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26.4 Directories and the Set-User-ID and Set-Group-ID Bits

On most systems, if a directory's set-group-ID bit is set, newly created subfiles inherit the same group as the directory, and newly created subdirectories inherit the set-group-ID bit of the parent directory. On a few systems, a directory's set-user-ID bit has a similar effect on the ownership of new subfiles and the set-user-ID bits of new subdirectories. These mechanisms let users share files more easily, by lessening the need to use chmod or chown to share new files.

These convenience mechanisms rely on the set-user-ID and set-group-ID bits of directories. If commands like chmod and mkdir routinely cleared these bits on directories, the mechanisms would be less convenient and it would be harder to share files. Therefore, a command like chmod does not affect the set-user-ID or set-group-ID bits of a directory unless the user specifically mentions them in a symbolic mode, or sets them in a numeric mode. For example, on systems that support set-group-ID inheritance:

 
# These commands leave the set-user-ID and
# set-group-ID bits of the subdirectories alone,
# so that they retain their default values.
mkdir A B C
chmod 755 A
chmod 0755 B
chmod u=rwx,go=rx C
mkdir -m 755 D
mkdir -m 0755 E
mkdir -m u=rwx,go=rx F

If you want to try to set these bits, you must mention them explicitly in the symbolic or numeric modes, e.g.:

 
# These commands try to set the set-user-ID
# and set-group-ID bits of the subdirectories.
mkdir G H
chmod 6755 G
chmod u=rwx,go=rx,a+s H
mkdir -m 6755 I
mkdir -m u=rwx,go=rx,a+s J

If you want to try to clear these bits, you must mention them explicitly in a symbolic mode, e.g.:

 
# This command tries to clear the set-user-ID
# and set-group-ID bits of the directory D.
chmod a-s D

This behavior is a GNU extension. Portable scripts should not rely on requests to set or clear these bits on directories, as POSIX allows implementations to ignore these requests.


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