Chown, Stat, Id And Some More Permissions (Linux)

sudo chown -R ACTION /path/to/objects

With an understanding on how permissions work in Linux, and how to change them, it is probably time for a blog post on chown.

Before jumping into chown, let’s look at the permission of an object in more detail using stat, and a little bit of an overview on Linux IDs as this will be helpful later on.


In the previous blog posts I mentioned (a few times) owner and group. For example in the below screen grab the owner of the objects is Pi and the group is also called Pi.

chmod -R u=wrx, g=r, o-rwx ~/permissions
chmod -R u=wrx, g=r, o-rwx ~/permissions

The owner and group columns are located just before the size column. To see the details in more information we can use the stat command, which works as:

stat filename

So for the secret.txt file:

stat secret.txt
The stat command

The stat command returns a lot of information, including:

  • File – the filename
  • Size – the file size (0 here as it’s an empty file for my example)
  • Access – the permissions of the file, including in octal
  • Access / Modify / Change – the date and time the file was last accessed, modified or changed

And more importantly for this blog post:

  • Uid – the User Identification (Uid)
  • Gid – the Group Identification (Gid)


Every user account in Linux has an ID value attached to it. If you want to view the ID of the account currently logged in, use the command:

The id command

I’m currently running Raspbian (part of the Debian family) on a Raspberry Pi, and it starts the uid numbering for user accounts at 1000. So the first user (Pi for Raspbian) has the uid of 1000. If you want to see the accounts on your Linux system, their uid and their home folder path take a look in the /etc/passwd file. If you want to take a look at the groups available on your Linux system then take a look in the /etc/group file.

Warning Note: I would use the less command to view either of these files and I do not recommend editing the files directly.

less /etc/passwd
less /etc/group

Both /etc/passwd and /etc/group will contain system accounts and system groups that you may not have been aware of, which may be vital to your Linux system.


The above understanding of Linux uid should now come into play. Previously when discussing object permissions I have written about the owner (o), group (g) and world (w). As chmod can change permissions of an object, chown can…you guessed it…change the owner of an object. If the owner of an object is changed then it also changes who has the owners permissions!

Using the same example directory as my previous blog posts, I have a directory called “permissions” containing several files and a directory.

chmod -R u=wrx, g=r, o-rwx ~/permissions
chmod -R u=wrx, g=r, o-rwx ~/permissions

The owner of all of these is the user Pi (uid 1000). The command to change ownership with chown is:


For example, to change the owner of from the user Pi (uid 1000) to geek (uid 1001):

sudo chown geek
chown in action
chown in action

And this can then be confirmed using the stat command:

stat after a chown
stat after a chown

The ownership has changed from pi to geek, but the group is still the pi group which is tied to the user pi. This is not too much of a problem if the group permissions are different from the owner permissions but you may also want to change the group permissions.

This can be done via chown. Yep, as well as changing owner chown can also change group. The command:


will change the group to whatever group name has been entered after the colon (:). For giving group permissions to the geek group for the command is:

sudo chown :geek
sudo chown :geek

The chown command is not limited to changing owner or group, it can do both at the same time using the command:


To change the bigger_secret.txt file so that it is owned by the user geek and part of the geektechstuff group this command would become:

sudo chown geek:geektechstuff bigger_secret.txt
sudo chown geek:geektechstuff bigger_secret.txt
sudo chown geek:geektechstuff bigger_secret.txt

If you are setting the owner and group to the same (i.e. the user account geek and the logon group for geek) then:

sudo chown NAME:

is the command for you, i.e. to make geek the owner and group for confidential.txt:

sudo chown geek:
sudo chown geek:
sudo chown geek:

chown recursive

chown can be used recursively, so if you have a directory of objects to change ownership on use:

sudo chown -R ACTION /path/to/objects


sudo chown -R pi ~/permissions

to set the user pi as the owner of all the objects in ~/permissions, or

sudo chown -R pi: ~/permissions

to set the owner and group to pi for all the objects in ~/permissions. It works with any of the actions listed above (setting owner, setting group, setting both).