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What does the -p flag do in mkdir -p?

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3 Answers 3

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The -p flag will create nested directories, but only if they don't exist already.

For example, suppose you have a directory /foo that you have write permissions for.

mkdir -p /foo/bar/baz  # creates bar and baz within bar under existing /foo

It is also an idempotent operation, because if you run the same command over again, you will not get an error, but nothing will be created.

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This -p flag allows a parent folder to be created along with the nested folder.

For example:

mkdir directory/nested_directory 

it would return the following error : mkdir: cannot create directory ‘directory/nested_directory’: No such file or directory

But if you use -p such as:

mkdir -p directory/nested_directory

It will create both directory and it's nested nested_directory folders successfully.

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  • Welcome to Super User! Before answering an old question having an accepted answer (look for green ✓) ensure your answer adds something new or is otherwise helpful in relation to them. Here is a guide on How to Answer. There is also a site tour and a help center. Oct 5, 2022 at 8:12
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    I think this answer adds clarity to the case when both the parent and the child directories do not exist. This is a superset of the "nested", child directory not existing. Sep 18, 2023 at 15:49
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It actually does two different things.

  1. No error if existing
    • Prints no errors like mkdir: cannot create directory ‘<dir>’: File exists
  2. Make parent directories as needed
    • You may create nested directories like mkdir -p dir1/dir2/dir3
    • The containing directories (in example: dir1, dir2) will be unaffected by file mode options (-m)

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