I am compiling a program using make and want the output of make to be written to a file. I have tried using > operator like

make > build_log.txt

and using tee command like

make | tee build_log.txt

but the problem is that some of the ouput goes into the file but rest keeps appearing on the screen.

I can simply copy/paste the text from terminal into a file after running make but that is not a solution.

So my question is how do I save i.e redirect all the output to file so that it goes into file only without appearing on screen.

1 Answer 1


The text that is displayed in the terminal comes from the stderr stream (2). If you do just make > build_log.txt, only the stdout (1) stream is redirected to the build_log.txt file.

  • stdout is the standard output stream and has file descriptor number 1. This is the default stream being redirected in shells.
  • stderr is the standard error stream and has file descriptor number 2

To redirect the stderr stream to that build_log.txt file too, use:

make > build_log.txt 2>&1
  • make is executed and
    • the stdout stream is redirected (>) to build_log.txt
    • the stderr stream is redirected (2>) to the stdout stream (&1), which was redirected to build_log.txt

The order is important, you cannot switch switch the redirection operators like make 2>&1 > build_log.txt.

Alternative command:

make 2>&1 | tee build_log.txt > /dev/null

The redirection to /dev/null is needed to hide output, tee writes its input to build_log.txt and outputs it too.

  • can you plz explain '2>&1'. is 2 on commandline always going to mean error stream? and why is & used with 2 but not 1.
    – binW
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 12:08
  • @binW: I've updated it, is it more clear now?
    – Lekensteyn
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 12:16
  • only a small thing is unclear :( why use &1. If stdout is 1 then shouldnt 2>1 do the job instead of 2>&1. when is & used with stream number?
    – binW
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 12:21
  • 1
    2>1 would redirect the standard error stream to a file named 1, where 2>&1 redirects to the standard output stream. & makes the distinction between a file name and a file descriptor number.
    – Lekensteyn
    Commented Jun 16, 2011 at 12:27

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