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How to move all files from current directory to upper directory in linux?

I tried something like mv *.*, but it doesn't work.

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11 Answers 11

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The command you are looking for is

mv * .[^.]* ..

or (see below for more info):

(shopt -s dotglob; mv -- * ..)

Explanation: the mv command moves files and directories. The last argument to mv is the target (in this case the directory one step "up" in the tree, ..). The arguments before that are the source files and directories. The asterisk (*) is a wildcard which matches all files which do not start with a dot. Files that start with a dot (dotfiles) are "hidden". They are matched using the pattern .[^.]* (see edit below).

See the manpage which I linked for more information on mv.


Why .[^.]* instead of .* ?

As Chris Johnsen correctly points out: the pattern .* also matches . and ... Since you don't want to (and cannot) move those, it's better to use a pattern which matches any filename starting with a dot except those two. The pattern .[^.]* does just that: it matches any filename (1) starting with a dot (2) followed by a character which is not a dot (3) followed by zero or more arbitrary characters.

As Paggas points out, we'd also have to add the pattern .??* in order to match files starting with two dots. See his answer for an alternative solution using find.

Arjan's answer mentions shopt in order to avoid all those issues with dotfiles. But then there is still the problem with files starting with a dash. And it requires three commands. Still, I like the idea. I propose to use it like this:

(shopt -s dotglob; mv -- * ..)

This executes shopt in a subshell (thus no second call to shopt required) and uses -- so that files starting with a dash will not be interpreted as arguments to mv.

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  • 7
    Using .* might cause mv to produce warnings/errors about not being able to move . and ... You might try mv * .[^.]* .. instead. Oct 28, 2009 at 19:21
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    @alain: you're welcome, and welcome to the site! (If (and only if) one of the posts here sufficiently answered your question, then you can mark it as such. That will get the poster 15 extra reputation points, and also give you 2 rep extra.)
    – Stephan202
    Oct 28, 2009 at 19:41
  • I really like the shopt solution running in a subshell :)
    – Paggas
    Oct 29, 2009 at 20:04
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    There is no harm in the * .* syntax -- including .. is only hazardous when used with chmod and chown and the "recurse" flag, ie chmod -R or chown -R. And in those cases, don't ever ever type chown .* or chmod .* -- chown the top directory in the path you're looking for and use -h (don't follow symbolic links). But, mv .. simply doesn't do anything so don't worry about it.
    – chris
    Nov 6, 2009 at 4:16
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    The correct three patterns are *, .[^.]* and ..?*. The second maybe .[!.]* for older (POSIX) shells. Also read
    – user353322
    May 1, 2016 at 7:06
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Short answer: use

find . -mindepth 1 -maxdepth 1 -exec mv -t.. -- {} +

Long answer:

The command

mv * .* ..

will not work since .* can match . and ... But the command

mv * .[^.]* ..

will also not work, since .[^.]* won't match, e.g., ..filename! Instead, what I do is

mv * .[^.] .??* ..

which will match everything except . and ... * will match everything that doesn't start with a ., .[^.] will match all 2 character filenames starting with a dot except .., and .??* will match all filenames starting with a dot with at least 3 characters.

Better yet, you can use

find . -mindepth 1 -maxdepth 1 -exec mv -t.. -- {} +

which avoids the ugly glob hacks in mv * .[^.] .??* ..!

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    Also, I forgot to note the importance of -- so that the command works correctly with file names starting with a dash. I have included -- in my find answer though. A more complete answer using globs is "mv -- * .[^.] .??* ..".
    – Paggas
    Oct 28, 2009 at 20:45
  • +1: I came back to add ..?* to my comment, and you had already taken care of it. Oct 29, 2009 at 3:10
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    What can possibly be wrong with trying to mv .. ? It simply does nothing and can't do anything. There are other commands where it can do something (chmod and chown) but mv and rm simply don't do anything to . or ..
    – chris
    Nov 6, 2009 at 4:18
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    This gives mv: illegal option -- t
    – pal4life
    Jul 29, 2014 at 21:08
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    Bono, the double dashes tells mv to stop looking for any further command options. The braces are a resulting filename. The plus sign says instead of running exec per result (ie. per filename), put as many results in a single exec as possible. For completeness, -t.. is telling move the target destination to move all of these files to.
    – blee
    Jan 2, 2018 at 1:00
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Just for the sake of completeness, one can also tell the Bash shell to include hidden files, using shopt:

shopt -s dotglob
mv -- * ..
shopt -u dotglob
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  • +1. Much cleaner. I think a slight improvement is in order, though. See the update to my answer.
    – Stephan202
    Oct 28, 2009 at 21:11
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The mv lacks the functionality of moving hidden files when using * - so why not use copy instead?

cp -rf . ..

rm -rf *

No need to get into complex solutions of dotglobbing and using find commands.

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  • Warning If you are moving in the same filesystem, in the biggest part of the cases you didn't really copy the files but only update the directory entries without moving inode or file contenents. See even [1]. With a cp and rm instead you are really copying all.
    – Hastur
    Jan 22, 2016 at 10:22
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rsync -a --remove-source-files . ..

rsync is an extremely powerful file copying tool, generally used for performing efficient incremental remote backups and mirrors.

With the above command, we are telling rsync to copy the content of . into ..

The switch -a enables recursion into . subdirectories and enables some other common options.

The switch --remove-source-files tells rsync to remove the source files after a successful copy, i.e. it makes rsync behave similarly to the mv command.

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    A little more explanation would be nice.
    – ChrisF
    Jan 20, 2013 at 12:20
  • Sure, hope it's more clear now.
    – mrucci
    Jan 20, 2013 at 16:25
  • Note that --remove-source-files will not remove (synchronized) directories.
    – Dennis
    Oct 25, 2013 at 18:22
  • Nice, accepted solution gives me -bash: /bin/mv: Argument list too long error. This one works like the charm.
    – userlond
    Nov 28, 2016 at 6:09
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Ultimately trying mv . will fail because mv won't be able to unlink the directory that you are currently in. You could mv * .. to move the files in the cwd.

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mv * .??* ../.

* gets all not-dot files. .??* gets all . files at least three bytes long, which works for all legit ones. Anything left you probably want to rm rather than mv anyway.

The ../. doesn't offer any direct benefits over .. but when doing a move-to-directory it is a very good habit to get into, because it will fail, as you want, if there is something wrong with the path. For example, mv xyz bletch, where you think bletch is a directory, can be made more certain with mv xyz bletch/..

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    You might add .[^.] to get cover files like .a. Oct 29, 2009 at 3:12
  • There is no difference between ../ and ../. so I wouldn't bother typing the . after the slash. Also, in the case of mv and rm, it does no harm to include . and .. in the list, ie there isn't anything scary or wrong with mv * .* /path/to/file/, just as rm . or even -rf . doesn't do anything.
    – chris
    Nov 6, 2009 at 4:21
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This minimized command works on most modern shells:

\mv -- {,.{[^.],??}}* ..

Otherwise mentioned is a portable solution:

\mv -- * .[^.] .??* ..

Features:

  1. \ prevents aliases from altering mv undesirably.

  2. -- prevents filenames containing leading hyphens (-xyz) from being interpreted as command-line arguments.

  3. .[^.] matches all two character filenames beginning with . except ..

  4. .??* matches all other filenames three characters or longer.

Naive Implementations:

  1. The following skips hidden UNIX filenames, those that begin with . (.bashrc).

    mv * ..
    
  2. The following matches .. which recursively attempts to move every directory eventually all the way back to / into .. of the current working directory ($PWD or pwd). Never use.

    mv .* ..
    
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It's more correct to use the pattern * .[!.] .??* than * .[^.] .??* since the former will also work with older shells such as ksh88:

mv -- * .[!.] .??* ..
  • -- prevents problems when you have a file name which begins with -
  • * matches all file names which don't begin with a .
  • there are no one character file names which begin with a . which you can/should move
  • .[!.] matches all two character file names which begin with a .
  • .??* matches all three character file names (or longer) which begin with a .

With ksh88, the file name pattern .[^.] will in fact match the file names .. (which always exists) and .^ (which probably doesn't exist), having an effect opposite to what is desired.

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Find and grep work too. This kind of structure might be helpful if you wanted to select files on more complicated criteria by modifying find and egrep.

find -maxdepth 1 | egrep '^./.'         # Returns all files

mv `find -maxdepth 1 | egrep '^./.'` .. # mv <all files> ..
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I think the easiest solution for moving all files to its parent dir. would be

mv "`ls`" ../

or, If there are hidden files/directories

use:

mv "`ls -a`" ../ 2>/dev/null

Also, lets say you want to move the contents of some folder to one of its internal folder tony(say)

use:

mv "`ls -a`" /tony 2>/dev/null

Note:

"`ls -a`" 

To move the files that have spaces in it.

2>/dev/null

Is for suppressing the warning/error because ls -a would print the . and .. folder as well and you can't move or copy them. So for those folders it will show error (if we don't use 2>/dev/null) that it can't move them and the rest will be moved quite comfortably.

Best to avoid ls -a if there is no hidden files and just use ls.

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  • Have you tried what will happen when you run mv $(ls -a)? That'd tap on the current directory and the directory below it, because ls -a will output .. as well.
    – user260419
    Aug 6, 2014 at 16:46
  • Thanks , @SamiLaine for the suggestion I have made the corrections. But mv ls -a ../ would have also worked as per need, Yes it will show those errors as I mentioned above but other than that it will move the required folders/files to the parent dir. Aug 8, 2014 at 10:45
  • This won't work for files with spaces.
    – kenorb
    May 27, 2015 at 22:47
  • @kenorb you need to double quote the ls command in order to move files with spaces. I have made the required changes. Thanks for pointing out. Apr 4, 2018 at 9:48

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