Log In

17 Linux Commands Every Sysadmin Should Know

 17 Linux Commands Every Sysadmin Should Know
Reading time: 6 min
Hostman Team
Technical writer

Linux, renowned for its robustness, security, and flexibility, is a prominent operating system widely embraced in the realm of system administration. As a sysadmin, navigating through the intricate landscape of Linux commands is not only a skill but a necessity. These commands serve as the building blocks for efficiently managing and maintaining Linux systems.

Understanding Linux Operations

Linux operates on a command-line interface, offering a powerful environment where tasks are accomplished through textual commands. Unlike graphical interfaces, the command line provides granular control, allowing sysadmins to execute precise operations and automate complex tasks. This approach empowers administrators to efficiently handle various system management duties, from file manipulation to process monitoring.

The Vast Array of Linux Commands

Linux has an extensive array of commands, each designed to perform specific functions. From basic file operations to advanced networking configurations, Linux commands cover a spectrum of tasks. System administrators often find themselves navigating through this vast toolkit to ensure the smooth operation of servers and networks.

The Importance of 17 Essential Linux Commands

Among the myriad of Linux commands, certain ones stand out as fundamental tools that every sysadmin should master. These commands serve as the backbone of Linux system management, providing the means to perform essential operations with precision and reliability.

In this guide, we will delve into 17 crucial Linux commands, exploring their functionalities, and understanding why they are indispensable for sysadmins. These commands range from navigating the file system to monitoring processes, configuring permissions, and connecting to remote servers securely.

1. pwd - Print Working Directory

The pwd command stands for "Print Working Directory." It reveals the absolute path of the current working directory, aiding the user in understanding their location within the file system.

# Display current working directory

# Example output

2. ls - List Directory Contents

The ls command lists the contents of a directory. It's a versatile command with various options to display details like file permissions, owner, size, and modification time.

# List files and directories

# List detailed information
ls -l

3. cd - Change Directory

The cd command is used to change the current working directory. It enables quick navigation through the file system.

# Change to a specific directory
cd /path/to/directory

4. cp - Copy

The cp command copies files or directories. It's useful for creating backups or duplicating files.

# Copy a file to a destination
cp file.txt /path/to/destination

5. mv - Move

The mv command moves files or directories. It's not only for relocation but also for renaming files.

# Move a file to a destination
mv file.txt /path/to/destination

6. rm - Remove

The rm command removes files or directories. Caution is advised, as deleted files are not sent to the trash but permanently deleted.

# Remove a file
rm file.txt

7. mkdir - Make Directory

The mkdir command creates a new directory. It's used when organizing files or when a new project requires a dedicated folder.

# Create a new directory
mkdir new_directory

8. less - Exploring Text Files

The less command in Linux is a versatile tool for viewing text files directly from the command line. It allows users to navigate through files easily, without needing to open a separate text editor. Here's an example of how to use the less command:

less /path/to/file.txt

This command opens the specified text file (file.txt in this example) in the less pager. Once opened, you can scroll through the file using the arrow keys. Pressing the spacebar moves forward one page, and pressing "b" moves backward one page. To quit less, simply press "q". This command is particularly useful when working with large log files or examining the contents of system configuration files directly from the terminal.

9. chmod - Change Mode

The chmod command changes the permissions of a file or directory. It's crucial for managing access rights to files and directories.

# Change permissions to read, write, and execute for owner, read for group and others
chmod 755 file.txt

10. chown - Change Owner

The chown command changes the owner of a file or directory. It's helpful when transferring ownership of files between users.

# Change owner and group of a file
chown user:group file.txt

11. ps - Process Status

The ps command displays information about active processes. The aux option provides detailed information, including the process ID (PID) and resource usage.

# Display detailed process information
ps aux

12. top - Display System Activity

The top command displays real-time system statistics. It's an interactive tool that shows processes, their resource usage, and system performance.

# Display real-time system activity

13. kill - Terminate a Process

The kill command terminates a process by ID. It sends a signal to the specified process, allowing graceful termination or forceful shutdown.

# Terminate a process by ID
kill PID

14. df - Disk Free

The df command displays disk space usage. The -h option presents information in a human-readable format, showing free and used disk space.

# Display disk space usage in a human-readable format
df -h

15. du - Disk Usage

The du command displays the disk space used by a file or directory. The -h option makes the output human-readable.

# Display disk usage of a file or directory
du -h file.txt

16. grep - Global Regular Expression Print

The grep command searches for a pattern in files. It's a powerful tool for text searching and pattern matching.

# Search for a pattern in a file
grep "pattern" file.txt

17. ssh - Secure Shell

The ssh command enables a secure shell connection to a remote server. It's crucial for remote server administration and secure file transfers.

# Connect to a remote server via SSH
ssh username@


These 17 Linux commands form the foundation for effective system administration. Understanding their functionalities and mastering their usage empowers sysadmins to efficiently manage Linux systems. As you navigate through these commands, keep in mind the importance of precision and caution, ensuring the smooth operation and security of your Linux environment. The integration of platforms like Hostman further simplifies and enhances the management of applications on Linux servers, providing a user-friendly experience for sysadmins at every level of expertise.

Whether you are a seasoned sysadmin or someone embarking on the journey of Linux system administration, mastering these 17 commands is key to enhancing your proficiency and efficiency. 

Join us on this comprehensive journey into the heart of Linux system administration, where each command becomes a valuable tool in your arsenal, empowering you to confidently navigate and manage Linux systems.