How to Use the cd Command in Linux

In this article, you will learn the in and outs of the cd command. This will enable you to use your Linux terminal to navigate through your filesystem with ease.

How to Use the cd Command in Linux

If you are just getting started in Linux and its terminal capabilities, the cd command is one of the commands you should know.

The cd command refers to change directory command. As the name suggests, the command is used to move around from various directories within the filesystem.

Keep in mind that the cd command will move from your current working directory into the specified one. Luckily, the Linux terminal will always put you in a specific directory until you change it. By default, you'll be working in your home directory.

Luckily, the cd command is cross-platform. This means that once you learn it here, you can use it in all Unix-based and Windows systems.

The cd Command Syntax

Let us start by exploring the syntax of the cd command. The command provides a relatively simple syntax with minimal and easy-to-follow parameters.

The command syntax is as shown:

cd [OPTIONS] directory

The command accepts two main arguments:

  • -L -  forces the cd command to follow symbolic links. This is the default function if the parameter is not specified.
  • -P - restricts follow of symbolic links.

The above options allow you to allow or disallow the cd command from following symbolic links.

Keep in mind that running the cd command without any argument will take you into your home directory. For example:

$ pwd

The command above shows the current working directory using the pwd command. We can run the dcd command without arguments as:

$ cd
$ pwd

The command above navigates back to the home directory.

TIP: If you have auto-completion enabled on your shell, you can use tabs to autocomplete directory paths and names when working with the cd command.

Absolute and Relative Paths

When using the cd command, you need to specify the path to the target directory. You can specify the path to the target directory as an absolute or relative path.

An absolute path refers to the path that starts at the system root's directory. This means that the path starts at / and follows the directory tree.

A relative path on the other hand starts from your current working directory. This is useful when you need to navigate into children directories from your current working directory.

Take the Desktop folder in your working home directory.

In Absolute path, the path to the Desktop directory is expressed as:

cd /home/user/Desktop

If you are in your home directory, the relative path would be expressed as:

cd Downloads

Both commands works similarly.

The Parent Directory

In Linux and other Unix based systems, the current working directory is denoted by use of a single dot . . Hence, running the command:

cd .

Will stay in your current working directory.

You can use dot notation to navigate back to the directories that are directly above it. For example, if you are in your Desktop folder, you can go back to your home directory with the command:

cd ..

The command above will go to the directory that is immediately above the current one. In this case, that directory is your home directory.

To move two levels up, run the command:

cd ../../

If you are in the Desktop folder, this will take you into the home folder.

This can be useful when you need to quickly back into directories.

As mentioned, if you run the cd command without any arguments, the command will navigate into your home directory.

Another way to do this is using the tilde operator (~)

cd ~

In Linux, the ~ operator means the home directory.

You can also use the tilde to navigate into subdirectories within your home folder. For example, to navigate into the Desktop folder, run:

cd ~/Desktop

This basically means; cd into /home/user/Desktop

If you wish to navigate into the home folder of another use, you can use the tilde operator and the username of target user.

For example, to navigate into the debian user's home folder:

cd ~debian

If you have currently navigated into another directory and you wish to go back to your previous working directory, you can use the - operator as:

cd -

The command above will take you into your previously working directory.

debian@dev-server-0:~$ cd /var/log/
debian@dev-server-0:/var/log$ cd /usr/share/
debian@dev-server-0:/usr/share$ cd -
debian@dev-server-0:/var/log$ cd -

Note how the command allows you to switch back and forth between current working directory.

Unfortunately the Linux terminal and the cd command does not like spaces. Therefore, if the directory you wish to navigate to contains spaces, you might face an error.

To fix this, simply enclose the path to the target directory with quotes.

cd '/to the path of the directory/'



Congratulations, you have successfully leveled up on your Linux command-line skills. Using this tutorial, you learned how to navigate into directories using the cd command.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, share and leave us a comment below.

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