How to mkdir only if a directory does not already exist


I am writing a shell script to run under the KornShell (ksh) on AIX. I would like to use the mkdir command to create a directory. But the directory may already exist, in which case I do not want to do anything. So I want to either test to see that the directory does not exist, or suppress the "File exists" error that mkdir throws when it tries to create an existing directory.

How can I best do this?

6/12/2020 6:44:13 PM

Accepted Answer

Try mkdir -p:

mkdir -p foo

Note that this will also create any intermediate directories that don't exist; for instance,

mkdir -p foo/bar/baz

will create directories foo, foo/bar, and foo/bar/baz if they don't exist.

Some implementation like GNU mkdir include mkdir --parents as a more readable alias, but this is not specified in POSIX/Single Unix Specification and not available on many common platforms like macOS, various BSDs, and various commercial Unixes, so it should be avoided.

If you want an error when parent directories don't exist, and want to create the directory if it doesn't exist, then you can test for the existence of the directory first:

[ -d foo ] || mkdir foo
1/23/2019 9:04:22 PM

This should work:

$ mkdir -p dir


if [[ ! -e $dir ]]; then
    mkdir $dir
elif [[ ! -d $dir ]]; then
    echo "$dir already exists but is not a directory" 1>&2

which will create the directory if it doesn't exist, but warn you if the name of the directory you're trying to create is already in use by something other than a directory.


Use the -p flag.

man mkdir
mkdir -p foo

Defining complex directory trees with one command

mkdir -p project/{lib/ext,bin,src,doc/{html,info,pdf},demo/stat/a}

If you don't want to show any error message:

[ -d newdir ] || mkdir newdir

If you want to show your own error message:

[ -d newdir ] && echo "Directory Exists" || mkdir newdir

The old tried and true

mkdir /tmp/qq >/dev/null 2>&1

will do what you want with none of the race conditions many of the other solutions have.

Sometimes the simplest (and ugliest) solutions are the best.