How To Set Readonly File Permissions On Linux / Unix Web Server DocumentRoot

Posted on in Categories , , , , last updated June 29, 2016

How do I set a read-only permission for all of my files stored in /var/www/html/ directory?

You can use the chmod command to set read-only permission for all files on Linux / Unix / Apple OS X / BSD operating systems. The syntax is as follows:
## use only for files ##
chmod 0444 /var/www/html/*
chmod 0444 /var/www/html/*.php

TO set directories in read-only mode, enter:
## use only for dirs ##
chmod 0444 /var/www/html/
chmod 0444 /path/to/your/dir/
# ***************************************************************************
# Say webserver user/group is www-data, and file-owned by ftp-data user/group
# ***************************************************************************
# All files/dirs are read-only
chmod -R 0444 /var/www/html/
# All files/dir owned by ftp-data
chown -R ftp-data:ftp-data /var/www/html/
# All directories and sub-dirs has 0445 permission (so that webserver user www-data can read our files)
find /var/www/html/ -type d -print0 | xargs -0 -I {} chmod 0445 "{}"

To find all files (including sub-directories in /var/www/html) and set read-only permission, enter:

find /var/www/html -type f -iname "*" -print0 | xargs -I {} -0 chmod 0444 {}

However, you need to set set read-only and execute permission on /var/www/html and all sub-directories so that web server can enter into your DocumentRoot, enter:

find /var/www/html -type d -iname "*" -print0 | xargs -I {} -0 chmod 0544 {}

A warning about write permission

Please note that write access on a directory /var/www/html/ allows anyone to remove or add new files. In other words, you may need to set a read-only permission for /var/www/html/ directory itself:

chmod 0555 /var/www/html

In some cases you can change file owner and group to set tight permissions as per your setup:

### Say /var/www/html is owned by normal user, you can set it to root:root or httpd:httpd (recommended) ###
chown -R root:root /var/www/html/
## Make sure apache user owns /var/www/html/ ##
chown -R apache:apache /var/www/html/

A note about NFS exported directories

You can specify whether the directory should have read-only or read/write permissions using /etc/exports file. This file defines the various shares on the NFS server and their permissions. A few examples:

# Read-only access to anyone
/var/www/html *(ro,sync) 
# Read-write access to a client on (

A note about read-only Samba (CIFS) share for MS-Windows clients

To share sales as read-only, update smb.conf as follows:

comment = Sales Data
path = /export/cifs/sales
read only = Yes
guest ok = Yes

A note about file systems table

You can use the /etc/fstab file on Unix or Linux to configure to mount certain files in read-only mode. You need to have a dedicated partition. Do not set / or other system partitions in read-only mode. In this example /srv/html is set to read-only mode using /etc/fstab file:

/dev/sda6         /srv/html               ext4         ro             1 1

You can use the mount command to remount partition in read-only mode (run it as the root user):
# mount -o remount,ro /dev/sda6 /srv/html
# mount -o remount,ro /srv/html
The above command will try to attempt to remount an already-mounted filesystem at /srv/html. This is commonly used to change the mount flags for a filesystem, especially to make a readonly filesystem writeable. It does not change device or mount point. To make file system writable again, enter:
# mount -o remount,rw /dev/sda6 /srv/html
# mount -o remount,rw /srv/html

Linux: chattr Command

You can change file attributes on a Linux file system to read-only using the chattr command:

chattr +i /path/to/file.php
chattr +i /var/www/html/
# find everything in /var/www/html and set to read-only #
find /var/www/html -iname "*" -print0 | xargs -I {} -0 chattr +i {}

To remove read-only attribute pass the -i option:
# chattr -i /path/to/file.php
FreeBSD, Mac OS X and other BSD unix user can use the chflags command:

## set read-only ##
chflags schg /path/to/file.php
# remove read-only ##
chflags noschg /path/to/file.php

See also:

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

6 comment

  1. This article is ridiculously wrong. If you do chmod 0555 on a file you make the file executable by all users. The article instructs you to set all of the files in your web root to executable. This is a terrible terrible idea. These files should be set at 0644.

    1. It was a typo on my part. The faq has been updated. You need to set all files in DocumentRoot to read-only mode using 0444 and directories using 0544 mode. 0644 nide will give write access on /var/www/html. Hope this helps.

      Appreciate your comment.

  2. Why are basic things like this so complex on linux? Why not right click and set it?
    Another fail for linux distros (another of many many many) and why they are at least 5 years behind windows XP (not even saying 7)

Leave a Comment