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I have a GB's worth of music on my HDD that was formatted with EXT4. I want to move these files to a FAT formatted HDD partition. However, I can't move most of my files because they have ":" in the names (For example, "Act 2: ....." for operas). Is there a way with command line to rename all of my files from "XXXX:XXXX" to "XXXX-XXXX"?

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up vote 13 down vote accepted

If all your files are in a single directory, try:

rename 's|:|-|g' *

(where * can be changed to something more restrictive if you'd like)

If you have many files in a directory tree, try this from the base of the tree:

find . -name "*:*" -exec rename 's|:|-|g' {} \;

You can add the option -n right after rename to have it tell you what it WOULD do without ACTUALLY doing it. This might help you avoid accidentally stepping on other files or something else bad...

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Single directory solution will work but nested solution won't if directories themselves have :s in their names. This is because in the output of find . the name of a subdirectory precedes its contents. So if you have a file /1:/2: first /1:/ will be renamed to /1-/. Now you cannot rename /1:/2: to /1-/2- because /1:/2: doesn't exist. – S Prasanth Dec 10 '12 at 13:57
For directories: find . -type d -readable -writable -exec rename 's|:|-|g' {} \; And then files: find . -type f -readable -writable -exec rename 's|:|-|g' {} \; – user8290 Dec 10 '12 at 14:07
@Christopher The command for directories will fail if there are two levels of directories with : in their names. Eg: /1:/2:/ where 2: is also a directory. Of course, if this is not the case in Ryan's situation, then this will work. – S Prasanth Dec 10 '12 at 15:13
For multiple levels of sub-dirs use: for i in {1..20}; do find . -maxdepth $i -mindepth $i -name "*:*" -exec rename 's|:|-|g' {} \;; done. Change 20 to the maximum depth of the dir. structure. Doesn't have to be exact - can be larger. Will take time if set to a very large number though. – S Prasanth Dec 12 '12 at 14:18
works fine thanks! – Stefano Mtangoo Nov 11 '14 at 10:36

Im not at my linux machine right now so I can only give rough information.

Linux has a commandline utility called rename which works with among other inputs, regular expressions or regexes. You should be able to use that along with a regex like "s/:/-/" on your files to achieve the rename you want.

Just to be safe, do it in small batches and/or first test with the simulation (rename has a flag which just gives you the oldname and new name of the file without actually renaming - use this to verify first)

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This is a solution in python which handles the case where the files are not necessarily in the same directory.

import os
torename = []
rootdir = "The main directory"
logfile = "Path to log file" #Eg: logfile = "/home/prasanth/renamelog"
for (path, dirs, files) in os.walk(rootdir):
    for dirname in dirs:
        if ':' in dirname:
            torename.append(os.path.join(path, dirname))
    for filename in files:
        if ':' in filename:
            torename.append(os.path.join(path, filename))

print "No of files/dirs to rename =", len(torename)
a = raw_input("Continue? (y/n) ")
if a == 'y':
    for oldname in torename:
        directory, filename = os.path.split(oldname)
        newname = os.path.join(directory, filename.replace(':', '-'))
        command = 'mv %s %s > /dev/null' % (repr(oldname), repr(newname))
        f = open(logfile, 'a')
        f.write(oldname + '\n')
    print "Aborted."
  1. Save this to a file (say)
  2. Change rootdir to the outermost directory under consideration (Use complete path name starting with /. No shorthands or env variables like ~ allowed). No need to put \ before special characters - for example if the outermost dir is /.../My HDD, put rootdir = "/.../My HDD" NOT rootdir = "/.../My\ HDD" (Note the "s) [I'm being this explicit only because you may be unfamiliar with python. No disrespect intended.]
  3. Change logfile to desired location of logfile. In the end, this file will contain the list of files renamed - for future reference.
  4. Call python

Warning: Do test on a small sample before risking an entire GB of music.

Details: Renaming is performed from the innermost files outward.

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