Hard Link


A hard link is a reference, or pointer, to a specific file in a file system. It connects the file’s name to an inode that represents the actual data on disk. Multiple hard links can be created for a single file, but they must be within the same file system.


The phonetic representation of the keyword “Hard Link” in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) would be: /hɑrd lɪŋk/

Key Takeaways

  1. Hard links are file system entries that point directly to the same physical location (inode) on a storage device, allowing multiple file names to reference the same data.
  2. Hard links can only be used within the same file system and cannot link to directories, only regular files.
  3. Deleting one hard link does not affect other hard links pointing to the same data, as the data remains stored until all hard links to it are deleted.


The technology term “Hard Link” is important as it plays a crucial role in file management within computer systems, particularly those using UNIX and Linux-based file systems.

Hard links provide an efficient and resource-conserving mechanism to create multiple references to a single file within the file system hierarchy, enabling users to access the same content using different paths or file names.

By doing so, hard links help save storage space, simplify file organization, and enhance collaboration without the need to create redundant copies of the same file.

Additionally, hard links contribute to improved system performance as they share a single inode, making them an essential aspect of understanding and utilizing file systems effectively.


A hard link serves a crucial purpose in maintaining the efficient organization and utilization of files within a file system. It allows users to create multiple directory entries for a single file, meaning that the same file can be accessed from different locations without duplicating the data.

By doing so, hard links help conserve disk space and simplify file management, as any modifications made to one linked file will be automatically reflected in all other linked instances, ensuring data consistency. In addition to facilitating better file organization and data manipulation, hard links also contribute to streamlined backups and data recovery processes.

Since a hard link does not consume additional storage space for every instance, it provides a resourceful and cost-effective means of backing up important data. Moreover, it enhances the durability of files within the system by retaining the file’s data even if one of the hard links is accidentally deleted.

However, it is essential to note that hard links are restricted to the same filesystem, and they cannot be used for directories or across different file systems.

Examples of Hard Link

Storing multiple versions of Linux kernel on a single system: In many Linux systems, a single system may have multiple kernel versions installed. A hard link can be used to create an additional file reference for the kernel files, without taking up extra storage space on the hard disk. This way users can switch between kernel versions without needing to copy files, save space, and avoid redundancy.

Media file organization: Hard links can be used in a multimedia library to organize files without duplicating them. For example, a user might have various folders for different categories like “Comedy Movies,” “Drama Movies,” and “All Movies.” The user can create hard links for each movie and place these hard links in the appropriate folders without duplicating the actual movie files. This allows for efficient organization while saving disk space.

Backup and synchronization applications: Hard links can be utilized to back up and synchronize files across multiple locations. For example, a user might want to create a backup of their important files in a separate folder or on an external device. By creating hard links between the original files and the backup locations, the user saves space and ensures that changes made to the original files are reflected in the backup copies. Applications like rsync use hard links to facilitate efficient backups and synchronization of files across different systems.

Hard Link FAQ

What is a hard link?

A hard link refers to a directory entry that connects a name to an existing file on a file system. Essentially, it is a reference to the same inode containing the same data on the hard disk. This means that both the original file and the hard link share the same file content, and any changes made to one will also affect the other.

How is a hard link created?

A hard link can be created using the “ln” command in Unix-like operating systems. The basic syntax for the command is “ln [target] [link_name]”, where “target” refers to the source file to create the link from, and “link_name” is the name of the new hard link.

What are the advantages of using hard links?

Hard links provide several benefits, such as saving disk space by reducing file duplication, simplifying file management by grouping related files, and maintaining file consistency by ensuring that changes made to the original file automatically apply to all linked files.

What are the limitations of hard links?

Hard links have some limitations, including their inability to link to directories, span different file systems, or reference deleted files. Additionally, hard links can create circular references, which can lead to complications in file navigation and removal.

What is the difference between a hard link and a symbolic link?

While a hard link creates a direct connection to the same inode as the original file, a symbolic link is a separate file that merely points to the path of another file or directory. Symbolic links can link to directories and work across different file systems, unlike hard links. However, if the original file is deleted or moved, the symbolic link will become invalid and unusable, whereas a hard link will retain its connection to the file data.

Related Technology Terms

  • Inode
  • Symbolic Link
  • File System
  • Directory Structure
  • Pathname

Sources for More Information


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