Understanding ln Command in Linux (Create Symbolic Links)

Create Symbolic Link in Linux

A symbolic link is also known as a symlink or soft link, and it is a special file that points to another file or directory on our system.
In this tutorial, you will understand the ln command in Linux and we will discuss how we can use the ln command to create a symbolic link.

Symbolic links have two types in Linux/UNIX :

  • Hard links – Hard link is just like an additional name for an existing file. Multiple hard links can be created for a single file. Hard links does not allow to point  files or directories of a  different filesystem. If we create a hard link for a file and then delete or moved the file , we can still access that file data by using the hard links. Hard links have the actual content.
  • Soft links – Soft links work same as shortcut works in windows. Soft links can point files or directories in any filesystem. If we create a soft link for a file and then delete or moved file , we cannot access with soft links and soft link becomes dangling.

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How to Use the ln Command

ln is a command used for creating links between files or directories. To create Hard links just simply use ln and for Soft links use ln with -s (--symbolic) option.

Let’s review the syntax of the ln command.

  • If both the arguments are available FILENAME and LINKNAME then ln will create a link from  the first argument FILENAME to the second argument LINKNAME.
  • If only the file is available as argument and the second argument is a . then ln will create the link file in the current directory with same name of the file which it points.

Use the following command to create the symbolic link for a file :

ln -s source LINK

Provide the name of the file for which we have to create symbolic link at source and name of the link at LINK

If symbolic_link is not available, then ln by default create new link in the current directory:

The symbolic_link parameter is optional. If you do not specify the symbolic link, the ln command will create a new link in your current directory:

In the below example, we will create a symbolic link: of file name Test_file.txt    to symbolic link Link.txt

ln -s Test_file.txt Link.txt

To check symbolic links has successfully created or not, use ls -l command

ls -l Link.txt


lrwxrwxrwx 1 linuxpanda linuxpanda  5 Oct  2 11:35  Link.txt -> Test_file.txt

The l represents the symbolic link and -> represents the file on which  symlink points.

The command for creating the symbolic link for a directory is same as for creating link for the file. Only we have to replace first parameter and provide the symlink parameter.

In the below example , we will create symbolic link for a directory /home/user/Download to ~/DirLink

For example, if you want to create a symbolic link from the /mnt/your_drive/music directory to the ~/my_music directory you would run:

ln -s /home/user/Download  ~/DirLink

Linux distribution did not allow to create Hard Links for the Directories.

ln command always shows an error while creating a symlink which already exists, To overcome this error we have to create the link forcefully or create with a new name .

ln -s Test_file.txt Link.txt
ln: failed to create symbolic link 'Link.txt': File exists

Use the -f (--force) option to overwrite Symbolic link.

ln -sf Test_file.txt Link.txt

To delete symbolic link we can use unlink command, otherwise directly delete the link with rm command.

Let’s review the syntax of the unlink command

unlink symlink_to_delete

We can also use rm command to delete symbolic link:

rm symlink_to_delete

Always remember while removing symbolic links do not use / after the symlink name, it may delete the content in the link but not the link.

The symbolic link will become dangling (broken) if we remove or move the source file of the link.


In Linux, to create symbolic links use ln command (Hard link) and ln -s (Soft links)
For the complete detailed information about ln command, visit man ln or ln --help in the Linux terminal.

If you guys have any queries related to this, let me know in the comments.