Permission for files:

chmod 664 myFile // rw-rw-r--

And for folders:

chmod 774 myFolder // rwxrwxr--

If I only use the "read and write" permission, the folders won't show their contents.

What's the reason for this?


Since you can't 'execute' a directory, the execute bit has been put to better use. The execute bit on a directory allows you to access items that are inside the directory, even if you cannot list the directories contents.

$ mkdir -p dir/
$ echo 'Hello World!' > dir/file
$ chmod 000 dir/
$ ls -al dir/
ls: cannot open directory dir: Permission denied
$ cat dir/file
cat: dir/file: Permission denied
$ chmod +x dir/
$ ls -al dir/
ls: cannot open directory dir: Permission denied
$ cat dir/file
Hello World!

From the chmod manpage:

The letters rwxXst select file mode bits for the affected users: read (r), write (w), execute (or search for directories) (x), execute/search only if the file is a directory or already has execute permission for some user (X), set user or group ID on execution (s), restricted deletion flag or sticky bit (t).


Directories (they're not typically called folders in *nix) have different meaning for the permission bits than normal files.

For directories, write allows creating new files inside of it.

Read allows you to list the files inside of it.

Execute allows you to enter it and access files (or other directories) inside.

  • 3
    An easy way to remember is to imagine executing as a double-click on something. When you double-click the directory (or cd) you enter(execute) it. – John T Jul 30 '10 at 14:27
  • 1
    Mind that mere write access on a directory won't let you create new files. You also need the execute permisson on the directory to do so. – Matthias Braun Jan 27 '18 at 14:02
  • Does "access files (or other directories)" mean I can see the files i.e., list them but can't view them or I can see the files i.e., list them and read them as well ? – vadasambar Jul 16 '19 at 7:47

Execute permissions on a directory allow you to traverse it, for using resources contained within it.


The "execute" bit actually means "search" when applied to directories (from man chmod). This seems reasonable since execute has no meaning for a directory.


The x bit on a folder refers to indexing/directory search/listing; none of those are possible if you keep that bit low.

Here's an example of its use: If you want to have a user with limited read permissions on every directory but his home, say /home/dummy, then you need to make / and /home have the x bit set, otherwise he can't even get to his home directory.

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