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I ran mv -n /desktop /user/local/bin and as a result everything on my desktop is gone. I tried the opposite mv -n /user/local/bin /desktop in the hopes of undoing it but now only one of those directories will exist at one time. What should I do? How badly did I screw things up?

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migrated from Jun 28 '11 at 23:45

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What's in /desktop now? All your files PLUS the original content of /user/local/bin? In that case you could try to separate the two manually. – Kerrek SB Jun 28 '11 at 23:50
How did you have filesystem permissions to do that? You aren't running as root, are you? And why do you have a desktop folder in the root directory? – Keith Jun 29 '11 at 0:26
I ran sudo. As you can tell, my sh*t's messed up. – Justin Meltzer Jun 29 '11 at 1:04

The opposite of

mv /desktop /user/local/bin


mv /user/local/bin/desktop /


  • I assume you meant /usr instead of /user. If you really typed /user, you have a different problem.
  • Don't just type the above command without actually understanding what you've done. You may be royally messing things up by moving directories around arbitrarily.
  • Don't run as root. If you weren't, you wouldn't have been able to mess it up in the first place (since normal users can't write to /usr/local).
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Beat me to it.. – tjm Jun 28 '11 at 23:48
well right now /desktop is a directory but /usr/local/bin is not. What should i do to restore order? – Justin Meltzer Jun 28 '11 at 23:50
ok everything you said has been right, but you havent helped me fix my problem. Right now I have /desktop as a directory, but /usr/local/bin is not. How can I fix this? – Justin Meltzer Jun 29 '11 at 0:05
You probably now have a /desktop/desktop also, which is the original contents of /desktop. If so, then try: mv /desktop /usr/local/bin followed by mv /usr/local/bin/desktop /. – Greg Hewgill Jun 29 '11 at 0:08
I don't have /desktop/desktop. Now /desktop has all of its old stuff – Justin Meltzer Jun 29 '11 at 0:11

The -n flag should have prevented anything from being overwritten.

The first move: mv -n /desktop /usr/local/bin could have done several things:

  1. If /usr/local/bin was a directory, then the /desktop should have been placed in it creating /usr/local/bin/desktop
  2. If /usr/local/bin did not exist but /usr/local was a directory then /desktop was moved to /usr/local and renamed to 'bin' creating /usr/local/bin with the contents of /desktop.
  3. If /usr/local/bin existed and was a file then the -n should have just given you an error message.

The second move: mv -n /usr/local/bin /desktop was not the opposite if #1 was true. If #1 was true then /usr/local/bin is likely now just /usr/local and what was 'bin' is now in /desktop, but there is a /desktop/desktop

The confusion comes because mv has both a rename function and a move function that depends on what the source and destinations are (i.e., files or directories).

Good luck, do a bunch of lss to see what is where and once you have found everything, read and re-read the man-page for mv, then proceed with caution... oh and by the way, as has been said above, operating as root is not a good idea... with great power comes great responsibility, and the ability to trash your system fas

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You can always (as root) recreate /usr/local/bin

Do you have the executable files to move back into it? Maybe not, since you said you moved the files, rather than copied them.

The /bin directory is not the same thing. It is meant for system binaries, like bash.

/usr/local/bin is meant for executables installed by the user (hence /usr/...)

But your comment about sudo suggests that it will be dangerous to do these things unless you have a better understanding of the system and the use of sudo.

Don't rush into it

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