I accidentally renamed the directory /usr into /usr_bak.

I want to change it back, so I append the path /usr_bak/bin to $PATH to allow the system to find the command sudo.

But now sudo mv /usr_bak /usr gives me the error:

sudo: error while loading shared libraries: libsudo_util.so.0: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

Is there a way to rename the /usr_bak as /usr besides reinstalling the system?

  • 2
    Which OS is this? I wonder how sudo even got to library stage, it's usually in /usr/bin/ and should have failed with a command-not-found error. Also, do you have a root password set?
    – muru
    Mar 19, 2018 at 3:24
  • 3
    @muru It's Ubuntu. You are right, I did get the error about not found before so I appended the new path /usr_bak/bin to $PATH and now I get the error in my post here...
    – Yves
    Mar 19, 2018 at 3:27
  • 2
    @user1717828 it's complicated. I have to compile a project, developed on Ubuntu 16.04, on Ubuntu 17.10. So I'm thinking if I can simply copy the /usr of Ubuntu 16.04 to overwrite the /usr of Ubuntu 17.10...
    – Yves
    Mar 19, 2018 at 17:55
  • 6
    Have you considered using a VM to compile the project instead of such drastic changes?
    – Kevin
    Mar 19, 2018 at 23:50
  • 3
    You can run virtualbox in headless mode. It may be easiest to set up a guest on another machine, or get a pre-configured one.
    – Kevin
    Mar 20, 2018 at 1:47

5 Answers 5


Since you have set a password for root, use su and busybox, installed by default in Ubuntu. All of su's required libraries are in /lib. Busybox is a collection of utilities that's statically linked, so missing libraries shouldn't be a problem. Do:

su -c '/bin/busybox mv /usr_bak /usr'

(While Busybox itself also has a su applet, the /bin/busybox binary is not setuid and so doesn't work unless ran as root.)

If you don't have a root password, you could probably use Gilles' solution here using LD_LIBRARY_PATH, or(Gilles says this won't work with setuid binaries like sudo) reboot and edit the GRUB menu to boot with init=/bin/busybox as a kernel parameter and move the folder back.

  • 77
    Now, don't accidentally rename /lib.
    – sleblanc
    Mar 19, 2018 at 12:40
  • 5
    LD_LIBRARY_PATH wouldn't help to run sudo since sudo is setuid. If its libraries aren't in the right place, sudo won't work until root repairs it. Mar 19, 2018 at 21:43
  • 3
    @Yves historical note: old flavors of Unix (that are much much older than Linux) included a small collection of statically-linked binaries in /sbin for precisely that kind of scenario: "I'm doing some activity where runtime libraries will be juggled around but need to still manipulate files." Basically the same approach before Busybox was invented. (The number of commands available in this fashion was very limited, because those statically linked binaries gobble up diskspace.)
    – Ti Strga
    Mar 19, 2018 at 22:30
  • 8
    @Yves if you renamed /lib, then you'd probably have to reboot to init=/bin/busybox
    – muru
    Mar 19, 2018 at 23:54
  • 4
    @Yves: Boot from a USB stick, with a live distro that can mount your filesystems, and you're all set to fix anything. Even downloading replacement files from package mirrors if you deleted something. Mar 20, 2018 at 22:55

In addition to muru's answer:

  • you could have used some rescue boot USB key to repair your system; e.g. if your system is some Debian or Ubuntu, boot the installation USB key in rescue mode, and do the appropriate mount and mv and umount.

  • to be able to repair more easily such mistakes, I generally also install a static shell with several builtin commands (notably with some cp, rm, mv-like builtins) such as sash (it is packaged in Debian & Ubuntu, and also available as sash-3.8.tar.gz in source form) and boot with init=/bin/sash passed to Grub.

PS: sash is slightly buggy, and not entirely Posix compliant, but still very useful.

  • Could you please explain how to install a static shell with several builtin commands? Is there some manual?
    – Yves
    Mar 19, 2018 at 17:59
  • 1
    On Debian or Ubuntu: apt-get install sash. But you could also download sash-3.8.tar.gz and compile it. Mar 19, 2018 at 18:00
  • I keep a liveiso on the hdd with a custom grub entry for problems like this. No need to get complicated, just boot a live os and manipulate files freely :) Mar 22, 2018 at 8:44

I think the best safest way is to reboot using a USB, CD or DVD booted OS (Debian, Ubuntu, Suse, etc). Then mount the drive containing the problems and do the rename.

Safer than booting into a minefield with /usr or /lib effectively missing.

  • 1
    You can boot an ISO directly from Grub/HDD no need for USB/DVD etc. Pretty nifty trick grub has call loopback. Mar 22, 2018 at 8:47

I ran into a similar problem where I renamed /usr/bin to /usr/bin_bkp for some test and then I wasn't able to rename (as the command didn't find the sudo in the standard directory which is /usr/bin) and then I went to the /usr/bin_bkp directory manually (using File manager) and most of the functions (including the rename) on the right click are disabled.

Then I tried the following command and it fixed the issue

$/usr/bin_bkp/sudo mv /usr/bin_bkp/ /usr/bin/

I invoked the sudo from the current path and it worked, now everything's back to normal.

OS: Xubuntu 14.04


I can't try this right now (and am not sure I'd want to), but it seems like it ought to work to create yourself a new "/usr" as a hard link (not a soft link) to your "/usr_bak, then delete the "/usr_bak"

ln /usr_bak /usr
rm /usr_bak

The hard link created by "ln" (with no "-s" argument) in the file system should make both the usr and usr_bak directories equally valid links to the directories in question. "rm" just removes the one link you asked it to remove, not both of them. Since there's still a valid link to the contents, they should remain accessible through the remaining link at "/usr".

  • 6
    I was under the impression that Linux (or at least Ubuntu) does not allow hard links to directories. E.g., askubuntu.com/questions/210741/… Mar 20, 2018 at 21:03
  • 4
    @Chris: Right, Linux does not allow directory hardlinks (other than . and .., so the link count on a directory tells you the number of first-level subdirs). Also, rm doesn't work on directories, you'd have to use rmdir. (ln and rm work on symlinks to directories, but we're talking about an actual directory). Also, this doesn't solve the problem, because it requires root just like mv, because of the permissions on /. If you could run this, you could run mv instead like a normal person. Mar 20, 2018 at 22:59
  • 2
    Hardlinks to directories are not supported on most (all?) Unices because it's too difficult for software doing a recursive file system crawl to detect infinite loops. It's possible if the software keeps track of all inodes visited and it's crawling an inode aware filesystem (i.e. not FAT32/NTFS), but checking for symbolic links and not traversing them is much easier. All that's needed is a quick call to lstat(2) to check file type.
    – penguin359
    Mar 21, 2018 at 5:29
  • 2
    @Pryftan, my ln(1) on Debian says this for the the -d/-F/--directory option: "allow the superuser to attempt to hard link directories (note: will probably fail due to system restrictions, even for the superuser)". So you're free to try, but your filesystem probably won't let you. Mar 21, 2018 at 10:35
  • 1
    @TobySpeight Another thought: see also symlink(7) which says: Hard links may not refer to directories (to prevent the possibility of loops within the filesystem tree, which would confuse many programs) and may not refer to files on different filesystems (because inode numbers are not unique across filesystems). This makes me think that the hard link attempt might actually be the way of wording something else that happens namely that the function is called but it fails exactly because it is a directory. (The filesystem reference is what I was thinking of in another comment)
    – Pryftan
    Mar 24, 2018 at 18:14

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