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What happens when I delete a group wich is owner of certain folders and files? Who become the owner then?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Each user has a unique number, called a uid. Each group has a unique number, called a gid. It's the uid and gid that gets stored as owners of files, not the username or groupname.

The mapping between username and uid is in /etc/passwd, and the mapping between groupname and gid is in /etc/group (unless you've set up some other form of database for this).

When you use ls -l to list files, ls will query /etc/passwd and /etc/group to find the corresponding username and groupname for the file ownership.

When you remove a group, you just remove the mapping between groupname and gid in /etc/group, nothing happens to the files this group owned, they'll still be owned by the same gid, but since that group doesn't exist anymore, ls -l will print the gid instead of a groupname, and no one will have access to the file via its group ownership anymore.

If you create a new group and it gets assigned the same gid as the one you deleted, the files will then be owned by that group.

See also

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The permissions are stored on the filesystem if that filesystem supports them.

There is no direct connection between the available users or groups on a particular machine with the permissions of a file/folder.

If you delete a group or a user the permissions simply remain the same, you have 2 commands that you can use to change user and group permission, they both require sudo:

  • chgrp to change the group for a file/folder
  • chown to change the owner for a file/folder

for example

sudo chgrp myfellas file.txt


sudo chown -R jon music/
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