I am trying to change the ownership and permissions of some files (and directories) in the current directory. I tried this:

chown username:groupname .

...expecting that it would affect all the files in the current directory, but instead only affected the directory that I am in (which is the opposite of what I want to do). I want to change it on all the files without affecting the current directory that I am in.

How can I chown and chmod all files in current directory?

  • 5
    @Shi I think it's a fair question. Reading that man page wouldn't help. Globbing is not part of chmod. It is builtin to the shell. Also reading documentation on globbing sucks the life out of you (I spent way to much time figuring out all the zsh's features).
    – djf
    Aug 15, 2012 at 21:27
  • 1
    @djf: chown -R user:group .
    – Shi
    Aug 16, 2012 at 20:05

5 Answers 5


You want to use chown username:groupname *, and let the shell expand the * to the contents of the current directory. This will change permissions for all files/folders in the current directory, but not the contents of the folders.

You could also do chown -R username:groupname ., which would change the permissions on the current directory, and then recurse down inside of it and all subfolders to change the permissions.

chown -R username:groupname * will change the permissions on all the files and folders recursively, while leaving the current directory itself alone. This style and the first style are what I find myself using most often.

  • 3
    @Andrew Be on your guard though, he can be both friend and foe to the weary or unprepared. Aug 15, 2012 at 21:07
  • 12
    Also, beware of the dangers of the period. As it is placed right next to the almight "/" on the keyboard. A simple typo can easily turn chown -R username:groupname . into chown -R username:groupname /. Making a 2 second task a 2 day nightmare.
    – teynon
    Apr 9, 2016 at 19:34
  • @Tom That's why I should probably start using -v on all my recursive commands, but too lazy Dec 30, 2016 at 19:44
  • 2
    Just upvoted as the best and most concise anwser, although I'd be specific and name the directory, just to avoid a slip of the keyboard: chown -R username:groupname directoryname Aug 11, 2019 at 12:26
  • 2
    This doesn't do all of the files, it ignores the dot files, which were the ones I wanted to chown anyway (the git files needed to be owned by my user so...) I was able to fix it with chown -R username:groupname ./.*
    – iopq
    Jan 29 at 7:54

I think you want this:

chown username:groupname *

If you also want to recursively change subdirectories, you'll need the -R (-r is deprecated) switch:

chown -R username:groupname *


chown is great if you are a superuser. I had an issue where someone else had run make in my directory, and now owned some files that I could not modify. Here is my workaround which handles files and directories, although it leaves the directories lying around with suffix .mkmeowner if it can't delete them.

  • The following script changes ownership of files and directories passed to it to be owned by the current user, attempting to work around permission issues by making a new copy of every directory or file not owned by the current user, deleting (or trying to delete) the original file, and renaming appropriately.
  • The intent is for it to be an abbreviation for "make me owner". I don't use underscores because they are a pain to type.


% mkmeowner .

% mkmeowner dirpath1 dirpath2
  • It requires the following script mkmeownerone to be in your path.


[ "x$1" == "x-h" ] || [ "x$1" == "x--help" ] && cat << END && exit 0
Usage: $0 dirorfile [direorfile2 ...]:
    change ownership of directories or files to current user.
    Current user must have permissions to read those and write to owner directory.
mkmeownerone=`which mkmeownerone`
for d in $*; do
    find "$d" -not -user `whoami` -exec $mkmeownerone {} \;


# change ownership of one file or directory
expr match "${f}" '.*\.mkmeowner$' > /dev/null && exit 1 # already tried to do this one
if mv -f "$f" "${f}.mkmeowner"; then
    cp -pr "${f}.mkmeowner" "$f" && rm -rf "${f}.mkmeowner"
    exit 0
exit 1
  • 1
    (1) We prefer answers that include some explanation.  I was taken by surprise when I read your scripts and saw what they did, because your introductory paragraph didn’t give me a clue. (2) You forgot to mention that the user must put mkmeownerone into the search PATH.  mkmeowner will blow up if that isn’t done. (3) Please learn how (i.e., when and where) to use quotes in shell commands and scripts.  Saying ${f} isn’t a useful alternative; see this.  … (Cont’d) Mar 15, 2019 at 16:24
  • 1
    (Cont’d) …  (4) If you run your script on a directory, it will potentially copy every file in that directory twice. (5) expr is antiquated.  It’s more efficient to do simple string matching in the shell; bash also supports regular expression matching.  For that matter, you could do the filename test in find. (6) Your expr match command tests whether ${f} ends with mkmeowner, not whether it ends with .mkmeowner.  Therefore, the script will not work on itself.  … (Cont’d) Mar 15, 2019 at 16:24
  • 1
    (Cont’d) …  Now, arguably, this is a good thing — you don’t want to be moving and potentially deleting a script while it’s running.  (It’s not necessarily going to cause a problem, but it can be messy.)  But you should understand (and document) special cases like that.  (7) You might want to use underscores in multi-word strings.  dirorfile is hard to read and understand (compare to dir_or_file), and when I saw mkmeowner, my first thought was of a cat (mk + meow + ner). Mar 15, 2019 at 16:24
  • Thanks for the notes Scott. 1. I thought I did have an explanation but let me be more explicit. 2. good point. I had captured that in my original script, but took out the reference. 3. I've been writing shell scripts for 30 years, but sure, I'll try to learn more. 4. Yes it does. On purpose because if I don't own the directory, I cannot delete it. I can mention that. 5. Yah I'm old fashioned, but expr still works pretty well 6. ha good point. 7. I might, I think I I get some artistic license though, as underscores are not a rule. I need a script that makes meows!
    – sbcondor
    Mar 15, 2019 at 17:16
  • 1
    Actually I don't like shift keys...
    – sbcondor
    Mar 15, 2019 at 18:04

I needed to change the owner of the current directory too. None of the above chown . and chown * worked. I had to pass in the full directory path:

$ chown -R nobody: "$PWD"

In the above nobody is the user I need. Group is omitted because it's optional when it equals the user.


Another way to change username:groupname of all files in the current directory is to work with a subshell:

chown username:groupname $(find . -name "[a-zA-Z0-9]*")

The bash built-in command find is used with a regular-expression [a-zA-Z0-9]* in a subshell $() which can form the basis of more complex administrative tasks.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .