Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What is the difference between an "alias" and a symlink on OS X?

share|improve this question
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Your question is answered HERE in detail.

And here is a the relevant part from that wikipedia page:

In Mac OS System 7 and later, an alias is a small file that represents another object in a local, remote, or removable1 file system. It is similar to the Unix symbolic link, but with the added benefit of working even if the target file moves to another location on the same disk (in this case it acts like hard link, but the source and target of the link may be on different filesystems). As a descendant of BSD, Mac OS X supports Unix symbolic links as well.

share|improve this answer
It should be noted that aliases do not work as replacements for the objects they represent as well as symlinks do. For example, i can use a symlink to my Vim configuration folder as a NeoVim configuration folder, but not an alias. I cannot even inspect the contents of the folder referenced by an alias using ls <alias name>. – Alexey Nov 9 '15 at 14:40
In the Wikipedia article: "However, when using the shell command line, Mac OS X aliases are not recognized: for example, you cannot use the cd command with the name of an alias file. This is because an alias is implemented as a file on the disk that must be interpreted by Mac API while links are implemented within the filesystem and are thus functional at any level of the OS." – Alexey Nov 9 '15 at 14:44

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

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