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I'm not clear on exactly what the -R flag does for chflags. I was wondering if someone might be able to help me.

The man page says this:

Recurse: Change the file flags of file hierarchies rooted in the files instead of just the files themselves.

I don't understand what that means. Can someone tell me what the difference would be between chflags -R hidden and just chflags hidden?

There's an online man page here for reference:

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Recursive flag is used for directories to apply same thing to the every included file and directory(recursively again). You could also run your command without -R option for directories but it will only affect the directory itself.

If you have a directory structure as follows:


You should run chflags with -R option to change all files flags including the lower level files(dir1_file1).

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Excellent explantation! Thank you kindly. – ralphthemagician Jun 24 '12 at 18:52

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