I've always been running chmod/chown commands as a sudo user. But today I wondered if I don't use sudo, what permissions do I need to actually execute chmod/chown command on a folder/file? I've tried googling the question, but nothing popped up that answers specifically this question.

1 Answer 1


On Linux:

chown: "Only a privileged process (Linux: one with the CAP_CHOWN capability) may change the owner of a file." (Source: chown(2)) The easy way to be such a process is to be run by root. See explain_chown for help finding out why a particular chown failed. See capabilities for ways to give processes that capability other than running as root.

chmod: The file's owner or root can change permissions, plus other processes with the CAP_FOWNER capability. (Source)

chgrp: "The owner of a file may change the group of the file to any group of which that owner is a member. A privileged process (Linux: with CAP_CHOWN) may change the group arbitrarily." (chown(2))

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    Linux started to implement capabilities around 2004, but the related POSIX proposal was withdrawn in 1997 already. If you are on a modern OS like Solaris, there is PRIV_FILE_CHOWN to chown all local files and PRIV_FILE_CHOWN_SELFto chown local files owned by you. BTW: An OS that permits to chown remote files from NFS can be seen as a secutiry risk. On HP-UX, any regular user can chown his files and this is seen as a secutrity risk as well.
    – schily
    Sep 14, 2015 at 10:17
  • P.S. the capability POSIX proposal was withdrawn because it only handles the privileges between a regular user and the historical root user. Solaris has twice as many fine grained privileges as Linux and permits to remove privileges like e.g. fork() and exec().
    – schily
    Sep 14, 2015 at 10:20
  • Note that on Linux, when not privileged, you can chown the files you own, but only the gid part (to any of the groups you're a member of). I can do chown stephane:other-group myfile (or chown :other-group) as long as I'm member of other-group. Sep 14, 2015 at 14:33
  • What about chgrp command? Can you please add explanation for that? Sep 14, 2015 at 15:33
  • @StéphaneChazelas, thanks, based on your answer I assume that an owner can successfuly run chgrp without being privileged user? Sep 14, 2015 at 15:44

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