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3 ways to fix mv cannot access permission denied in Linux

The error message “mv: cannot access ”: Permission denied” indicates that you are trying to move or rename a directory without the access permissions.

There are a few reasons why this error happens:

  • Insufficient permissions: The directory you are attempting to move or rename is owned by another user, and you do not have the access permissions to perform the operation.
  • File or directory is locked: The directory you are trying to manipulate is currently being used or locked by another process, which prevents you from performing the operation.


In this article, we will dive into this issue.

Add execute permissions to the directory

The purpose of file permissions in Linux is to control access to files and directories, ensuring data security and maintaining privacy. File permissions determine what actions can be performed on a file or directory by different users or groups of users.

In our case, that means the user doesn’t have access permissions to the directory. we need to add it to fix the error.

First, let’s check out what access permissions mean for a directory.

The “execute” permission allows users to access and traverse the contents of the directory. It grants the permission to enter the directory.

Accessing the directory: Without the execute permission on a directory, users won’t be able to access or enter it. They will receive a “permission denied” error when trying to navigate into the directory.

Let’s see how to check the permissions of the directory and how to modify them.

Identify the file or directory: Determine the path and name of the directory that you are trying to move or rename. For example, let’s say you want to move a directory called howtouselinux_dir.

Check the current permissions and owner: Use the ls -ld command to view the current permissions of the directory.

Execute the following command in the terminal:

ls -ld howtouselinux_dir

The output will display detailed information about the directory, including the permissions and owner.

drw--wx---. 1 howtouselinux howtouselinux 0 Jun 16 08:51 howtouselinux_dir

Change the directory permissions: If you are the owner of the directory, you can modify the permissions using the chmod command.

For example, we need to give execute permissions to the directory. Run the following command:

chmod u+x howtouselinux_dir

Replace howtouselinux_dir with the actual name of the directory you are working with.

Retry the move or rename operation: After modifying the permissions, try executing the move or rename operation using the mv command again:

mv howtouselinux_dir destination_directory

If you are not the owner of the directory, you can follow the steps below the change it.

Change the owner: Execute the chown command, providing the desired new owner and the file you want to change.

For example, to change the owner of the directory called howtouselinux_dir to a user named howtouselinux, use the following command:

sudo chown howtouselinux howtouselinux_dir

Note: You need to have sufficient permissions or use sudo to run the chown command.

Now you are the owner of the file and you can follow above steps to fix permission issue.

You can also use add access permission to all the users with the following command.

sudo chmod a+x howtouselinux_dir

use sudo to run mv command

The sudo command in Linux stands for “Superuser Do,” and it is used to execute commands with elevated privileges typically the root user. It allows authorized users to perform administrative tasks and actions that require higher permissions.

For example, let’s say you have a file called example.txt located in your current directory, and you want to move it to the /var/www/html directory. The command would be:

sudo mv example.txt /var/www/html

When you execute this command, you will be prompted to enter the password for the user with sudo privileges. After entering the password, the mv command will be executed with elevated privileges, allowing you to move the file to the specified destination.

While sudo is a powerful tool for granting temporary administrative privileges to users, it also has some potential disadvantages that should be taken into consideration.

Managing the sudo configuration file (/etc/sudoers) can be complex, particularly in environments with multiple users, roles, and systems. Misconfigurations or inconsistent settings can lead to unintended access or difficulties in managing user permissions.

release the file lock

If the file or directory is locked by another process, you will encounter a “cannot access” or “permission denied” error. This means that another program or process has exclusive access to the file or directory, preventing you from performing operations on it.

Identify the process that has locked the file or directory and terminate or release it if possible. You can use tools like lsof or fuser to identify the processes that have a file or directory open.

To resolve this issue, here are the steps to accomplish this:

Identify the process: Tools like lsof (list open files) or fuser (file user) can help you identify the processes that have a particular file or directory open. These tools provide information about the files and directories that processes have opened, along with the corresponding process IDs (PIDs).

Using lsof: Run the following command to list the processes that have the file or directory open:

lsof <file_path>

Using fuser: Execute the following command to display the PIDs of processes that are using the file or directory:

fuser <file_path>

Terminate or release the process: Once you have identified the process(es) using the file or directory, you can proceed to terminate or release them. There are a few approaches you can take:

If the process is not critical or can be stopped without causing any issues, you can manually terminate it. Use the kill command followed by the PID of the process. For example:

kill <PID>

If you are unable to terminate the process gracefully, you may need to force its termination. Use the kill -9 command followed by the PID. This forcibly terminates the process, but it should be used as a last resort if graceful termination fails. For example:

kill -9 <PID>

Alternatively, if the process provides a mechanism to release the file or directory, you can use that specific method to release the lock. Refer to the documentation or resources related to the process for guidance on how to release the lock.

Retry the operation: After terminating or releasing the process that had the file or directory locked, you should be able to perform the desired operation, such as moving the file or directory, without encountering the “cannot access” or “permission denied” error.

It’s important to note that forcefully terminating processes or releasing locks may have consequences, such as data loss or system instability, depending on the specific scenario. Exercise caution when terminating processes and ensure that you understand the implications of doing so.