Determine whether a file exists or not in Bash

David Y.

The Problem

How can I determine whether a file exists in Bash? Conversely, how can I test that it does not exist?

The Solution

We can check whether a file exists using the test command-line utility:

if test -f /path/to/file; then echo "File exists." fi

To check whether a file does not exist, we can negate the condition with the NOT logical operator, !:

if ! test -f /path/to/file; then echo "File does not exist." fi

Because the test command is used frequently in Bash expressions, we can write it as [] rather than typing out test:

if ! [ -f /path/to/file ]; then echo "File does not exist." fi

The -f flag tests whether the provided filename exists and is a regular file. To test for directories instead, we can use the -d flag. To test for both files and directories, we can use the -e flag.

More information about test can be found on its manual page, accessible by typing man test into the terminal.

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