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I understand the differences between symbolic and hard links, but I've never understood why choose one or the other.

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See answers to 'What is the difference between a symbolic link and a hard link?' on StackOverflow: stackoverflow.com/questions/185899/… –  pelms Sep 8 '09 at 18:27
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up vote 4 down vote accepted

This has been discussed in some detail on ServerFault.

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Ronald says, a hard link can have different permissions in two places. This is not right. Both places share the same inode. Permissions are bound to the inode, not the filename. So hardlinks in two places have exactly the same permissions, access times, ...

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symlinks can cross file systems, hard links can't. If you delete the original file, the hardlink still keeps it alive, a symlink doesn't.

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A hard link essentially means the file lives in two places, it can have different permissions, you can delete it in on place but not the other.

A soft link is just a pointer to the real thing.

A hard link is two (or more) directory entries pointing at the same file. A soft link is a directory entry pointing at another directory entry.

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