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?


9 Answers 9


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 ..?*.

  • 1
    Nothings wrong, . and .. are specials dirs : respectively current dir & parent dir. It's just a warning. Better use shopt -s dotglob solution Feb 21, 2013 at 19:27
  • 1
    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 Feb 22, 2013 at 4:19
  • 4
    If you're using zsh, you can use the D globbing qualifier or the GLOB_DOTS shell option.
    – mgalgs
    Dec 23, 2014 at 23:39
  • 1
    No, .[!.]* is : a dot, followed by anything but a dot, followed by anythings Jul 28, 2015 at 9:20
  • 1
    shopt -s dotglob = best solution of all
    – Deunz
    Sep 15, 2021 at 8:17

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
  • 3
    Good points, @AndrewSchwartz. I like this approach, too. I think it deserves more recognition. Jul 28, 2015 at 5:00
  • I like @Drake Clarris answer a little more, because I'm running on Amazon AWS CodeBuild and the non zero return code actually caused my build to stop. I ended up moving the one .hidden file I had explicitly to solve my problem though. May 27, 2019 at 22:58
  • If the non-zero exit code is a problem you could suppress it, e.g. by appending || : (|| means execute the following on false/error, : is noop command). But that would suppress legit errors too, e.g. destination folder does not exist. I can't find a more elegant way using mv to exclude the . and .. entries. Butt big plus for me over cp is not writing new files to disk. May 29, 2019 at 13:30

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.


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
  • 4
    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. Jun 14, 2014 at 13:04
  • this is good solution so far
    – haidarvm
    Oct 16, 2020 at 15:28

I know this is old, but, one simple way to do it is:

mv a/{.*,*} b/


This is called brace expansion. In this case, the shell expands the path you give by concatenating the string given before the braces (in this case a/) followed by each variation given in the list surrounded by the braces. The variation list is composed by values separated by commas and, again, surrounded by curly braces. So, in this case we have .* and * as elements, so the list must be {.*,*}.

mv a/{.*,*} b/

The above expression can be read this way: move all files starting with a dot (.*) AND anything else (*) in the a/ directory to the b/ directory.

More hints

This is very helpful and can be used in various scenarios. For example, imagine you have to create 100 files with the following naming pattern: file1, file2, file3...file100. You can easily achieve it by doing this

touch file{1..100}

In this case, you can see a range was given. You can do this by separating the first and last values by two dots (..).

Going Beyond!

I'm new to the Unix world and, even knowing this works in bash and zsh (the shells I've used so far), I can't guarantee this will work in any shell.

You can see more about expansions an globbing in your shell's documentation (using: man bash or man zshall, for bash and zsh respectively).

Hope this helps future readers!

  • 2
    If you write it like {*,.*}, it's also an emoji
    – slikts
    May 19, 2021 at 6:39
  • 1
    This is a really elegant solution and I think it should be upvoted more. Oct 26, 2021 at 20:39

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.


So we have:

|-- .foo
`-- bar



I took a huge time finding better solution than all the answers here.

Then I took 30 seconds for this command:

$ mv --help

Then I found my love:

$ mv a/ b/ -T

Note: I don't even understand the argument -T. It just did what I needed. Here it says:

-T, --no-target-directory treat DEST as a normal file

  • 1
    If you omit the slashes, you shouldn't need -T. Either way this is essentially telling mv to move the directory itself, rather than moving all the files from inside it. Jul 28, 2015 at 1:52
  • @thomasrutter, isn't moving the directory itself the same thing as renaming it? Jul 28, 2015 at 4:52
  • 3
    Yes, if the parent destination remains the same, it's essentially just renaming it. However you refer to it, it probably doesn't help answer the original question, which was about moving the files inside the directory into a given location. Jul 29, 2015 at 0:17

In my case I was simply trying to mv a single hidden file and this was the solution:

mv "$FILE" dest/


At first I was trying:

mv .myHiddenFile dest/

But it kept producing the error:

mv: cannot stat '.myHiddenFile': No such file or directory

Even though a ls -al showed that the file and dest/ existed.

The reason appears to be because the shell was interpreting the "." in the file name, so by moving it to a variable it avoids the interpretation. There are probably other ways to resolve this, but this was enough for us.


An alternate way is to use (GNU) find:

find /tmp/home/rcook/ -mindepth 1 -maxdepth 1 -exec mv {} /home/rcook/ \;

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