11.3 install: Copy files and set attributes

install copies files while setting their file mode bits and, if possible, their owner and group. Synopses:

install [option]… [-T] source dest
install [option]… sourcedirectory
install [option]… -t directory source…
install [option]… -d directory

install is similar to cp, but allows you to control the attributes of destination files. It is typically used in Makefiles to copy programs into their destination directories. It refuses to copy files onto themselves.

install never preserves extended attributes (xattr).

The program accepts the following options. Also see Common options.


See Backup options. Make a backup of each file that would otherwise be overwritten or removed.


Compare content of source and destination files, and if there would be no change to the destination content, owner, group, permissions, and possibly SELinux context, then do not modify the destination at all. This option is best used in conjunction with --user, --group and --mode options, lest install incorrectly determines the default attributes that installed files would have (as it doesn’t consider setgid directories and POSIX default ACLs for example). This could result in redundant copies or attributes that are not reset to the correct defaults.


Ignored; for compatibility with old Unix versions of install.


Create any missing parent directories of dest, then copy source to dest. Explicitly specifying the --target-directory=dir will similarly ensure the presence of that hierarchy before copying source arguments.


Create any missing parent directories, giving them the default attributes. Then create each given directory, setting their owner, group and mode as given on the command line or to the defaults.


Print extra information to stdout, explaining how files are copied. This option implies the --verbose option.

-g group

Set the group ownership of installed files or directories to group. The default is the process’s current group. group may be either a group name or a numeric group ID.

-m mode

Set the file mode bits for the installed file or directory to mode, which can be either an octal number, or a symbolic mode as in chmod, with ‘a=’ (no access allowed to anyone) as the point of departure (see File permissions). The default mode is ‘u=rwx,go=rx,a-s’ – read, write, and execute for the owner, read and execute for group and other, and with set-user-ID and set-group-ID disabled. This default is not quite the same as ‘755’, since it disables instead of preserving set-user-ID and set-group-ID on directories. See Directories and the Set-User-ID and Set-Group-ID Bits.

-o owner

If install has appropriate privileges (is run as root), set the ownership of installed files or directories to owner. The default is root. owner may be either a user name or a numeric user ID.


Preserve the SELinux security context of files and directories. Failure to preserve the context in all of the files or directories will result in an exit status of 1. If SELinux is disabled then print a warning and ignore the option.


Set the time of last access and the time of last modification of each installed file to match those of each corresponding original file. When a file is installed without this option, its last access and last modification timestamps are both set to the time of installation. This option is useful if you want to use the last modification timestamps of installed files to keep track of when they were last built as opposed to when they were last installed.


Strip the symbol tables from installed binary executables.


Program used to strip binaries.

-S suffix

Append suffix to each backup file made with -b. See Backup options.

-t directory

Specify the destination directory. See Target directory. Also specifying the -D option will ensure the directory is present.


Do not treat the last operand specially when it is a directory or a symbolic link to a directory. See Target directory.


Print the name of each file before copying it.


Without a specified context, adjust the SELinux security context according to the system default type for destination files, similarly to the restorecon command. The long form of this option with a specific context specified, will set the context for newly created files only. With a specified context, if both SELinux and SMACK are disabled, a warning is issued. This option is mutually exclusive with the --preserve-context option.

An exit status of zero indicates success, and a nonzero value indicates failure.