linux - write - tee append

How do I use sudo to redirect output to a location I don't have permission to write to? (10)

I've been given sudo access on one of our development RedHat linux boxes, and I seem to find myself quite often needing to redirect output to a location I don't normally have write access to.

The trouble is, this contrived example doesn't work:

sudo ls -hal /root/ > /root/test.out

I just receive the response:

-bash: /root/test.out: Permission denied

How can I get this to work?

Clarifying a bit on why the tee option is preferable

Assuming you have appropriate permission to execute the command that creates the output, if you pipe the output of your command to tee, you only need to elevate tee's privledges with sudo and direct tee to write (or append) to the file in question.

in the example given in the question that would mean:

ls -hal /root/ | sudo tee /root/test.out

for a couple more practical examples:

# kill off one source of annoying advertisements
echo | sudo tee -a /etc/hosts

# configure eth4 to come up on boot, set IP and netmask (centos 6.4)
echo -e "ONBOOT=\"YES\"\nIPADDR=\nPREFIX=24" | sudo tee -a /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth4

In each of these examples you are taking the output of a non-privileged command and writing to a file that is usually only writable by root, which is the origin of your question.

It is a good idea to do it this way because the command that generates the output is not executed with elevated privileges. It doesn't seem to matter here with echo but when the source command is a script that you don't completely trust, it is crucial.

Note you can use the -a option to tee to append append (like >>) to the target file rather than overwrite it (like >).

A trick I figured out myself was

sudo ls -hal /root/ | sudo dd of=/root/test.out

Here's an extension of the answer involving tee. To make things easier you might like to make a small script (I call it suwrite or you may call it sutee) and put it in /usr/local/bin/ with +x permission:

#! /bin/sh
sudo tee [email protected] > /dev/null

Now all you have to do is to pipe the output to this script followed by the desired superuser-accessible filename and it will automatically prompt you for your password if needed (since it includes sudo).

echo test | suwrite /root/test.txt

Note that since this is a simple wrapper for tee, it will also accept tee's -a (or any other) option so to append to the desired file you just pass -a:

echo test | suwrite -a /root/test.txt

How about writing a script?

Filename: myscript


/bin/ls -lah /root > /root/test.out

# end script

Then use sudo to run the script:

sudo ./myscript

Make sudo run a shell, like this:

sudo sh -c "echo foo > ~root/out"

Maybe you been given sudo access to only some programs/paths? Then there is no way to do what you want. (unless you will hack it somehow)

If it is not the case then maybe you can write bash script:

cat >
ls -hal /root/ > /root/test.out 

Press ctrl + d :

chmod a+x

Hope it help.

The problem is that the command gets run under sudo, but the redirection gets run under your user. This is done by the shell and there is very little you can do about it.

sudo command > /some/file.log
   command       redirection

The usual ways of bypassing this are:

  • Wrap the commands in a script which you call under sudo.

    If the commands and/or log file changes, you can make the script take these as arguments. For example:

    sudo log_script command /log/file.txt
  • Call a shell and pass the command line as a parameter with -c

    This is especially useful for one off compound commands. For example:

    sudo bash -c "{ command1 arg; command2 arg; } > /log/file.txt"

The way I would go about this issue is:

If you need to write/replace the file:

echo "some text" | sudo tee /path/to/file

If you need to append to the file:

echo "some text" | sudo tee -a /path/to/file

Yet another variation on the theme:

sudo bash <<EOF
ls -hal /root/ > /root/test.out

Or of course:

echo 'ls -hal /root/ > /root/test.out' | sudo bash

They have the (tiny) advantage that you don't need to remember any arguments to sudo or sh/bash

Your command does not work because the redirection is performed by your shell which does not have the permission to write to /root/test.out. The redirection of the output is not performed by sudo.

There are multiple solutions:

  • Run a shell with sudo and give the command to it by using the -c option:

    sudo sh -c 'ls -hal /root/ > /root/test.out'
  • Create a script with your commands and run that script with sudo:

    ls -hal /root/ > /root/test.out

    Run sudo See Steve Bennett's answer if you don't want to create a temporary file.

  • Launch a shell with sudo -s then run your commands:

    [[email protected]]$ sudo -s
    [[email protected]]# ls -hal /root/ > /root/test.out
    [[email protected]]# ^D
    [[email protected]]$
  • Use sudo tee (if you have to escape a lot when using the -c option):

    sudo ls -hal /root/ | sudo tee /root/test.out > /dev/null

    The redirect to /dev/null is needed to stop tee from outputting to the screen. To append instead of overwriting the output file (>>), use tee -a or tee --append (the last one is specific to GNU coreutils).

Thanks go to Jd, Adam J. Forster and Johnathan for the second, third and fourth solutions.