8, 2011 at 2:12
  • 2
    You should include -maxdepth 1 to the command, so that find doesn't recurse into subfolders. OP seems to want to touch only those folders in the cwd, not subfolders. Oct 8, 2011 at 2:53
  • 1
    @jw013 It would -- you keep attaching good ideas to other people's answers :) Oct 8, 2011 at 4:22
  • Why would you escape the + character? Are there shells that interpret it?
    – Witiko
    Aug 30, 2016 at 15:43


touch ./*

It avoids the unnecessary for loop which would spawn a new process for every single file and works for all file names, even ones with spaces or ones that look like options (like -t). The only time it wouldn't work is if you have no (non-dot) files in the directory in which case you would end up creating a file named *. To avoid that, for the specific case of touch most implementations have a -c option (also called --no-create in GNU versions) to not create nonexistent files, i.e.

touch -c ./*

See also the good references in jasonwryan's answer as well as this one.

  • 1
    What will happen if you have 1 million folders in the cwd? Oct 8, 2011 at 2:54
  • If you run into "argument list too long" type problems it's probably best to switch to "heavier" tools like find . -type d -maxdepth1 -print0 | xargs -0 touch, or MichaelMrozek's answer above.
    – jw013
    Oct 8, 2011 at 3:02

You shouldn't attempt to parse the output of ls.

Also, you should quote your "$file" to capture any whitespace. See http://www.grymoire.com/Unix/Quote.html

Something like this might achieve what you are after:

for file in *; do touch "$file"; done

See the first two Bash Pitfalls for a more thorough explanation.

  • 2
    Close but not quite. A touch ./* should work in most cases. There really is no need for the for loop since touch can take multiple files, and you need the ./ to handle files with names like --help properly. This is a good resource on the subject.
    – jw013
    Oct 8, 2011 at 0:32
  • Why does '*' work? Oct 8, 2011 at 0:33
  • @javamonkey79 It's shell globbing.
    – jw013
    Oct 8, 2011 at 0:35
  • 1
    @jw013 Excellent point: and thank you for the wheeler link.
    – jasonwryan
    Oct 8, 2011 at 0:48
  • Note that * does not capture files and directories whose name begins with a dot. One way to fix that is to enable the dotglob shell option via shopt -s dotglob.
    – Witiko
    Aug 30, 2016 at 15:49

Just in case you wanted to update the timestamps for all files/directories that descend from that directory try either (note my find here below is an alias for what some systems call gfind, i.e., the gnu version of find).

 find ./ -exec touch -am '{}' \;

Or, more efficiently,

 for f in **; do touch -am $f; done 

The -am means update both access and modification. Note you likely can't just do touch -am ** since you can't run an exec on a list that exceeds getconf ARG_MAX

find . -maxdepth 8 -mindepth 1 -type d -exec touch {} +

What are mindepth and maxdepth levels?

maxdepth levels : Descend at most levels (a non-negative integer) levels of directories below the starting-points. -maxdepth 0 means only apply the tests and actions to the starting-points themselves.

mindepth levels : Do not apply any tests or actions at levels less than levels (a non-negative integer). -mindepth 1 means process all files except the starting-points.

Generally, we don't have directories with depth more than 8. Hence is the above command, I have kept the maxdepth as 8.

for file in `find .`; do touch $file; done

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