Directory

Tree directory structureA directory is a location for storing files on your computer. Directories are found in a hierarchical file system, such as Linux, MS-DOS, OS/2, and Unix.

In the picture to the right is an example of the tree command output that shows all the local and subdirectories (e.g. the "big" directory in the cdn directory). When looking at this overview, the C: drive is considered the current directory and root directory because there is nothing beneath it and you can't go back any further. If you are using an operating system with multiple user accounts the directory may also be referred to as a home directory.

Tip: In a GUI such as Microsoft Windows, directories are referred to as folders. However, a directory and folder are synonymous.

Overview of a directory and path

Below is an example of what a directory path would look like in MS-DOS.

Windows command line path

In the above example, C: is the drive letter and the current directory is System32, which is a subdirectory of the Windows directory.

Overview of a Linux directory path

Below is an example of what a directory path may look like in a Linux or Unix variant.

/usr/bin

In the above example, the current directory is bin, and it is a subdirectory of the usr directory. The beginning forward slash is the root directory.

How do I list or view directories?

To see directories and files in the current MS-DOS directory use the dir command. In Linux to view directories and files in the current directory, you'd use the ls command.

  • See the dir command page for further information and examples on this command.
  • See the ls command page for information and examples on this command.

Tip: Both of the above commands also have switches that can be added to them to only view directories and not directories and files.

How to change a directory

To change a directory in MS-DOS, Linux, Unix, and most other command line operating systems, use the "cd" command.

How to make a directory

To make a directory in MS-DOS, Linux, Unix, and most other command line operating systems, use the "mkdir" command.

How to delete a directory

To remove a directory in MS-DOS, use the "rmdir" command. In Linux and Unix, use the "rm -r" command.

Invalid directory characters

Below is a listing of reserved characters that cannot be used when creating a file or directory on most operating systems. When creating directories, if any of these characters are used, you'll receive an error or encounter other problems.

\ / : * ? " < > |

Related pages

Also see: Absolute path, Change directory, Current directory, File, Folder, Hierarchical file system, Home directory, Mkdir, MRUD, Network directory, Operating system terms, Parent, Path, PWD, Root directory, Shared directory, Subdirectory, Wd