Monday 19 December 2016

Quick Reference: umask examples

Like chmod - umask is used to set permissions - but in a slightly different way. The umask utility applies to files / folders that do not exist - while in contrast chmod is applied to files / folders that already present of the filesystem.

umask stands for 'user file-creation mode mask' - which allows you to define the default set of permissions for a user or system-wide.

The normal user umask is typically set to 002 - which chmod's directories as 775 (everyone can read them but only group and owner can write) and 664 for files - again effect.

The root user on the other hand is usually set to 022 - which instead chmod's the permissions for folders as 755 and 644 - which is as above - but prevents the group from writing to the files or folders.

You can convert the umask into chmod format by performing the following for directories:

777 - umask = chmod

777 - 022 = 755

and similarly for files:

666 - umask = chmod

666 - 002 = 664

You can view the umask for the current user in the terminal by simply issuing:


The umask can be set from a number of locations - although there is a specific order that they are searched and as a result if you have conflicting values - the first one it detects will be applied.

You can configure the system-wide umask within: /etc/login.defs e.g.:

grep UMASK /etc/login.defs

UMASK                   077

This umask will be applied if there is not another umask defined for a user elsewhere e.g.:

cat /etc/profiles

We can see the logic that sets the umask - and checks whether the user is root or not:

if [ $UID -gt 199 ] && [ "`/usr/bin/id -gn`" = "`/usr/bin/id -un`" ]; then
    umask 002
    umask 022

umask is evaluated with the following preferences:
local users profile, entry in the users GECOS field, entry in /etc/default/login, entry in /etc/login.defs (Source:

Although if we wish to set an individual users umask we can edit:

sudo vi ~/.bashrc

and (after verifying it doesn't already exist) add the following at the end of the file:

umask 022

Example Use Case

Lets say we have a script user that pulls configuration (using rysnc or something similar) from one node to another - the configuration residing on the source host is read and resides in /etc/myapp - 

Now usually with a fairly static configuration you might issue something like:

chown -R /etc/myapp root:mygroup

* Where the script user is present in 'mygroup'

although the application on the server writes additional files that only the owner can view and also does not include the ensure that the 'mygroup' group has ownership of the file - when the script user polls the newly created file it is unable to read it.

So - in order to ensure that the 'mygroup' group has ownership and is able to read the newly created files we can issue the following:


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