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I am migrating my home directory from an old system to a new one, and the tarball I made contains everything, including hidden files like .bashrc. However, when I move the contents of the unpacked tarball (which are in /tmp) to my new home directory, the hidden files do not copy (mv /tmp/home/rcook/* /home/rcook/). How can I get mv to move them?

Actually, I think the problem is not with mv, but with bash's globbing. If I do this:

mkdir a
mkdir b
touch a/.foo
touch a/bar
mv a/* b/
ls -a a/ b/

I see this:

.  ..  .foo

.  ..  bar

a/.foo did not move. So how can I get the * wildcard to find hidden files?

Yes, I suppose I could decompress the tarball directly into my home directory, but the tarball decompresses into home/rcook/..., and I want to be sure I overwrite the new .bashrc, etc. with the old, customized versions, and knowing how to find and move hidden files is a worthwhile skill. Suggestions?

Some answers suggest doing something like mv src/.* dest/. However, I tried this on my test directories and got errors. Starting with:

rcook$ ls -a a/ b/
.  ..  bar  .foo

.  ..
rcook$ mv a/.* b/
mv: cannot move 'a/.' to 'b/.': Device or resource busy
mv: cannot remove 'a/..': Is a directory
rcook$ ls -a a/ b/
.  ..  bar

.  ..  .foo

What am I doing wrong?

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5 Answers 5

up vote 26 down vote accepted

You can do this :

shopt -s dotglob
mv /tmp/home/rcook/* /home/rcook/

You can put

shopt -s dotglob

in your ~/.bashrc if you want it to be the default.

See http://mywiki.wooledge.org/glob

Another approach to copy the dot files:

mv /tmp/home/rcook/.[!.]* /home/rcook/

Don't use the pattern ..* as it matches .. (pointer to the parent directory). If there are files whose name begin with two dots (..something), also use the pattern ..?*.

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post edited with another solution –  stArdustͲ Feb 21 '13 at 19:21
Please check out the additions I put at the bottom of my question. Thanks. –  Randall Cook Feb 21 '13 at 19:25
Nothings wrong, . and .. are specials dirs : respectively current dir & parent dir. It's just a warning. Better use shopt -s dotglob solution –  stArdustͲ Feb 21 '13 at 19:27
I ended up just doing two moves: mv home/rcook/* /home/rcook/ followed by mv home/rcook/.* /home/rcook/. This did the trick, though I wish I had followed the link and read about dotglob mode first. It would have saved me a step. +1 –  Randall Cook Feb 22 '13 at 4:19
So the second approach requires the use of absolute paths? –  franzlorenzon Oct 31 '13 at 14:24

If you ls -l in a directory, you will see . and .. among listed files. So, I think mv .* /dest takes those pointers into account. Try:

mv /tmp/home/rcook/{*,.[^.]*,..?*} /home/rcook/

this will ignore those current and parent dir pointers.

You will get an error if any of the three patterns *, [^.]* or ..?* matches no file, so you should only include the ones that match.

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In your additions, you got errors but the code still worked. The only thing to add is that you told it only to copy the dot files. Try:

mv src/* src/.* dst/

You will still get the errors for the . and .. entries, which is fine. But the move should succeed.

~/scratch [andrew] $ mv from/* from/.* to/
mv: cannot move ‘from/.’ to ‘to/.’: Device or resource busy
mv: cannot remove ‘from/..’: Is a directory
~/scratch [andrew] $ ls -a from/ to/
.  ..

.  ..  test  .test
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There isn't really such a thing as "hidden" files on Linux. Files which begin with a dot are just hidden from file listings by default.

To copy files even with a glob, you need to prefix the file with . such as mv -u .* foo and then .foo will appearn as foo/.foo when moved.

The -u option will only move the files when the source is newer, or the destination is missing. Or you could just ignore the errors about moving . and .. as they are special files and cannot be moved, but do get caught in the .* glob by the shell.

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Please check out the additions I put at the bottom of my question. Thanks. –  Randall Cook Feb 21 '13 at 19:25

Two possible solutions I can think of. The first is to use cp instead with its recursive option, copying the current directory to the destination.

cp -Rp . /desired/directory

then you can remove the source files in the current directory

Alternatively, if you know the files are sanely named (no spaces, wildcards, non-printable characters), you can do something like this

mv $(ls -A) /desired/directory
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Copy-then-remove is very different from move if the source and target are on the same filesystem. At least include the option -p to preserve metadata. Using ls should be a last resort, and here there are better, simpler ways. –  Gilles Jun 14 '14 at 13:04

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