Rename Directory/Folder in Linux

In Linux and Unix-based systems, managing directories is a crucial skill for organizing files and maintaining a clean and structured file system.One of the most common tasks is renaming directories, which can be done using the mv (move) command or by changing the directory’s name directly.

In this tutorial, we will explore the process of renaming directories in Linux, the importance of proper directory naming conventions, and best practices for organizing files and directories.

We will also discuss the various options and flags available with the mv command, which can be used to rename directories and their contents, as well as the potential pitfalls and workarounds for common issues that may arise during the renaming process.

Rename Directories on Linux with mv

To rename a directory on Linux, use the “mv” command and specify the directory to be renamed in addition to the destination for your directory. The general syntax of mv command is:

$ mv source_folder   new_directory
An example command of renaming folder

In this case, we’ll rename the directory called curr_data into new_data.

$ mv curr_data new_data
Rename Directories using the find command

In some instances, you might not know exactly where your directories can be found on your system that you want to rename.

Fortunately for you, there’s a command that can help you find the directories on a Linux system.

This is called the “find” command.

So as to locate and rename directories on Linux, use the “find” command with the “type” option so as to search for directories. After that, you can eliminate your directories by implementing the “mv” command with the“-execdir” alternative.

The general way of using the find command is:

$ find . -depth -type d -name <source_directory> -execdir mv {} <target_directory> \;
An example of find command to rename

For this example, suppose that you need to rename a directory starting with “data” in your filesystem to “backupData”.

The first part of the command will find where your directory is located.

$ find . -depth -type d -name “data”


Now you know where your directory is, you can rename it by using the “execdir” option and the “mv” command.

$ find . -depth -type d -name temp -execdir mv {} backupData \;
Overwrite Forcibly If Exists

In some instances, there may be an existing directory or folder with the new name. We will need to confirm the overwrite. But this may be a daunting task if there’s a great deal of them. We can overwrite existing files and folder with -f option automatically. -f means by force.

$ mv curr_data new_data
Rename Directories using rename

Rather than using the “mv” command, you may use a dedicated built-in command, however this command might not be directly available in your distribution.

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So as to rename directories on Linux, use “rename” with how you want the files to be renamed in addition to the target directory.

The general way of using rename command is:

$ rename <expression> <directory>

The example command below shows how to rename all directories that have names in uppercase letters to lowercase letters:

Notice the expression:

$ rename ‘y/A-Z/a-z/’ *

FAQs – Renaming Directories/Folders in Linux

Is there a dedicated “rename” function in Ubuntu Linux?No, Ubuntu Linux does not have a specific “rename” function. Instead, renaming is achieved by using the versatile “mv” (move) command.
How do I rename a directory using the “mv” command?Use the following syntax:
$ mv source_folder new_directory

For example, to rename “curr_data” to “new_data”:

$ mv curr_data new_data

What if the directory has subfolders and files?

If the directory contains files or subdirectories, use the recursive move command with “mv” to change the directory name and transfer all subfolders and files.
How can I locate and rename directories if their locations are unknown?

Utilize the “find” command with the “type” option to search for directories. Combine it with “mv” and the “-execdir” option to rename them. Example:

$ find . -depth -type d -name <source_directory> -execdir mv {} <target_directory> \;

Can I forcibly overwrite existing directories with the new name?

Yes, you can use the “-f” option with the “mv” command to automatically overwrite existing files and folders. Example:

$ mv -f curr_data new_data

Is there an alternative command to rename directories?

Yes, you can use the “rename” command. The general syntax is:

$ rename <expression> <directory>

For example, to rename directories from uppercase to lowercase:

$ rename ‘y/A-Z/a-z/’ *

Is the “rename” command available in all Linux distributions?

The availability of the “rename” command may vary. It is not directly available in all distributions, and alternative methods like “mv” and “find” may be used.

Best Practices for Renaming Directories/Folders in Linux

  1. Backup Before Renaming:
    • Always back up important directories before renaming to avoid accidental data loss. Use commands like cp to create a copy.
  2. Use Descriptive Names:
    • Choose clear and descriptive names for directories to enhance readability and maintainability. Avoid using ambiguous or generic names.
  3. Navigate to Parent Directory:
    • Before using the mv command, ensure you are in the parent directory of the directory you want to rename. This avoids confusion and potential errors.
  4. Verify Path and Names:
    • Double-check the paths and names of both source and target directories to prevent unintentional overwrites or moving to the wrong location.
  5. Recursive Move for Subdirectories:
    • When renaming directories with subdirectories and files, use the recursive option (-r) with the mv command to ensure all contents are moved.
  6. Use Find for Unknown Locations:
    • If you don’t know the exact location of the directory, use the find command to locate it. Combine with mv for efficient renaming.
  7. Avoid Overwriting Without Confirmation:
    • Exercise caution when using the -f (force) option with mv. Confirm overwrites manually to prevent unintentional data loss.
  8. Test Commands with Dry Run:
    • Before executing renaming commands, perform a dry run by using the echo command to see the actions without making actual changes. This helps in verifying commands.
  9. Backup System Configuration Files:
    • When renaming system-related directories, be cautious and backup configuration files. System configurations might be linked to specific directory names.
  10. Understand Rename Alternatives:
    • Explore alternatives like the rename command, but be aware of its availability across different Linux distributions. Adjust your approach based on the tools available.
  11. Document Changes:
    • Maintain documentation or commit messages explaining the reason for renaming directories. This aids in tracking changes and understanding directory history.
  12. Monitor for Errors:
    • Keep an eye on error messages during the renaming process. Resolve any issues promptly to prevent inconsistencies in the file system.
  13. Regularly Review and Update:
    • Periodically review directory structures and update names for better organization. This ensures a well-maintained and efficient file system.
  14. Collaborate and Communicate:
    • In a shared environment, communicate directory renaming plans with collaborators to avoid disruptions and ensure everyone is aware of the changes.
  15. Test with Non-Essential Directories:
    • If unsure about the outcome, practice renaming with non-essential directories first to understand the process and potential challenges.
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Wrap-Up: Renaming Directories/Folders in Linux

Renaming directories and folders in Linux is a fundamental task that ensures proper organization and clarity within the file system. This process becomes essential when dealing with complex directory structures or when the need arises to enhance the readability of folder names. In this exploration of renaming techniques in Linux, we discovered several approaches and best practices:

Ubuntu Linux Rename Approach:

Ubuntu Linux doesn’t have a specific “rename” function. Instead, renaming is achieved by using the versatile “mv” (move) command. This command serves a dual purpose of moving and renaming, providing flexibility in directory management.
Basic Renaming with “mv”:

The basic syntax for renaming directories using “mv” involves specifying the source directory and the desired destination directory. For instance:

$ mv source_folder new_directory

Recursive Move for Subdirectories:

When dealing with directories containing subfolders and files, the recursive move command ensures a comprehensive renaming process. This is accomplished by using the “-r” option with “mv.”
Locating and Renaming with “find” Command:

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The “find” command proves useful when the exact location of directories is unknown. Combined with the “-execdir” option, it efficiently facilitates renaming. Example:

$ find . -depth -type d -name <source_directory> -execdir mv {} <target_directory> \;

Overwriting Existing Directories:

The “-f” (force) option with the “mv” command allows for the automatic overwrite of existing directories with the new name.
Dedicated Rename Command:

The “rename” command provides a dedicated alternative to “mv.” Its usage may vary across Linux distributions, and it offers expressive renaming options. Example:

$ rename <expression> <directory>

Best Practices for Safe Renaming:

A set of best practices was outlined to ensure a secure and efficient renaming process. These include backing up directories, using descriptive names, verifying paths, and testing commands with a dry run.
In conclusion, mastering the art of renaming directories in Linux is crucial for maintaining an organized and efficient file system.

By using the power of commands like “mv,” “find,” and “rename,” users can tailor their approach based on specific needs and preferences. Always exercise caution, adhere to best practices, and document changes for a seamless renaming experience in the Linux environment.