How can I check if a directory exists in a Bash shell script? – Dev

The best answers to the question “How can I check if a directory exists in a Bash shell script?” in the category Dev.


What command can be used to check if a directory exists or not, within a Bash shell script?


Remember to always wrap variables in double quotes when referencing them in a Bash script. Kids these days grow up with the idea that they can have spaces and lots of other funny characters in their directory names. (Spaces! Back in my days, we didn’t have no fancy spaces! ;))

One day, one of those kids will run your script with $DIRECTORY set to "My M0viez" and your script will blow up. You don’t want that. So use this.

if [ -d "$DIRECTORY" ]; then
    # Will enter here if $DIRECTORY exists, even if it contains spaces


To check if a directory exists in a shell script, you can use the following:

if [ -d "$DIRECTORY" ]; then
  # Control will enter here if $DIRECTORY exists.

Or to check if a directory doesn’t exist:

if [ ! -d "$DIRECTORY" ]; then
  # Control will enter here if $DIRECTORY doesn't exist.

However, as Jon Ericson points out, subsequent commands may not work as intended if you do not take into account that a symbolic link to a directory will also pass this check.
E.g. running this:

if [ -d "$SYMLINK" ]; then 
  rmdir "$SYMLINK" 

Will produce the error message:

rmdir: failed to remove `symlink': Not a directory

So symbolic links may have to be treated differently, if subsequent commands expect directories:

if [ -d "$LINK_OR_DIR" ]; then 
  if [ -L "$LINK_OR_DIR" ]; then
    # It is a symlink!
    # Symbolic link specific commands go here.
    rm "$LINK_OR_DIR"
    # It's a directory!
    # Directory command goes here.
    rmdir "$LINK_OR_DIR"

Take particular note of the double-quotes used to wrap the variables. The reason for this is explained by 8jean in another answer.

If the variables contain spaces or other unusual characters it will probably cause the script to fail.


I find the double-bracket version of test makes writing logic tests more natural:

if [[ -d "${DIRECTORY}" && ! -L "${DIRECTORY}" ]] ; then
    echo "It's a bona-fide directory"


Note the -d test can produce some surprising results:

$ ln -s tmp/ t
$ if [ -d t ]; then rmdir t; fi
rmdir: directory "t": Path component not a directory

File under: “When is a directory not a directory?” The answer: “When it’s a symlink to a directory.” A slightly more thorough test:

if [ -d t ]; then 
   if [ -L t ]; then 
      rm t
      rmdir t

You can find more information in the Bash manual on Bash conditional expressions and the [ builtin command and the [[ compound commmand.