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I have seen two usages of chown that is used for changing file owner and group

chown -R $USER:$USER /data/db

What is the meaning of $USER:$USER

chown `id -u` /data/db

what is the meaning of id -u

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migrated from Sep 22 '11 at 20:09

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@larsmans, can you tell me how did you make it so that ` is displayed? – q0987 Sep 22 '11 at 14:22
Escape it with "\", so "\'" within a code portion will display the ` – birryree Sep 22 '11 at 14:23
I put four spaces before the commands. Backticks are used on SO to put code samples inline in text. – Fred Foo Sep 22 '11 at 14:24
@birryree, I tried and it doesn't work for me. – q0987 Sep 22 '11 at 14:26
up vote 2 down vote accepted

$USER is an environment variable that always holds the username of the real or system user executing the command. id -u returns the executing user's UID number. chown will accept either the user name or UID.

# on my system here:

$ echo $USER
# michael

$ id -u
# 500

$USER:$USER is used to set ownership of the file/directory to the user as primary owner and the user's group as group owner. Many Linux distributions create a dedicated group for each user. To see yours,

cat /etc/group
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$USER is a variable that expands to the username of the user executing a command.

id -u

prints the user identification number (UID) of the current user.

chown `id -u` /data/db

runs the command id -u, takes its output (by the backquotes), and passes that to chown as the first argument, so ownership of /data/db is given to the user executing the command.

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the first $USER variable is the new owner and the 2nd is the new GROUP

id -u will be executed before your chown execution. it will give you the uid.

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