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After cd .. at /, why are we still at /?


pradeep@pradeep-laptop:/> cd ..

Is there a specific reason for this behavior?

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migrated from Sep 8 '10 at 16:10

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The root directory has a '.' and a '..' entry in it, and the inode number for each is the same. Traditionally, the inode number is 2; it still is on MacOS X, Linux, Solaris. So, when you do 'cd /; cd ..', you end up at the same location.

In the 1980s, there was a system called Newcastle Connection that treated networked computers as being above the root of your local computer. Thus, on such a machine, you would type:

cd /../othermachine/path/to/interesting/place

to change directory to a remote file system.

(You can find the paper via a Google search of 'Newcastle Connection' - the URL is intractable.)

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The cd .. command takes you up on level in the directory structure. Since you're already at the highest level, it just leaves you at the root directory.

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The other answer was good from a technical perspective, but this is the common answer I immediately thought of. I mean, what else would you expect? – Chance Sep 8 '10 at 15:31
@Chance: "No such file or directory" doesn't come to mind? :) – Roger Pate Sep 8 '10 at 16:09
@Roger But then there wouldn't be the invariant that every directory has a .. parent directory within it. Since the system already has to handle directories that are their own parents (consider hard-linking a directory into itself), making the root its own parent requires no new functionality or special rules, so that decision obeys the principle of least surprise. – Tyler McHenry Sep 8 '10 at 16:21
@Tyler: once upon an æon or so ago (7th Edition Unix), root could run the link(2) system call on directories - because there wasn't a mkdir(2) system call and therefore the . and .. entries were created by a root-privileged mkdir program. However, I believe that privilege has been removed even from root these days; you cannot hard-link directories. – Jonathan Leffler Sep 11 '10 at 13:43

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