What command is used to create a symbolic link/soft link?

┌── ln(1) link, ln -- make links
│   ┌── Create a symbolic link.
│   │                         ┌── the optional path to the intended symlink
│   │                         │   if omitted, symlink is in . named as destination
│   │                         │   can use . or ~ or other relative paths
│   │                   ┌─────┴────────┐
ln -s /path/to/original /path/to/symlink
              └── the path to the original file/folder
                  can use . or ~ or other relative paths
$ echo content > original
$ ln -s original symlink
$ ls -la original symlink
-rw-r--r--  1 grgarside  staff    8 28 Jan 18:44 original
lrwxr-xr-x  1 grgarside  staff    8 28 Jan 18:44 symlink -> original
$ cat symlink

For more information about ln(1) see the man page.

The path to the symlink is optional; if omitted, ln defaults to making a link with the same name as the destination, in the current directory:

$ cd ~/Documents
$ ln -s ../Pictures
$ ls -l Pictures
lrwxr-xr-x  1 user  staff  11 Feb  1 17:05 Pictures -> ../Pictures

To create a symlink to replace a system directory (e.g. if you want to have /Users pointing to another disk drive), you need to disable System Integrity Protection. You can re-enable it after the symlink is set up.

  • 57
    If only man pages were as clear as your answer! – Adrian Lynch Jan 27 '16 at 7:00
  • permission denied :S can you give me a hint? trying to create symlink for Users so I can use it on other hard disk and ssd has just symlink. thanks – Ewoks Mar 13 '16 at 21:36
  • 2
    @patrix I've edited my answer to clarify; feel free to edit further. – grg Mar 14 '16 at 7:40
  • 3
    Fun fact: original doesn't need to actually exist. The command ln -s "This directory is no longer in use" README would be perfectly legitimate, and then anybody executing ls -l would see the message. – Edward Falk May 11 '16 at 14:33
  • 1
    For future reference: You don't need to move /Users on macOS to save space. You can change users' home directory paths individually in the System Preferences under Users & Groups by right-clicking the user list entries. – Peter W. May 12 '17 at 22:09

The command is called ln. If used with the option -s it will create a symbolic link in the current directory:

ln -s /any/file/on/the/disk linked-file
  • 1
    Does the linked-file have to exist first? I get a file not found error on the target. – AlxVallejo Oct 26 '16 at 14:26
  • 2
    The file not (you get an error message if it does), but all directories in any path. If you are stuck, feel free to ask a new question using the Ask Question button at the top right. Include a link to this question to provide context. – nohillside Oct 26 '16 at 17:06
  • Symbolic link should not exist before you run this command. But a valid path is required as far as I know. If the output file's folder not exists before you run this command, you will get No such file or directoryerror as well. – Deniz Kaplan Dec 19 '17 at 11:23

I know this question is explicitly asking about the Terminal, but if you're in GUI Land and don't want to enter Terminal Land, you can use SymbolicLinker. This puts a "Make Symbolic Link" option in your Services menu in Finder.

A context menu for a folder, showing a "Services" submenu, with "Make Symbolic Link" hilighted

A context menu for a symbolic link, with "Make Symbolic Link" hilighted

  • 3
    I'd love to know why this was downvoted so I can make higher-quality answers from now on :) – Ben Leggiero Apr 27 '16 at 22:43
  • 9
    probably because the question was "How can I create a symbolic link in Terminal?" But I am not downvoting you :) – vedrano Apr 29 '16 at 14:55
  • 1
    @EdwardFalk I think in El Capitan, you can hold Command+Option while dragging a file... will update the answer later – Ben Leggiero Nov 9 '16 at 14:27
  • 1
    @BenLeggiero That makes an alias. – Andy Stewart Dec 29 '16 at 15:11
  • 2
    @BenLeggerio, The difference is explained here: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/2991/… – MiB Feb 25 '17 at 3:25

It's just ln -s <source> <destination>.


ln -s /some/dir/ ~/Desktop/dir

You can also create a symlink for directory using the same command

ln -s "$(pwd)" ~/Desktop/dir

To create symlink to current directory you are in.

  • 2
    A simple . (dot) will give the pwd. No fancy arguments needed :) – mylogon Apr 20 '18 at 19:37
  • @mylogon hahaha i like to overthink sometimes. simplified my answer! – Gerald Jun 17 '18 at 8:23
  • @mylogon i just realised that . doesnt work on macOS. didnt try on linux yet. using ./ resulted in this foo -> ./foo which points to itself. – Gerald Jul 12 '18 at 6:10
  • What is the full command you typed out? – mylogon Jul 12 '18 at 6:20

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.