Move Files and Directories using Linux mv Command

Moving files and directories in Linux is very easy for most Linux GUI users because using file manager you can easily do the task. But in case you are not CLI based Linux distro instead of Linux GUI, then you must use mv commands to move files or directories.

In this tutorial, we will explain how to move files and directories using the mv command in the Linux terminal.

The mv command in Linux terminal

The mv command or move command is used for moving files and directories from one destination to other. However, using the same command you can also rename the file or directory while moving them to another destination. So, the syntax for the mv command is as follows:


ex. mv -f /home/linux/download/data.pdf /home/linux/document/data.pdf

As you can see the example of an mv syntax here is clearly defined the option, source of the file or directory and the destination where needs to be moved the file or directory.

mv command in linux

Here you can use different options to complete the moving task, however, the SOURCE can be one, or more files or directories and the DESTINATION can be a single directory, where you going to put the source file(s).

Move (mv) command options

–backupmake a backup of each existing destination file
-blike –backup but does not accept an argument
-f, –forcedo not prompt before overwriting
-I, –interactiveprompt before overwriting
-n, –no-clobberdo not overwrite an existing file
-s, –suffixoverride the usual backup suffix
-t, –target-directorymove all SOURCE arguments into DIRECTORY
-T, –no-target-directorytreat DEST as a normal file
-u, –updatemove only when the SOURCE file is newer than the destination file or when the destination file is missing
-v, –verboseexplain what is being done
-z, –contextset SELinux security context of the destination file to default type

Need more details about the mv command’s options, read GNU software manuals.  

How to use the mv command in the Linux terminal

Above we have mentioned the mv syntax and related options, using one of these options you can complete the files or directories moving task. In case you want to take backup while moving or want to rename files or directories, you can do it easily.

So, for some examples, we are going to see how you can interpret the mv command in Linux.

Moving files and directory one directory to another

As we have already mentioned, you can move multiple files at a time using the mv command in the Linux terminal, and for that, you must interpret correct arguments.

mv /tmp

Here we have mentioned the, and it could be any type of file, we have just taken an example. After the file needs to be a space then the destination directory name, as you can see /tmp for an example.

Similarly, you can move a directory inside another directory using the following command.

mv dir1 dir2

Here dir1 is the directory we are moving inside the dir2 directory. If the dir2 directory doesn’t exist then the dir1 directory will be renamed as dir2.

Rename file name or directory name usnig mv command

Using the mv command we can rename the directory name and even file name, for that use the following commands:

mv movie.mp4 movie.mkv

Here the source file is the movie.mp4 and using the mv command we can rename the file. For example, we renamed the file from the movie.mp4 to the movie.mkv and you can do the same.

Similarly, you can do the same with directories. Make sure, when you rename the directory or file that doesn’t exist already.

mv dir1 dir2

Checkout ls command for list files and directories.

Moving Multiple Files and Directories

You can move multiple files, and you have to mention the source files names and then the space and the destination directory.

mv file2.pdf /tmp

If you want to move a specific file type files, then you can add a wild-card pattern to move all the specific files to another directory.

mv *.zip /documents


The mv command in Linux is useful for moving files and directories and while renaming the same. And various options of this command also can be useful for certain conditions. So, if you want to know more about it, then execute mv –help in your Linux terminal.

For new Linux users command line could be hard, but you can also move files using GUI file manager in any Linux distribution.

Pronay Sarkar

I am Pronay Sarkar, I love to write about tech and stuff. I am a college graduate from the University of Delhi.

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