50 Most Frequently Used UNIX / Linux Commands (With Examples)

by Ramesh Natarajan on November 8, 2010

This article provides practical examples for 50 most frequently used commands in Linux / UNIX.

This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but this should give you a jumpstart on some of the common Linux commands. Bookmark this article for your future reference.

Did I miss any frequently used Linux commands? Leave a comment and let me know.

1. tar command examples

Create a new tar archive.

$ tar cvf archive_name.tar dirname/

Extract from an existing tar archive.

$ tar xvf archive_name.tar

View an existing tar archive.

$ tar tvf archive_name.tar

More tar examples: The Ultimate Tar Command Tutorial with 10 Practical Examples

2. grep command examples

Search for a given string in a file (case in-sensitive search).

$ grep -i "the" demo_file

Print the matched line, along with the 3 lines after it.

$ grep -A 3 -i "example" demo_text

Search for a given string in all files recursively

$ grep -r "ramesh" *

More grep examples: Get a Grip on the Grep! – 15 Practical Grep Command Examples

3. find command examples

Find files using file-name ( case in-sensitve find)

# find -iname "MyCProgram.c"

Execute commands on files found by the find command

$ find -iname "MyCProgram.c" -exec md5sum {} \;

Find all empty files in home directory

# find ~ -empty

More find examples: Mommy, I found it! — 15 Practical Linux Find Command Examples

4. ssh command examples

Login to remote host

ssh -l jsmith remotehost.example.com

Debug ssh client

ssh -v -l jsmith remotehost.example.com

Display ssh client version

$ ssh -V
OpenSSH_3.9p1, OpenSSL 0.9.7a Feb 19 2003

More ssh examples: 5 Basic Linux SSH Client Commands

5. sed command examples

When you copy a DOS file to Unix, you could find \r\n in the end of each line. This example converts the DOS file format to Unix file format using sed command.

$sed 's/.$//' filename

Print file content in reverse order

$ sed -n '1!G;h;$p' thegeekstuff.txt

Add line number for all non-empty-lines in a file

$ sed '/./=' thegeekstuff.txt | sed 'N; s/\n/ /'

More sed examples: Advanced Sed Substitution Examples

6. awk command examples

Remove duplicate lines using awk

$ awk '!($0 in array) { array[$0]; print }' temp

Print all lines from /etc/passwd that has the same uid and gid

$awk -F ':' '$3==$4' passwd.txt

Print only specific field from a file.

$ awk '{print $2,$5;}' employee.txt

More awk examples: 8 Powerful Awk Built-in Variables – FS, OFS, RS, ORS, NR, NF, FILENAME, FNR

7. vim command examples

Go to the 143rd line of file

$ vim +143 filename.txt

Go to the first match of the specified

$ vim +/search-term filename.txt

Open the file in read only mode.

$ vim -R /etc/passwd

More vim examples: How To Record and Play in Vim Editor

8. diff command examples

Ignore white space while comparing.

# diff -w name_list.txt name_list_new.txt

2c2,3
< John Doe --- > John M Doe
> Jason Bourne

More diff examples: Top 4 File Difference Tools on UNIX / Linux – Diff, Colordiff, Wdiff, Vimdiff

9. sort command examples

Sort a file in ascending order

$ sort names.txt

Sort a file in descending order

$ sort -r names.txt

Sort passwd file by 3rd field.

$ sort -t: -k 3n /etc/passwd | more

10. export command examples

To view oracle related environment variables.

$ export | grep ORACLE
declare -x ORACLE_BASE="/u01/app/oracle"
declare -x ORACLE_HOME="/u01/app/oracle/product/10.2.0"
declare -x ORACLE_SID="med"
declare -x ORACLE_TERM="xterm"

To export an environment variable:

$ export ORACLE_HOME=/u01/app/oracle/product/10.2.0

11. xargs command examples

Copy all images to external hard-drive

# ls *.jpg | xargs -n1 -i cp {} /external-hard-drive/directory

Search all jpg images in the system and archive it.

# find / -name *.jpg -type f -print | xargs tar -cvzf images.tar.gz

Download all the URLs mentioned in the url-list.txt file

# cat url-list.txt | xargs wget –c

12. ls command examples

Display filesize in human readable format (e.g. KB, MB etc.,)

$ ls -lh
-rw-r----- 1 ramesh team-dev 8.9M Jun 12 15:27 arch-linux.txt.gz

Order Files Based on Last Modified Time (In Reverse Order) Using ls -ltr

$ ls -ltr

Visual Classification of Files With Special Characters Using ls -F

$ ls -F

More ls examples: Unix LS Command: 15 Practical Examples

13. pwd command

pwd is Print working directory. What else can be said about the good old pwd who has been printing the current directory name for ages.

14. cd command examples

Use “cd -” to toggle between the last two directories

Use “shopt -s cdspell” to automatically correct mistyped directory names on cd

More cd examples: 6 Awesome Linux cd command Hacks

15. gzip command examples

To create a *.gz compressed file:

$ gzip test.txt

To uncompress a *.gz file:

$ gzip -d test.txt.gz

Display compression ratio of the compressed file using gzip -l

$ gzip -l *.gz
         compressed        uncompressed  ratio uncompressed_name
              23709               97975  75.8% asp-patch-rpms.txt

16. bzip2 command examples

To create a *.bz2 compressed file:

$ bzip2 test.txt

To uncompress a *.bz2 file:

bzip2 -d test.txt.bz2

More bzip2 examples: BZ is Eazy! bzip2, bzgrep, bzcmp, bzdiff, bzcat, bzless, bzmore examples

17. unzip command examples

To extract a *.zip compressed file:

$ unzip test.zip

View the contents of *.zip file (Without unzipping it):

$ unzip -l jasper.zip
Archive:  jasper.zip
  Length     Date   Time    Name
 --------    ----   ----    ----
    40995  11-30-98 23:50   META-INF/MANIFEST.MF
    32169  08-25-98 21:07   classes_
    15964  08-25-98 21:07   classes_names
    10542  08-25-98 21:07   classes_ncomp

18. shutdown command examples

Shutdown the system and turn the power off immediately.

# shutdown -h now

Shutdown the system after 10 minutes.

# shutdown -h +10

Reboot the system using shutdown command.

# shutdown -r now

Force the filesystem check during reboot.

# shutdown -Fr now

19. ftp command examples

Both ftp and secure ftp (sftp) has similar commands. To connect to a remote server and download multiple files, do the following.

$ ftp IP/hostname
ftp> mget *.html

To view the file names located on the remote server before downloading, mls ftp command as shown below.

ftp> mls *.html -
/ftptest/features.html
/ftptest/index.html
/ftptest/othertools.html
/ftptest/samplereport.html
/ftptest/usage.html

More ftp examples: FTP and SFTP Beginners Guide with 10 Examples

20. crontab command examples

View crontab entry for a specific user

# crontab -u john -l

Schedule a cron job every 10 minutes.

*/10 * * * * /home/ramesh/check-disk-space

More crontab examples: Linux Crontab: 15 Awesome Cron Job Examples

21. service command examples

Service command is used to run the system V init scripts. i.e Instead of calling the scripts located in the /etc/init.d/ directory with their full path, you can use the service command.

Check the status of a service:

# service ssh status

Check the status of all the services.

service --status-all

Restart a service.

# service ssh restart

22. ps command examples

ps command is used to display information about the processes that are running in the system.

While there are lot of arguments that could be passed to a ps command, following are some of the common ones.

To view current running processes.

$ ps -ef | more

To view current running processes in a tree structure. H option stands for process hierarchy.

$ ps -efH | more

23. free command examples

This command is used to display the free, used, swap memory available in the system.

Typical free command output. The output is displayed in bytes.

$ free
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:       3566408    1580220    1986188          0     203988     902960
-/+ buffers/cache:     473272    3093136
Swap:      4000176          0    4000176

If you want to quickly check how many GB of RAM your system has use the -g option. -b option displays in bytes, -k in kilo bytes, -m in mega bytes.

$ free -g
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:             3          1          1          0          0          0
-/+ buffers/cache:          0          2
Swap:            3          0          3

If you want to see a total memory ( including the swap), use the -t switch, which will display a total line as shown below.

ramesh@ramesh-laptop:~$ free -t
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:       3566408    1592148    1974260          0     204260     912556
-/+ buffers/cache:     475332    3091076
Swap:      4000176          0    4000176
Total:     7566584    1592148    5974436

24. top command examples

top command displays the top processes in the system ( by default sorted by cpu usage ). To sort top output by any column, Press O (upper-case O) , which will display all the possible columns that you can sort by as shown below.

Current Sort Field:  P  for window 1:Def
Select sort field via field letter, type any other key to return

  a: PID        = Process Id              v: nDRT       = Dirty Pages count
  d: UID        = User Id                 y: WCHAN      = Sleeping in Function
  e: USER       = User Name               z: Flags      = Task Flags
  ........

To displays only the processes that belong to a particular user use -u option. The following will show only the top processes that belongs to oracle user.

$ top -u oracle

More top examples: Can You Top This? 15 Practical Linux Top Command Examples

25. df command examples

Displays the file system disk space usage. By default df -k displays output in bytes.

$ df -k
Filesystem           1K-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1             29530400   3233104  24797232  12% /
/dev/sda2            120367992  50171596  64082060  44% /home

df -h displays output in human readable form. i.e size will be displayed in GB’s.

ramesh@ramesh-laptop:~$ df -h
Filesystem            Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1              29G  3.1G   24G  12% /
/dev/sda2             115G   48G   62G  44% /home

Use -T option to display what type of file system.

ramesh@ramesh-laptop:~$ df -T
Filesystem    Type   1K-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/sda1     ext4    29530400   3233120  24797216  12% /
/dev/sda2     ext4   120367992  50171596  64082060  44% /home

26. kill command examples

Use kill command to terminate a process. First get the process id using ps -ef command, then use kill -9 to kill the running Linux process as shown below. You can also use killall, pkill, xkill to terminate a unix process.

$ ps -ef | grep vim
ramesh    7243  7222  9 22:43 pts/2    00:00:00 vim

$ kill -9 7243

More kill examples: 4 Ways to Kill a Process – kill, killall, pkill, xkill

27. rm command examples

Get confirmation before removing the file.

$ rm -i filename.txt

It is very useful while giving shell metacharacters in the file name argument.

Print the filename and get confirmation before removing the file.

$ rm -i file*

Following example recursively removes all files and directories under the example directory. This also removes the example directory itself.

$ rm -r example

28. cp command examples

Copy file1 to file2 preserving the mode, ownership and timestamp.

$ cp -p file1 file2

Copy file1 to file2. if file2 exists prompt for confirmation before overwritting it.

$ cp -i file1 file2

29. mv command examples

Rename file1 to file2. if file2 exists prompt for confirmation before overwritting it.

$ mv -i file1 file2

Note: mv -f is just the opposite, which will overwrite file2 without prompting.

mv -v will print what is happening during file rename, which is useful while specifying shell metacharacters in the file name argument.

$ mv -v file1 file2

30. cat command examples

You can view multiple files at the same time. Following example prints the content of file1 followed by file2 to stdout.

$ cat file1 file2

While displaying the file, following cat -n command will prepend the line number to each line of the output.

$ cat -n /etc/logrotate.conf
    1	/var/log/btmp {
    2	    missingok
    3	    monthly
    4	    create 0660 root utmp
    5	    rotate 1
    6	}

31. mount command examples

To mount a file system, you should first create a directory and mount it as shown below.

# mkdir /u01

# mount /dev/sdb1 /u01

You can also add this to the fstab for automatic mounting. i.e Anytime system is restarted, the filesystem will be mounted.

/dev/sdb1 /u01 ext2 defaults 0 2

32. chmod command examples

chmod command is used to change the permissions for a file or directory.

Give full access to user and group (i.e read, write and execute ) on a specific file.

$ chmod ug+rwx file.txt

Revoke all access for the group (i.e read, write and execute ) on a specific file.

$ chmod g-rwx file.txt

Apply the file permissions recursively to all the files in the sub-directories.

$ chmod -R ug+rwx file.txt

More chmod examples: 7 Chmod Command Examples for Beginners

33. chown command examples

chown command is used to change the owner and group of a file. \

To change owner to oracle and group to db on a file. i.e Change both owner and group at the same time.

$ chown oracle:dba dbora.sh

Use -R to change the ownership recursively.

$ chown -R oracle:dba /home/oracle

34. passwd command examples

Change your password from command line using passwd. This will prompt for the old password followed by the new password.

$ passwd

Super user can use passwd command to reset others password. This will not prompt for current password of the user.

# passwd USERNAME

Remove password for a specific user. Root user can disable password for a specific user. Once the password is disabled, the user can login without entering the password.

# passwd -d USERNAME

35. mkdir command examples

Following example creates a directory called temp under your home directory.

$ mkdir ~/temp

Create nested directories using one mkdir command. If any of these directories exist already, it will not display any error. If any of these directories doesn’t exist, it will create them.

$ mkdir -p dir1/dir2/dir3/dir4/

36. ifconfig command examples

Use ifconfig command to view or configure a network interface on the Linux system.

View all the interfaces along with status.

$ ifconfig -a

Start or stop a specific interface using up and down command as shown below.

$ ifconfig eth0 up

$ ifconfig eth0 down

More ifconfig examples: Ifconfig: 7 Examples To Configure Network Interface

37. uname command examples

Uname command displays important information about the system such as — Kernel name, Host name, Kernel release number,
Processor type, etc.,

Sample uname output from a Ubuntu laptop is shown below.

$ uname -a
Linux john-laptop 2.6.32-24-generic #41-Ubuntu SMP Thu Aug 19 01:12:52 UTC 2010 i686 GNU/Linux

38. whereis command examples

When you want to find out where a specific Unix command exists (for example, where does ls command exists?), you can execute the following command.

$ whereis ls
ls: /bin/ls /usr/share/man/man1/ls.1.gz /usr/share/man/man1p/ls.1p.gz

When you want to search an executable from a path other than the whereis default path, you can use -B option and give path as argument to it. This searches for the executable lsmk in the /tmp directory, and displays it, if it is available.

$ whereis -u -B /tmp -f lsmk
lsmk: /tmp/lsmk

39. whatis command examples

Whatis command displays a single line description about a command.

$ whatis ls
ls		(1)  - list directory contents

$ whatis ifconfig
ifconfig (8)         - configure a network interface

40. locate command examples

Using locate command you can quickly search for the location of a specific file (or group of files). Locate command uses the database created by updatedb.

The example below shows all files in the system that contains the word crontab in it.

$ locate crontab
/etc/anacrontab
/etc/crontab
/usr/bin/crontab
/usr/share/doc/cron/examples/crontab2english.pl.gz
/usr/share/man/man1/crontab.1.gz
/usr/share/man/man5/anacrontab.5.gz
/usr/share/man/man5/crontab.5.gz
/usr/share/vim/vim72/syntax/crontab.vim

41. man command examples

Display the man page of a specific command.

$ man crontab

When a man page for a command is located under more than one section, you can view the man page for that command from a specific section as shown below.

$ man SECTION-NUMBER commandname

Following 8 sections are available in the man page.

  1. General commands
  2. System calls
  3. C library functions
  4. Special files (usually devices, those found in /dev) and drivers
  5. File formats and conventions
  6. Games and screensavers
  7. Miscellaneous
  8. System administration commands and daemons

For example, when you do whatis crontab, you’ll notice that crontab has two man pages (section 1 and section 5). To view section 5 of crontab man page, do the following.

$ whatis crontab
crontab (1)          - maintain crontab files for individual users (V3)
crontab (5)          - tables for driving cron

$ man 5 crontab

42. tail command examples

Print the last 10 lines of a file by default.

$ tail filename.txt

Print N number of lines from the file named filename.txt

$ tail -n N filename.txt

View the content of the file in real time using tail -f. This is useful to view the log files, that keeps growing. The command can be terminated using CTRL-C.

$ tail -f log-file

More tail examples: 3 Methods To View tail -f output of Multiple Log Files in One Terminal

43. less command examples

less is very efficient while viewing huge log files, as it doesn’t need to load the full file while opening.

$ less huge-log-file.log

One you open a file using less command, following two keys are very helpful.

CTRL+F – forward one window
CTRL+B – backward one window

More less examples: Unix Less Command: 10 Tips for Effective Navigation

44. su command examples

Switch to a different user account using su command. Super user can switch to any other user without entering their password.

$ su - USERNAME

Execute a single command from a different account name. In the following example, john can execute the ls command as raj username. Once the command is executed, it will come back to john’s account.

[john@dev-server]$ su - raj -c 'ls'

[john@dev-server]$

Login to a specified user account, and execute the specified shell instead of the default shell.

$ su -s 'SHELLNAME' USERNAME

45. mysql command examples

mysql is probably the most widely used open source database on Linux. Even if you don’t run a mysql database on your server, you might end-up using the mysql command ( client ) to connect to a mysql database running on the remote server.

To connect to a remote mysql database. This will prompt for a password.

$ mysql -u root -p -h 192.168.1.2

To connect to a local mysql database.

$ mysql -u root -p

If you want to specify the mysql root password in the command line itself, enter it immediately after -p (without any space).

46. yum command examples

To install apache using yum.

$ yum install httpd

To upgrade apache using yum.

$ yum update httpd

To uninstall/remove apache using yum.

$ yum remove httpd

47. rpm command examples

To install apache using rpm.

# rpm -ivh httpd-2.2.3-22.0.1.el5.i386.rpm

To upgrade apache using rpm.

# rpm -uvh httpd-2.2.3-22.0.1.el5.i386.rpm

To uninstall/remove apache using rpm.

# rpm -ev httpd

More rpm examples: RPM Command: 15 Examples to Install, Uninstall, Upgrade, Query RPM Packages

48. ping command examples

Ping a remote host by sending only 5 packets.

$ ping -c 5 gmail.com

More ping examples: Ping Tutorial: 15 Effective Ping Command Examples

49. date command examples

Set the system date:

# date -s "01/31/2010 23:59:53"

Once you’ve changed the system date, you should syncronize the hardware clock with the system date as shown below.

# hwclock –systohc

# hwclock --systohc –utc

50. wget command examples

The quick and effective method to download software, music, video from internet is using wget command.

$ wget http://prdownloads.sourceforge.net/sourceforge/nagios/nagios-3.2.1.tar.gz

Download and store it with a different name.

$ wget -O taglist.zip http://www.vim.org/scripts/download_script.php?src_id=7701

More wget examples: The Ultimate Wget Download Guide With 15 Awesome Examples

Did I miss any frequently used Linux commands? Leave a comment and let me know.


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{ 208 comments… read them below or add one }

201 mahesh August 6, 2014 at 8:04 am

thanks a lot.

202 adom blessing August 20, 2014 at 7:52 am

thanks for this. its really helpful

203 dev rajbhar September 10, 2014 at 9:47 pm

i want to know all simple command of the unix

204 John September 13, 2014 at 11:25 am

Maybe it would be interesting to differ between using Linux/Unix as an admin or as a non-admin, since some commands are useless for a non-admin

I personally miss VI in this list
SHUTDOWN may be replaced by INIT
LS is also an interesting one, and WHICH definately is
Then again, basic is this one as well : ECHO

205 chandru September 18, 2014 at 11:56 am

Hi,
I am using toshiba satellite laptop. After installing redhatlinux 6 in my laptop ethernet not detected. Kindly help
My hardare information:
Processor: intel pentium cpu B960 2.20GHZ 2100.00mhz
Ehternet: 03:00.0 ehternet controller atheros communications inc device 10a0(rev 10).

206 Nicholas Lee Fagan September 20, 2014 at 2:26 pm

51.) Rsync

207 dhiren October 7, 2014 at 3:11 am

Multiple files is there in tape.
i am no check end of the disk.
how to dump all files in tape..
any script

208 mrutyunjay October 9, 2014 at 12:31 am

I didn’t got awk command. I tried but it can’t work properly.

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