How to chmod 755 all directories but not files (recursively)?

Inversely, how to chmod only files (recursively) but no directories?


10 Answers 10


To recursively give directories read&execute privileges:

find /path/to/base/dir -type d -exec chmod 755 {} +

To recursively give files read privileges:

find /path/to/base/dir -type f -exec chmod 644 {} +

Or, if there are many objects to process:

chmod 755 $(find /path/to/base/dir -type d)
chmod 644 $(find /path/to/base/dir -type f)

Note these recipes may not work correctly if you have whitespace in your input [also true of the xargs examples below].

Or, to reduce chmod spawning:

find /path/to/base/dir -type d -print0 | xargs -0 chmod 755 
find /path/to/base/dir -type f -print0 | xargs -0 chmod 644
  • 20
    The first two examples fail for directories with too many files: -bash: /bin/chmod: Argument list too long. The last command works with many files, but when using sudo one must be careful to put it before xargs instead of chmod: find /path/to/base/dir -type d -print0 | sudo xargs -0 chmod 755
    – Agargara
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 1:06
  • 6
    Also to note, these commands are inclusive of the base dir. So in the above example, dir will also be set to 755. Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 0:16
  • 6
    chmod ... $(find /path/to/base/dir -type ...) fails for filenames with spaces in the name. Commented Feb 6, 2018 at 1:58
  • 9
    I think the most correct (but not fastest) version with respect to spaces and symbols in filenames and number of files is find /path/to/base/dir -type d -exec chmod 755 {} \; (find /path/to/base/dir -type f -exec chmod 644 {} \;).
    – Peter K
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 11:49
  • 3
    what does the plus do after the find exec? Turns out it makes find run chmod once with all arguments instead of multiple times with each filename separately
    – lucidbrot
    Commented Apr 24, 2022 at 11:18

A common reason for this sort of thing is to set directories to 755 but files to 644. In this case there's a slightly quicker way than nik's find example:

chmod -R u+rwX,go+rX,go-w /path


  • -R = recursively;
  • u+rwX = Users can read, write and execute;
  • go+rX = group and others can read and execute;
  • go-w = group and others can't write

The important thing to note here is that uppercase X acts differently to lowercase x. In the manual, we can read:

The execute/search bits if the file is a directory or any of the execute/search bits are set in the original (unmodified) mode.

In other words, chmod u+X on a file won't set the execute bit; and chmod g+X will only set it if it's already set for the user.

  • 5
    -R = recursively; u+rwX = Users can read, write and execute; go+rX = group and others can read and execute; go-w = group and others can't write
    – släcker
    Commented Jan 6, 2010 at 7:08
  • 31
    This pattern won't fix the situation when someone has done chmod -R 777 since the +X option will not reset existing execute bits on files. Using -x will reset directories, and prevent descending into them.
    – Andrew Vit
    Commented Aug 7, 2012 at 4:57
  • 4
    @ring0: I am not intending to answer the question literally as posed - nik has already done that perfectly well. I'm pointing out a cheaper solution for the most common case. And yes, you do get different permissions for files and directories with X, as explained in the comments.
    – bobince
    Commented Oct 28, 2012 at 1:05
  • 12
    go+rX,go-w -> go=rX isn't it ? Commented Sep 22, 2014 at 14:24
  • 12
    You can also use chmod u-x,u+X in combination, etc., to remove execute bits for files, but add them for directories.
    – w0rp
    Commented Apr 4, 2016 at 18:27

If you want to make sure the files are set to 644 and there are files in the path which have the execute flag, you will have to remove the execute flag first. +X doesn't remove the execute flag from files who already have it.


chmod -R ugo-x,u+rwX,go+rX,go-w path

Update: this appears to fail because the first change (ugo-x) makes the directory unexecutable, so all the files underneath it are not changed.

  • 2
    This works for me, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t. (Sure, if you did just chmod -R ugo-x path, that might be a problem. But the complete command will do the chmod u+rwX on each directory before it tries to descend into it.) However, I believe that chmod R u=rw,go=r,a+X path is sufficient – and it’s shorter. Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 0:25

To recursively give directories read&execute privileges:

find /path/to/base/dir -type d -exec chmod 755 {} \;

To recursively give files read privileges:

find /path/to/base/dir -type f -exec chmod 644 {} \;

Better late than never let me upgrade nik's answer on the side of correctness. My solution is slower, but it works with any number of files, with any symbols in filenames, and you can run it with sudo normally (but beware that it might discover different files with sudo).

  • This is a downgrade of nik’s answer.  Why do you believe that there is anything wrong with nik’s answer? Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 23:06
  • 1
    @Scott, nik's answer fails with (vey) large number of files.
    – Peter K
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 14:54
  • I’m 99% sure that you’re mistaken.  Can you provide any evidence to support your claim? Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 23:56
  • Yes, it looks I'm wrong indeed. find ... + seems to break the line into multiple commands, nice catch!
    – Peter K
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 13:40

I decided to write a little script for this myself.

Recursive chmod script for dirs and/or files — Gist:


# chmodr.sh
# author: Francis Byrne
# date: 2011/02/12
# Generic Script for recursively setting permissions for directories and files
# to defined or default permissions using chmod.
# Takes a path to recurse through and options for specifying directory and/or 
# file permissions.
# Outputs a list of affected directories and files.
# If no options are specified, it recursively resets all directory and file
# permissions to the default for most OSs (dirs: 755, files: 644).

# Usage message
  echo "Usage: $0 PATH -d DIRPERMS -f FILEPERMS"
  echo "Arguments:"
  echo "PATH: path to the root directory you wish to modify permissions for"
  echo "Options:"
  echo " -d DIRPERMS, directory permissions"
  echo " -f FILEPERMS, file permissions"
  exit 1

# Check if user entered arguments
if [ $# -lt 1 ] ; then

# Get options
while getopts d:f: opt
  case "$opt" in
    \?) usage;;

# Shift option index so that $1 now refers to the first argument
shift $(($OPTIND - 1))

# Default directory and file permissions, if not set on command line
if [ -z "$DIRPERMS" ] && [ -z "$FILEPERMS" ] ; then

# Set the root path to be the argument entered by the user

# Check if the root path is a valid directory
if [ ! -d $ROOT ] ; then
 echo "$ROOT does not exist or isn't a directory!" ; exit 1

# Recursively set directory/file permissions based on the permission variables
if [ -n "$DIRPERMS" ] ; then
  find $ROOT -type d -print0 | xargs -0 chmod -v $DIRPERMS

if [ -n "$FILEPERMS" ] ; then
  find $ROOT -type f -print0 | xargs -0 chmod -v $FILEPERMS

It basically does the recursive chmod but also provides a bit of flexibility for command line options (sets directory and/or file permissions, or exclude both it automatically resets everything to 755-644). It also checks for a few error scenarios.

I also wrote about it on my blog.

  • Is there a way to prevent folder . from getting permission changed?
    – MaXi32
    Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 0:50

Try this python script; it requires no spawning of processes and does only two syscalls per file. Apart from an implementation in C, it will probably be the fastest way of doing it (I needed it to fix a filesystem of 15 million files which were all set to 777)

import os
for par, dirs, files in os.walk('.'):
    for d in dirs:
        os.chmod(par + '/' + d, 0o755)
    for f in files:
        os.chmod(par + '/' + f, 0o644)

In my case, a try/catch was required around the last chmod, since chmodding some special files failed.


I post my solution because I don't see an almost-every cases solution using only chmod:

Only chmod : smooth permissions on files and dirs

For my example I created multiple files with different permissions:

> tree -p chmodtests/
├── [drwxr-xr-x]  aa/
│   ├── [drwxr-xr-x]  a1/
│   │   ├── [-r--r--r--]  read_only
│   │   ├── [-rw-rw-rw-]  read_w
│   │   └── [-rwxrwxrwx]  read_wx*
│   ├── [drwxr-xr-x]  a2/
│   ├── [-r--------]  read_only
│   ├── [-rw-------]  read_w
│   └── [-rwx------]  read_wx*
└── [drwxr-xr-x]  bb/

4 directories, 6 files

then apply this command:

chmod -vR a=r-wx,u=wr,a+X chmodtests/


mode of 'chmodtests/' retained as 0755 (rwxr-xr-x)
mode of 'chmodtests/aa' retained as 0755 (rwxr-xr-x)
mode of 'chmodtests/aa/a1' retained as 0755 (rwxr-xr-x)
mode of 'chmodtests/aa/a1/read_only' changed from 0444 (r--r--r--) to 0644 (rw-r--r--)
mode of 'chmodtests/aa/a1/read_w' changed from 0666 (rw-rw-rw-) to 0644 (rw-r--r--)
mode of 'chmodtests/aa/a1/read_wx' changed from 0777 (rwxrwxrwx) to 0644 (rw-r--r--)
mode of 'chmodtests/aa/read_only' changed from 0400 (r--------) to 0644 (rw-r--r--)
mode of 'chmodtests/aa/a2' retained as 0755 (rwxr-xr-x)
mode of 'chmodtests/aa/read_w' changed from 0600 (rw-------) to 0644 (rw-r--r--)
mode of 'chmodtests/aa/read_wx' changed from 0700 (rwx------) to 0644 (rw-r--r--)
mode of 'chmodtests/bb' retained as 0755 (rwxr-xr-x)

result: all files are 644; all dirs are 755

> tree -p chmodtests/
├── [drwxr-xr-x]  aa/
│   ├── [drwxr-xr-x]  a1/
│   │   ├── [-rw-r--r--]  read_only
│   │   ├── [-rw-r--r--]  read_w
│   │   └── [-rw-r--r--]  read_wx
│   ├── [drwxr-xr-x]  a2/
│   ├── [-rw-r--r--]  read_only
│   ├── [-rw-r--r--]  read_w
│   └── [-rw-r--r--]  read_wx
└── [drwxr-xr-x]  bb/

Explanation part

tl;dr explanation:

this command removes all execution/search on files and directories and then add execution/search only for dirs

chmod -vR : verbose and recursive


  • a: meaning all (user, group and other)
  • =: set permissions to (do not add nor remove)
  • r-wx: read only permissions

u=wr: user can read and write

a+X: add execution/search only for directories (for all types u,g,o)

Other example

Now let's say I only want 600 for files and 700 for dirs:

chmod -vR a=-rwx,u=rw,u+X chmodtests/


With this method you cannot set r and w differently for file and dirs.

E.g. you cannot have the following

drwxr-xr-x dir/
-r-------- dir/myfile


  • My particulary choice on Samba share: (for hidden files include: shopt -s dotglob;) chmod -R a=-rwx,u=rw,g=rw,u+X,g+X * Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 14:47

Built on top of nik's answer for convenience while still being minimal:


me=`basename "$0"`
if [[ -z $3 || $1 == "help" || $1 == "-h" || $1 == "--help" ]]; then
    echo "Usage: $me <directory_permissions> <file_permissions> <path> [ -s ]"
    exit 0
if [[ $1 == "-s" ]]; then
find $3 -type f -exec chmod $2 '{}' $terminator
find $3 -type d -exec chmod $1 '{}' $terminator

The -s will enable secure/safe mode which is required if you deal with a ton of files, because the chained command would exceed the argument limit of the individual command.

This implementation is not prone to spaces in paths.


You can also use tree:

tree -faid /your_directory | xargs -L1 -I{} bash -c 'sudo chmod 755 "$1"' -- '{}'

and if you want to also view the folder add an echo

 tree -faid /your_directory | xargs -L1 -I{} bash -c 'sudo chmod 755 "$1" && echo$1' -- '{}'
  • @Scott 1) You are right about +x I changed to 755; 2) 3) to solve this I put the placeholder in single quote like this '{}' Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 5:53
  • @Scott I agree this is not the best answer also is slow but will leave here for "didactic" purposes also the comments will explain further, also people can learn about xargs issues. Single quotes in filenames are themselves a problem for many commands and script that's why I listed all the files containing single quotes and removed them (the quotes I mean) Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 6:16
  • @Scott On my systems I searched for all the files that contained single quotes and replaced the single quotes Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 6:42
  • @Scott How would you fix the fact that xargs doesn't solve correctly the single quotes? Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 7:20
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. Commented Oct 10, 2018 at 7:26

You could use the following bash script as an example. Be sure to give it executable permissions (755). Simply use ./autochmod.sh for the current directory, or ./autochmod.sh <dir> to specify a different one.


if [ -e $1 ]; then
    if [ -d $1 ];then
        echo "No such directory: $1"

for f in $(ls -l $dir | awk '{print $8}'); do
    if [ -d $f ];then
        chmod 755 $f
        chmod 644 $f
  • 3
    Wow! So many problems! (1) If $1 is not null, but is not the name of a directory (e.g., is a typo), then dir gets set to . with no message. (2) $1 should be "$1" and $dir should be "$dir". (3) You don’t need to say "./"; "." is fine (and, strictly speaking, you don’t need quotes here). (4) This is not a recursive solution. (5) On my system, ls -l … | awk '{ print $8 }' gets the files’ modification times. You need { print $9 } to get the first word of the filename. And even then, (6) this does not handle filenames with white space. … Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 22:59
  • 2
    … And, last but not least (∞) if this script is in the current directory, it will chmod itself to 644, thus making itself non-executable! Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 23:00

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