If you remember, all files and directories in Unix filesystems have three timestamps associated with them – atime, ctime and mtime. Since questions about modifying access time (atime) and modification time (mtime) are quite frequent in my website logs, I thought I’d explain how it is done.
Before we go any further, I’d like to remind you that using stat command is probably the easiest way to look at all the three timestamps associated with each file:
Even though ls command can be used to view the same times, we will depend on the stat command for today’s post simply because it shows all the times together – it’s great for explanations.
There’s a very simple way to update either atime or mtime for a given file, or even both at the same time: you should use the touch command.
Here’s how it can be used to update the atime:
The -a in the command line parameters refers to atime, while -t and the following sequence are nothing but a timestamp we want assigned to the file. In my example, 0711171533 means this:
Similarly, we can set the mtime, in my particular example it’s the future – a day exactly one year from now.
-m is the command line option to specify that mtime is our main focus:
It’s probably useful to know that the default behavior of the touch command is to update both access time and modification time of a file, changing them to the current time on your system. Here’s what will happen if I run touch against the same file we used in all the examples:
As you can see, all three fields have been reset to the new (current time) value. That’s it for today, I hope this solved another one of your Unix mysteries!