How can I tell if two files are hard-linked from the command line? e.g. something link this:

$ ls
fileA fileB fileC

$ is-hardlinked fileA fileB

$ is-hardlinked fileA fileC

On most filesystems¹, a file is uniquely determined by its inode number, so all you need to check is whether the two files have the same inode number and are on the same filesystem.

Ash, ksh, bash and zsh have a construct that does the check for you: the file equality operator -ef.

[ fileA -ef fileB ] && ! [ fileA -ef fileC ]

For more advanced cases, ls -i /path/to/file lists a file's inode number. df -P /path/to/file shows what filesystem the file is on (if two files are in the same directory, they're on the same filesystem). If your system has the stat command, it can probably show the inode and filesystem numbers (stat varies from system to system, check your documentation). If you want a quick glance of hard links inside a directory, try ls -i | sort (possibly piped to awk).

¹ All native unix filesystems, and a few others such as NTFS, but possibly not exotic cases like CramFS.

  • And definitely not on anything FAT-based, where it would be detected as a "cross-linked" file. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Nov 8 '11 at 0:16
  • 6
    Note that fileA -ef fileB also returns 0 (success) if fileA is a symlink to fileB, or vice versa, or they both link to the same file. – janmoesen Nov 8 '11 at 16:50
  • how do you actually run the command you suggested? I tried [ .bashrc -ef .bash/.bashrc ] and variations of this but it didn't really work. – Charlie Parker Jun 15 '14 at 4:33
  • @CharlieParker [ .bashrc -ef .bash/.bashrc ] is correct. Without context, of course, I have no idea why it “didn't really work” — you could be comparing the wrong files, you could be not checking the outcome correctly, you could be using a shell without -ef, ... – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jun 15 '14 at 10:49
  • 3
    @CharlieParker The command is actually [ and is a synonym of test. But man [ or man test will give you the man page of the external command, whereas just about every shell out there has a built-in command with slightly different options, so you need to look this one up in your shell's manual. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jun 15 '14 at 18:33
function is-hardlinked() {
    [ "`stat -c '%i' $1`" != "`stat -c '%i' $2`" ] && r=no
    echo $r
  • 7
    Note that this can be a false positive if the two files are on different filesystems but happen to have the same inode. You need to test the device number as well (stat -c %d). And if you're on Linux (given your stat command), your shell has the [ fileA -ef fileB ] to do all this directly. Also, your command gratuitously breaks with file names containing whitespace or \[?*, or begins with -: always put double quotes around command susbtitutions ("$(stat -c %i -- "$1")"). – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 29 '13 at 15:41
  • 2
    Why would you use a bunch of cumbersome but portable constructs, and then the abjectly non-portable function keyword with a function name that (on account of containing a dash) violates POSIX conventions on allowed names? – Charles Duffy May 19 '17 at 22:25
  • You forgot to quote your $1 and $2. You might also want to use the $() syntax instead of backticks because the brackets make it clear where the command begins and where it ends and nesting is simpler. – josch Dec 30 '18 at 16:08

As the first poster suggest, you can write a script based on something like this on Linux:

stat -c '%i' fileA fileB fileC
  • 5
    This isn't enough: you'll get the same number for the two files if are on different filesystems but happen to have the same inode. You need to test the device number as well (stat -c %d). And if you're on Linux (given your stat command), your shell has the [ fileA -ef fileB ] to do all this directly. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Jan 29 '13 at 15:42

With GNU find(1) version 4.2.11 or newer you can also use this:

if [ "yes" = "$(find fileA -samefile fileB -exec echo yes \;)" ]; then
    echo yes
    echo no

If fileA is the same file as fileB then find will print "yes" and the condition becomes true.

In contrast to using the file equality operator -ef this will spawn a new process.


You can do this very simply with the built-in bash operator -ef:

[[ file1 -ef file2 ]] && echo Same

If the condition evaluates to true (file1 and file2 are the same), then it prints "Same". Otherwise, nothing is output.

  • 1
    This test will also be true if file1 is a symbolic link to file2, or the other way around. I don't really see a difference between this and the accepted answer (which has the same issue). – Kusalananda Jan 9 at 23:13
  • @kusalananda Nope, docs specifically say it compares inode numbers: gnu.org/software/bash/manual/html_node/… – Bill Jan 9 at 23:16
  • 1
    Sure, but it resolves symbolic links first. I suggest you test it. – Kusalananda Jan 10 at 5:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.