LN(1) OpenBSD Reference Manual LN(1)


lnmake hard and symbolic links to files


ln [-fhLnPs] source [target]

ln [-fLPs] source ... [directory]


The ln utility creates a new directory entry (linked file) which has the same modes as the original file. It is useful for maintaining multiple copies of a file in many places at once without using up storage for the copies; instead, a link “points” to the original copy. There are two types of links: hard links and symbolic links. How a link points to a file is one of the differences between a hard and symbolic link.

The options are as follows:

Unlink any already existing file, permitting the link to occur.
If the target is a symlink to a directory, do not descend into it.
When creating a hard link and the source is a symbolic link, link to the fully resolved target of the symbolic link. This is the default. The -L option overrides any previous -P options.
An alias for -h for compatibility with other operating systems.
When creating a hard link and the source is a symbolic link, link to the symbolic link itself. The -P option overrides any previous -L options.
Create a symbolic link.

By default, ln makes “hard” links. A hard link to a file is indistinguishable from the original directory entry; any changes to a file are effectively independent of the name used to reference the file. Hard links may not normally refer to directories and may not span file systems.

A symbolic link contains the name of the file to which it is linked. The referenced file is used when an open(2) operation is performed on the link. A stat(2) on a symbolic link will return the linked-to file; an lstat(2) must be done to obtain information about the link. The readlink(2) call may be used to read the contents of a symbolic link. Symbolic links may span file systems, refer to directories, and refer to non-existent files.

Given one or two arguments, ln creates a link to an existing file source. If target is given, the link has that name; target may also be a directory in which to place the link. Otherwise, it is placed in the current directory. If only the directory is specified, the link will be made to the last component of source.

Given more than two arguments, ln makes links in directory to all the named source files. The links made will have the same name as the files being linked to.


The ln utility exits 0 on success, and >0 if an error occurs.


Create a symbolic link named /home/www and point it to /var/www:

# ln -s /var/www /home/www

Hard link /usr/local/bin/fooprog to file /usr/local/bin/fooprog-1.0:

# ln /usr/local/bin/fooprog-1.0 /usr/local/bin/fooprog

As an exercise, try the following commands:

$ ls -i /bin/[ 
11553 /bin/[ 
$ ls -i /bin/test 
11553 /bin/test

Note that both files have the same inode; that is, /bin/[ is essentially an alias for the test(1) command. This hard link exists so test(1) may be invoked from shell scripts, for example, using the if [ ] construct.

In the next example, the second call to ln removes the original foo and creates a replacement pointing to baz:

$ mkdir bar baz 
$ ln -s bar foo 
$ ln -shf baz foo

Without the -h option, this would instead leave foo pointing to bar and inside foo create a new symlink baz pointing to itself. This results from directory-walking.


linkat(2), lstat(2), readlink(2), stat(2), symlink(2), symlink(7)


The ln utility is compliant with the IEEE Std 1003.1-2008 (“POSIX.1”) specification.

The flags [-hn] are extensions to that specification.


An ln utility appeared in Version 3 AT&T UNIX.


Since the source file must have its link count incremented, a hard link cannot be created to a file which is flagged immutable or append-only (see chflags(1)).
December 2, 2013 OpenBSD 5.6