Each Linux file and folder are assigned to an owner, a group, and other users; neither the owner nor member of the given group. To change the access permission for the files and folders, you can change the permission for each previously mentioned category. You can also change the permission of files and folders by changing their ownership, which is to assign them to a new owner or group.

The common way to change the ownership of files and folders in Linux is by using chown and chgrp. Both are command-line tools available in all Linux and other Unix-based operating systems such as macOS and the BSDs.

Steps to change user and group owner for files and folders in Linux:

  1. Launch terminal.
  2. List existing users in the system.
    $ getent passwd
    root:x:0:0:root:/root:/bin/bash
    daemon:x:1:1:daemon:/usr/sbin:/usr/sbin/nologin
    bin:x:2:2:bin:/bin:/usr/sbin/nologin
    sys:x:3:3:sys:/dev:/usr/sbin/nologin
    sync:x:4:65534:sync:/bin:/bin/sync
    games:x:5:60:games:/usr/games:/usr/sbin/nologin
    man:x:6:12:man:/var/cache/man:/usr/sbin/nologin
    lp:x:7:7:lp:/var/spool/lpd:/usr/sbin/nologin
    mail:x:8:8:mail:/var/mail:/usr/sbin/nologin
    news:x:9:9:news:/var/spool/news:/usr/sbin/nologin
    uucp:x:10:10:uucp:/var/spool/uucp:/usr/sbin/nologin
    proxy:x:13:13:proxy:/bin:/usr/sbin/nologin
    www-data:x:33:33:www-data:/var/www:/usr/sbin/nologin
    backup:x:34:34:backup:/var/backups:/usr/sbin/nologin
    list:x:38:38:Mailing List Manager:/var/list:/usr/sbin/nologin
    irc:x:39:39:ircd:/var/run/ircd:/usr/sbin/nologin
    gnats:x:41:41:Gnats Bug-Reporting System (admin):/var/lib/gnats:/usr/sbin/nologin
    nobody:x:65534:65534:nobody:/nonexistent:/usr/sbin/nologin
    systemd-timesync:x:100:101:systemd Time Synchronization,,,:/run/systemd:/usr/sbin/nologin
    systemd-network:x:101:103:systemd Network Management,,,:/run/systemd:/usr/sbin/nologin
    systemd-resolve:x:102:104:systemd Resolver,,,:/run/systemd:/usr/sbin/nologin
    messagebus:x:103:106::/nonexistent:/usr/sbin/nologin
    syslog:x:104:110::/home/syslog:/usr/sbin/nologin
    _apt:x:105:65534::/nonexistent:/usr/sbin/nologin
    tss:x:106:111:TPM software stack,,,:/var/lib/tpm:/bin/false
    uuidd:x:107:114::/run/uuidd:/usr/sbin/nologin
    tcpdump:x:108:115::/nonexistent:/usr/sbin/nologin
    avahi-autoipd:x:109:117:Avahi autoip daemon,,,:/var/lib/avahi-autoipd:/usr/sbin/nologin
    usbmux:x:110:46:usbmux daemon,,,:/var/lib/usbmux:/usr/sbin/nologin
    rtkit:x:111:118:RealtimeKit,,,:/proc:/usr/sbin/nologin
    dnsmasq:x:112:65534:dnsmasq,,,:/var/lib/misc:/usr/sbin/nologin
    avahi:x:113:120:Avahi mDNS daemon,,,:/run/avahi-daemon:/usr/sbin/nologin
    cups-pk-helper:x:114:121:user for cups-pk-helper service,,,:/home/cups-pk-helper:/usr/sbin/nologin
    speech-dispatcher:x:115:29:Speech Dispatcher,,,:/run/speech-dispatcher:/bin/false
    kernoops:x:116:65534:Kernel Oops Tracking Daemon,,,:/:/usr/sbin/nologin
    saned:x:117:123::/var/lib/saned:/usr/sbin/nologin
    nm-openvpn:x:118:124:NetworkManager OpenVPN,,,:/var/lib/openvpn/chroot:/usr/sbin/nologin
    whoopsie:x:119:125::/nonexistent:/bin/false
    colord:x:120:126:colord colour management daemon,,,:/var/lib/colord:/usr/sbin/nologin
    sssd:x:121:127:SSSD system user,,,:/var/lib/sss:/usr/sbin/nologin
    geoclue:x:122:128::/var/lib/geoclue:/usr/sbin/nologin
    pulse:x:123:129:PulseAudio daemon,,,:/var/run/pulse:/usr/sbin/nologin
    hplip:x:124:7:HPLIP system user,,,:/run/hplip:/bin/false
    gnome-initial-setup:x:125:65534::/run/gnome-initial-setup/:/bin/false
    gdm:x:126:131:Gnome Display Manager:/var/lib/gdm3:/bin/false
    user:x:1000:1000:user,,,:/home/user:/bin/bash
    systemd-coredump:x:999:999:systemd Core Dumper:/:/usr/sbin/nologin
    sshd:x:127:65534::/run/sshd:/usr/sbin/nologin
    shakir:x:1001:1001:shakir,,,:/home/shakir:/bin/bash
  3. List existing groups in the system.
    $ getent group
    root:x:0:
    daemon:x:1:
    bin:x:2:
    sys:x:3:
    adm:x:4:syslog,user
    tty:x:5:
    disk:x:6:
    lp:x:7:
    mail:x:8:
    news:x:9:
    uucp:x:10:
    man:x:12:
    proxy:x:13:
    kmem:x:15:
    dialout:x:20:
    fax:x:21:
    voice:x:22:
    cdrom:x:24:user
    floppy:x:25:
    tape:x:26:
    sudo:x:27:user,shakir
    audio:x:29:pulse
    dip:x:30:user
    www-data:x:33:
    backup:x:34:
    operator:x:37:
    list:x:38:
    irc:x:39:
    src:x:40:
    gnats:x:41:
    shadow:x:42:
    utmp:x:43:
    video:x:44:
    sasl:x:45:
    plugdev:x:46:user
    staff:x:50:
    games:x:60:
    users:x:100:
    nogroup:x:65534:
    systemd-timesync:x:101:
    systemd-journal:x:102:
    systemd-network:x:103:
    systemd-resolve:x:104:
    crontab:x:105:
    messagebus:x:106:
    input:x:107:
    kvm:x:108:
    render:x:109:
    syslog:x:110:
    tss:x:111:
    bluetooth:x:112:
    ssl-cert:x:113:
    uuidd:x:114:
    tcpdump:x:115:
    ssh:x:116:
    avahi-autoipd:x:117:
    rtkit:x:118:
    netdev:x:119:
    avahi:x:120:
    lpadmin:x:121:user
    scanner:x:122:saned
    saned:x:123:
    nm-openvpn:x:124:
    whoopsie:x:125:
    colord:x:126:
    sssd:x:127:
    geoclue:x:128:
    pulse:x:129:
    pulse-access:x:130:
    gdm:x:131:
    lxd:x:132:user
    user:x:1000:
    sambashare:x:133:user
    systemd-coredump:x:999:
    shakir:x:1001:
  4. Check current owner and group of file or folder.
    $ stat -c "%U:%G" /var/www/html/index.html
    root:root
  5. Change owner of file based on the list of system users.
    $ sudo chown www-data /var/www/html/index.html

  6. Check current owner and group of file to confirm.
    $ stat -c "%U:%G" /var/www/html/index.html
    www-data:root
  7. Change group of file based on the list of system groups.
    $ sudo chgrp www-data /var/www/html/index.html
  8. Change both owner and group of a directory.
    $ sudo chown www-data:www-data /var/www/html/
  9. Change owner and group using wildcard.
    $ sudo chown www-data:www-data /var/www/html/*
  10. Change owner and group recursively for all files and folders.
    $ sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/html/*
  11. Check owner and group for all files and folders.
    $ ls -l /var/www/html/
    total 20
    drwxr-xr-x 2 www-data www-data  4096 Jan  24 09:58 css
    -rw-r--r-- 1 www-data www-data 10918 Jan  23 19:57 index.html
    drwxr-xr-x 2 www-data www-data  4096 Jan  24 09:57 js
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