Bash Shell: Check File Exists or Not

Posted on in Categories last updated April 20, 2012

How do I test existence of a text file in bash running under Unix like operating systems?

You need to use the test command to check file types and compare values. The same command can be used to see if a file exist of not. The syntax is as follows:

test -e filename
[ -e filename ]
 
test -f filename
[ -f filename ]

The following command will tell if a text file called /etc/hosts exists or not using bash conditional execution :

[ -f /etc/hosts ] && echo "Found" || echo "Not found"

Sample outputs:

Found

The same code can be converted to use with if..else..fi which allows to make choice based on the success or failure of a test command:

#!/bin/bash
file="/etc/hosts"
if [ -f "$file" ]
then
	echo "$file found."
else
	echo "$file not found."
fi

File test operators

The following operators returns true if file exists:

       -b FILE
              FILE exists and is block special

       -c FILE
              FILE exists and is character special

       -d FILE
              FILE exists and is a directory

       -e FILE
              FILE exists

       -f FILE
              FILE exists and is a regular file

       -g FILE
              FILE exists and is set-group-ID

       -G FILE
              FILE exists and is owned by the effective group ID

       -h FILE
              FILE exists and is a symbolic link (same as -L)

       -k FILE
              FILE exists and has its sticky bit set

       -L FILE
              FILE exists and is a symbolic link (same as -h)

       -O FILE
              FILE exists and is owned by the effective user ID

       -p FILE
              FILE exists and is a named pipe

       -r FILE
              FILE exists and read permission is granted

       -s FILE
              FILE exists and has a size greater than zero

       -S FILE
              FILE exists and is a socket

       -t FD  file descriptor FD is opened on a terminal

       -u FILE
              FILE exists and its set-user-ID bit is set

       -w FILE
              FILE exists and write permission is granted

       -x FILE
              FILE exists and execute (or search) permission is granted

(Fig.01: File test operators taken from bash man page)

The syntax is same (see File operators (attributes) comparisons for more info):

if [ operator FileName ]
then
     echo "FileName - Found, take some action here"
else
   echo "FileName - Not found, take some action here"
fi

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+.

11 comment

  1. i made a linux script which receives as first argument a path to a directory. I don’t know the path. And i want to check if “file.txt” exists at that certain path . For example :

    if [ -e $1/file.txt ];then echo HAHA fi

  2. What if I want to test for the existence of any files with a particular filename extension? Is there a simple way to do that? I’ve trying to use the return status of the ls command but I seem to be getting the syntax a bit wrong.

    1. You can use wildcard. Ex:
      [ -e *”.extension” ]

      (don’t forget to have a space character before the operator and before the closing branch, it took hours of my time to recognize this :| )

  3. hello ,

    i want to write script to copy a some of the files inside directory to specified location(for example i have one directory, this containes 1000 image file. then i need pick only 100 image file from 1000 image file. also i have a list of images which i need to copy (i made one file).

    can anyone help on this(please forword to my mail)

    thanks,
    manoj

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