Section (1) rename

Linux manual pages Section 1  


rename — rename files


rename [options] expression replacement file...


rename will rename the specified files by replacing the first occurrence of expression in their name by replacement.


−s, −−symlink

Do not rename a symlink but its target.

−v, −−verbose

Show which files were renamed, if any.

−n, −−no−act

Do not make any changes; add −−verbose to see what would be made.

−o, −−no−overwrite

Do not overwrite existing files. When −−symlink is active, do not overwrite symlinks pointing to existing targets.

−i, −−interactive

Ask before overwriting existing files.

−V, −−version

Display version information and exit.

−h, −−help

Display help text and exit.


Given the files foo1, ..., foo9, foo10, ..., foo278, the commands

rename foo foo00 foo?
rename foo foo0 foo??

will turn them into foo001, ..., foo009, foo010, ..., foo278. And

rename .htm .html *.htm

will fix the extension of your html files. Provide an empty string for shortening:

rename _zsingle_quotesz__with_long_name_zsingle_quotesz_ _zsingle_quotesz__zsingle_quotesz_ file_with_long_name.*

will remove the substring in the filenames.


The renaming has no safeguards by default or without any one of the options −−no−overwrite, −−interactive or −−no−act. If the user has permission to rewrite file names, the command will perform the action without any questions. For example, the result can be quite drastic when the command is run as root in the /lib directory. Always make a backup before running the command, unless you truly know what you are doing.


As most standard utilities rename can be used with a terminal device (tty in short) in canonical mode, where the line is buffered by the tty and you press ENTER to validate the user input. If you put your tty in cbreak mode however, rename requires only a single key press to answer the prompt. To set cbreak mode, run for example:

sh -c _zsingle_quotesz_stty -icanon min 1; $0 [email protected]; stty icanon_zsingle_quotesz_ rename -i from to files



all requested rename operations were successful


all rename operations failed


some rename operations failed


nothing was renamed


unanticipated error occurred




The rename command is part of the util-linux package and is available from

  Written by Andries E. Brouwer (
Placed in the public domain

Section (2) rename

Linux manual pages Section 2  


rename, renameat, renameat2 — change the name or location of a file


#include <stdio.h>
int rename( const char *oldpath,
  const char *newpath);
#include <fcntl.h>            /* Definition of AT_* constants */
#include <stdio.h>
int renameat( int olddirfd,
  const char *oldpath,
  int newdirfd,
  const char *newpath);
int renameat2( int olddirfd,
  const char *oldpath,
  int newdirfd,
  const char *newpath,
  unsigned int flags);
[Note] Note
Feature Test Macro Requirements for glibc (see feature_test_macros(7)):
Since glibc 2.10:
_POSIX_C_SOURCE >= 200809L
Before glibc 2.10:


rename() renames a file, moving it between directories if required. Any other hard links to the file (as created using link(2)) are unaffected. Open file descriptors for oldpath are also unaffected.

Various restrictions determine whether or not the rename operation succeeds: see ERRORS below.

If newpath already exists, it will be atomically replaced, so that there is no point at which another process attempting to access newpath will find it missing. However, there will probably be a window in which both oldpath and newpath refer to the file being renamed.

If oldpath and newpath are existing hard links referring to the same file, then rename() does nothing, and returns a success status.

If newpath exists but the operation fails for some reason, rename() guarantees to leave an instance of newpath in place.

oldpath can specify a directory. In this case, newpath must either not exist, or it must specify an empty directory.

If oldpath refers to a symbolic link, the link is renamed; if newpath refers to a symbolic link, the link will be overwritten.


The renameat() system call operates in exactly the same way as rename(), except for the differences described here.

If the pathname given in oldpath is relative, then it is interpreted relative to the directory referred to by the file descriptor olddirfd (rather than relative to the current working directory of the calling process, as is done by rename() for a relative pathname).

If oldpath is relative and olddirfd is the special value AT_FDCWD, then oldpath is interpreted relative to the current working directory of the calling process (like rename()).

If oldpath is absolute, then olddirfd is ignored.

The interpretation of newpath is as for oldpath, except that a relative pathname is interpreted relative to the directory referred to by the file descriptor newdirfd.

See openat(2) for an explanation of the need for renameat().


renameat2() has an additional flags argument. A renameat2() call with a zero flags argument is equivalent to renameat().

The flags argument is a bit mask consisting of zero or more of the following flags:


Atomically exchange oldpath and newpath. Both pathnames must exist but may be of different types (e.g., one could be a non-empty directory and the other a symbolic link).


Don_zsingle_quotesz_t overwrite newpath of the rename. Return an error if newpath already exists.

RENAME_NOREPLACE can_zsingle_quotesz_t be employed together with RENAME_EXCHANGE.

RENAME_NOREPLACE requires support from the underlying filesystem. Support for various filesystems was added as follows:

  • ext4 (Linux 3.15);

  • btrfs, shmem, and cifs (Linux 3.17);

  • xfs (Linux 4.0);

  • Support for many other filesystems was added in Linux 4.9, including etx2, minix, reiserfs, jfs, vfat, and bpf.

RENAME_WHITEOUT (since Linux 3.18)

This operation makes sense only for overlay/union filesystem implementations.

Specifying RENAME_WHITEOUT creates a whiteout object at the source of the rename at the same time as performing the rename. The whole operation is atomic, so that if the rename succeeds then the whiteout will also have been created.

A whiteout is an object that has special meaning in union/overlay filesystem constructs. In these constructs, multiple layers exist and only the top one is ever modified. A whiteout on an upper layer will effectively hide a matching file in the lower layer, making it appear as if the file didn_zsingle_quotesz_t exist.

When a file that exists on the lower layer is renamed, the file is first copied up (if not already on the upper layer) and then renamed on the upper, read-write layer. At the same time, the source file needs to be whiteouted (so that the version of the source file in the lower layer is rendered invisible). The whole operation needs to be done atomically.

When not part of a union/overlay, the whiteout appears as a character device with a {0,0} device number. (Note that other union/overlay implementations may employ different methods for storing whiteout entries; specifically, BSD union mount employs a separate inode type, DT_WHT, which, while supported by some filesystems available in Linux, such as CODA and XFS, is ignored by the kernel_zsingle_quotesz_s whiteout support code, as of Linux 4.19, at least.)

RENAME_WHITEOUT requires the same privileges as creating a device node (i.e., the CAP_MKNOD capability).

RENAME_WHITEOUT can_zsingle_quotesz_t be employed together with RENAME_EXCHANGE.

RENAME_WHITEOUT requires support from the underlying filesystem. Among the filesystems that provide that support are tmpfs (since Linux 3.18), ext4 (since Linux 3.18), XFS (since Linux 4.1), f2fs (since Linux 4.2). btrfs (since Linux 4.7), and ubifs (since Linux 4.9).


On success, zero is returned. On error, −1 is returned, and errno is set appropriately.



Write permission is denied for the directory containing oldpath or newpath, or, search permission is denied for one of the directories in the path prefix of oldpath or newpath, or oldpath is a directory and does not allow write permission (needed to update the .. entry). (See also path_resolution(7).)


The rename fails because oldpath or newpath is a directory that is in use by some process (perhaps as current working directory, or as root directory, or because it was open for reading) or is in use by the system (for example as mount point), while the system considers this an error. (Note that there is no requirement to return EBUSY in such cases—there is nothing wrong with doing the rename anyway—but it is allowed to return EBUSY if the system cannot otherwise handle such situations.)


The user_zsingle_quotesz_s quota of disk blocks on the filesystem has been exhausted.


oldpath or newpath points outside your accessible address space.


The new pathname contained a path prefix of the old, or, more generally, an attempt was made to make a directory a subdirectory of itself.


newpath is an existing directory, but oldpath is not a directory.


Too many symbolic links were encountered in resolving oldpath or newpath.


oldpath already has the maximum number of links to it, or it was a directory and the directory containing newpath has the maximum number of links.


oldpath or newpath was too long.


The link named by oldpath does not exist; or, a directory component in newpath does not exist; or, oldpath or newpath is an empty string.


Insufficient kernel memory was available.


The device containing the file has no room for the new directory entry.


A component used as a directory in oldpath or newpath is not, in fact, a directory. Or, oldpath is a directory, and newpath exists but is not a directory.


newpath is a nonempty directory, that is, contains entries other than . and ...


The directory containing oldpath has the sticky bit (S_ISVTX) set and the process_zsingle_quotesz_s effective user ID is neither the user ID of the file to be deleted nor that of the directory containing it, and the process is not privileged (Linux: does not have the CAP_FOWNER capability); or newpath is an existing file and the directory containing it has the sticky bit set and the process_zsingle_quotesz_s effective user ID is neither the user ID of the file to be replaced nor that of the directory containing it, and the process is not privileged (Linux: does not have the CAP_FOWNER capability); or the filesystem containing pathname does not support renaming of the type requested.


The file is on a read-only filesystem.


oldpath and newpath are not on the same mounted filesystem. (Linux permits a filesystem to be mounted at multiple points, but rename() does not work across different mount points, even if the same filesystem is mounted on both.)

The following additional errors can occur for renameat() and renameat2():


olddirfd or newdirfd is not a valid file descriptor.


oldpath is relative and olddirfd is a file descriptor referring to a file other than a directory; or similar for newpath and newdirfd

The following additional errors can occur for renameat2():


flags contains RENAME_NOREPLACE and newpath already exists.


An invalid flag was specified in flags.


Both RENAME_NOREPLACE and RENAME_EXCHANGE were specified in flags.


Both RENAME_WHITEOUT and RENAME_EXCHANGE were specified in flags.


The filesystem does not support one of the flags in flags.


flags contains RENAME_EXCHANGE and newpath does not exist.


RENAME_WHITEOUT was specified in flags, but the caller does not have the CAP_MKNOD capability.


renameat() was added to Linux in kernel 2.6.16; library support was added to glibc in version 2.4.

renameat2() was added to Linux in kernel 3.15; library support was added in glibc 2.28.


rename(): 4.3BSD, C89, C99, POSIX.1-2001, POSIX.1-2008.

renameat(): POSIX.1-2008.

renameat2() is Linux-specific.


Glibc notes

On older kernels where renameat() is unavailable, the glibc wrapper function falls back to the use of rename(). When oldpath and newpath are relative pathnames, glibc constructs pathnames based on the symbolic links in /proc/self/fd that correspond to the olddirfd and newdirfd arguments.


On NFS filesystems, you can not assume that if the operation failed, the file was not renamed. If the server does the rename operation and then crashes, the retransmitted RPC which will be processed when the server is up again causes a failure. The application is expected to deal with this. See link(2) for a similar problem.


mv(1), chmod(2), link(2), symlink(2), unlink(2), path_resolution(7), symlink(7)


This page is part of release 5.04 of the Linux man-pages project. A description of the project, information about reporting bugs, and the latest version of this page, can be found at−pages/.

  This manpage is Copyright (C) 1992 Drew Eckhardt;
            and Copyright (C) 1993 Michael Haardt;
            and Copyright (C) 1993,1995 Ian Jackson
and Copyright (C) 2006, 2014 Michael Kerrisk

Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this
manual provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are
preserved on all copies.

Permission is granted to copy and distribute modified versions of this
manual under the conditions for verbatim copying, provided that the
entire resulting derived work is distributed under the terms of a
permission notice identical to this one.

Since the Linux kernel and libraries are constantly changing, this
manual page may be incorrect or out-of-date.  The author(s) assume no
responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from
the use of the information contained herein.  The author(s) may not
have taken the same level of care in the production of this manual,
which is licensed free of charge, as they might when working

Formatted or processed versions of this manual, if unaccompanied by
the source, must acknowledge the copyright and authors of this work.

Modified Sat Jul 24 00:35:52 1993 by Rik Faith <>
Modified Thu Jun  4 12:21:13 1998 by Andries Brouwer <>
Modified Thu Mar  3 09:49:35 2005 by Michael Haardt <>
2007-03-25, mtk, added various text to DESCRIPTION.