This is a detailed example to learn the difference between hard links and soft links in Linux.
Create two files:
$ touch foo; touch bar
Enter some Data into them:
$ echo "Cat" > foo $ echo "Dog" > bar
And as expected:
$cat foo; cat bar Cat Dog
Let's create hard and soft links:
$ ln foo foo-hard $ ln -s bar bar-soft
Let's see what just happened:
$ ls -lrt total 24 -rw-r--r-- 2 aaa staff 4 Dec 12 21:52 foo-hard -rw-r--r-- 2 aaa staff 4 Dec 12 21:52 foo -rw-r--r-- 1 aaa staff 4 Dec 12 21:52 bar lrwxr-xr-x 1 aaa staff 3 Dec 12 21:53 bar-soft -> bar
From here "lrwxr-xr-x ", we can see that bar-soft is a link file that points to bar.
$ ls -li total 24 12895502721 -rw-r--r-- 1 aaa staff 4 Dec 12 21:52 bar 12895502801 lrwxr-xr-x 1 aaa staff 3 Dec 12 21:53 bar-soft -> bar 12895502450 -rw-r--r-- 2 aaa staff 4 Dec 12 21:52 foo 12895502450 -rw-r--r-- 2 aaa staff 4 Dec 12 21:52 foo-hard
Foo and foo-hard have the same inode number (first column). This means that they are same file with different names. The third column 2 means that this file has 2 hard links.
Changing the name of foo does not matter:
$ mv foo foo-new $ cat foo-hard Cat
foo-hard points to the inode, the contents, of the file - that wasn't changed.
$ mv bar bar-new $ ls bar-soft bar-soft $ cat bar-soft cat: bar-soft: No such file or directory
The contents of the file could not be found because the soft link points to the name, that was changed, and not to the contents.
Likewise, If foo is deleted, foo-hard still holds the contents; if bar is deleted, bar-soft is just a link to a non-existing file.
$ rm foo $ ls -lrt total 16 -rw-r--r-- 1 tocao staff 4 Dec 12 21:52 foo-hard $ cat foo-hard cat
After we remove foo, the hard link foo-hard is still there. The number of link (second column) is down to 1.