Working with Hidden Files in Linux


Hidden files in Linux operating system are files that are not displayed when the ls command is executed. A hidden file's name begins with a dot. Not only files, but also directories, can be hidden in Linux. Files in Linux are hidden for a variety of purposes. One of them is to prevent us from accidentally modifying the contents of these files. Another possibility is to avoid these files from being accidentally deleted. Files on shared networks may be hidden for privacy reasons. The majority of hidden files contain environment settings or data that are viewed by applications that the user is running. They should not be edited by the user, and only the application should have access to them.

In this article, we will talk about some ways to work with hidden files. We will discuss about different methods for finding hidden files and how to manipulate them.

Find Hidden Files Using ls Command

The hidden files can be found using this ls command −

$ ls -a 

This will show the hidden files as well as normal files.

              .cache     .emacs.d     .profile                   Videos
..            .config    ff           Public                    .viminfo
.aws           dd         .gnupg       results.txt               wd
** many more files **
.bash_history  Desktop    .local       .ssh
.bash_logout   Documents  Music        .sudo_as_admin_successful
.bashrc        Downloads  Pictures     Templates

To display hidden files with the ;ls’ command, we use the ‘-a’ flag. The ‘-a’ flag stands for "all" and instructs the “ls” command list all files (including hidden files). To display additional information about each file, we can use the ‘-l’ flag, which stands for "long listing." The ‘-l’ flag displays the file type, permissions, group, size, owner, and modification time.

$ ls -al

This command will display all files, including hidden files, in the current directory, along with detailed information for each file.

total 112
drwxr-xr-x 17 papan papan 4096 Mar 17 05:39 .
drwxr-xr-x  3 root  root  4096 Feb 17 20:53 ..
drwxrwxr-x  2 -- -- 4096 Feb 25 01:13 .aws
** many more files… **
-rw-------  1 papan papan 6101 Mar 16 02:48 .bash_history
-rw-r--r--  1 papan papan  220 Feb 17 20:53 .bash_logout
-rw-r--r--  1 papan papan 3771 Feb 17 20:53 .bashrc

Find Hidden Files Using Find Command

This command is a useful tool for locating files and directories on Linux. To find hidden files using the find command, we can use the ‘-name’ option to indicate the name of the file. In Linux, hidden files begin with a dot, so we can use the -name ".*" option, this will search all the files present in our system that starts with a dot. Here we have used ‘-type f’ option to search for files only.

$ find . -name ".*" -type f 

This command will search for all hidden files in recursive manner and also display their names and paths.

** many more folders **

To find only hidden directories on Linux, we need to use some options to filter the results. The “-name” option matches the pattern against the name of files or directories, using ".*" to find filenames that start with a dot, which is the convention for hidden files in Linux. -type d only searches for directories, while -maxdepth limits the search to the current directory, preventing a large number of results. “2> /dev/null” redirects error messages to the null device, avoiding clutter in the output.

$ find . -name ".*" -maxdepth 1 -type d 2> /dev/null

This command will find and list only the hidden directories.


Hide Files and Directories Using Terminal

We may want to hide files on Linux for security or other reasons. Hiding files or directories makes them invisible to user and file system. We can create and hide files and directories by using the terminal.

 $ touch .hidden_file 

The hidden file is created now to confirm this we can type this command −

$ ls -a

To create a hidden directory, we can type this command −

$ mkdir .hidden_directory

To confirm our hidden directory is created or not we can use this command −

$ ls -a
.hidden_directory  .hidden_file

Manipulate with the Hidden Files

Sometime we may also need to manipulate them in various ways like copy or edit.

To copy a hidden file from one directory to another, we can use the cp command to copy the file and any subdirectories it contains. For example −

$ cp .hidden_file .hidden_directory/

This command uses the cp command to copy the hidden file to the hidden directory.

To edit a hidden file, we can use any text editor we like, such as nano −

$ nano .hidden_directory/.hidden_file

This will open the hidden file in the nano text editor, allowing us to make changes to its contents.

GNU nano 4.8            .hidden_directory/.hidden_file                 Modified  
simaran roy!!

^G Get Help    ^O Write Out   ^W Where Is    ^K Cut Text    ^J Justify
^X Exit        ^R Read File   ^\ Replace     ^U Paste Text  ^T To Spell


Working with hidden folders is critical for handling system-related files and folders. In this article, we explained how to deal with hidden folders in Linux, including using the terminal and text editor. We can simply work with hidden files on our Linux operating system using these techniques.

Updated on: 08-May-2023


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