Hard Link: Explanation & Insights

A hard link is essentially an additional name for an existing file on a Linux filesystem. All files are hard links. When a file is created, it is a hard link to the data on the disk. When a hard link is created, it is just another name pointing to the same data.

This works because in Linux, data is stored in blocks on the disk. A file is a name that points to a list of these blocks. When you create a hard link, you're creating another name that points to the same list of blocks. It's important to note that a hard link is not a copy of the data, but rather another way to access the existing data.

Importance of Hard Links

Hard links are important because they allow multiple filenames to point to the same data without taking up additional disk space. They can be useful for keeping track of a file in different locations without having to create duplicate copies. Hard links also remain connected to the data even if the original filename is moved or deleted.

However, keep in mind that hard links have restrictions. They cannot be created for directories to prevent infinite loops in the file system and they cannot span different file systems.

Problems with Hard Links

Hard links can cause filesystem complexity as it might be difficult to track all the filenames associated with a particular set of data. It can also lead to data loss if not handled properly. If you delete a hard link thinking it's a copy of the data, you might end up losing access to the data if all hard links to that data are deleted.

Commands for Hard Links

The command to create a hard link in Linux is ln. This command takes two arguments: the existing filename and the new hard link name.

ln existingfile hardlink

This creates a hard link named hardlink to the file existingfile.

To view all the hard links to a file, you can use the ls command with the -l option.

ls -l

This will display the number of hard links to each file in the second column of the output.

Examples with Hard Links

Let's say you have a file named file1 and you want to create a hard link named link1 to this file. You would use the following command:

ln file1 link1

Now, if you list the files with ls -l, you would see something like this:

-rw-r--r-- 2 user group 0 Mar 6 12:34 file1
-rw-r--r-- 2 user group 0 Mar 6 12:34 link1

The 2 in the second column indicates that there are 2 hard links to the data: file1 and link1.


Understanding hard links is crucial for managing files and directories in a Linux environment. They are a powerful tool, but they require careful handling to prevent data loss or unnecessary complexity.

Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is licensed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license CC BY SA