Users are not allowed to create hard links for directories. This might transform the directory tree into a graph with cycles, thus making it impossible to locate a file according to its name.

Links can be created only among files included in the same file system. This is a serious limitation since modern Unix systems may include several file systems located on different disks and/or partitions, and users may be unaware of the physical divisions between them.

In order to overcome these limitations, soft links (also called symbolic links) have been introduced. Symbolic links are short files that contain an arbitrary path name of another file. The path name may refer to any file located in any file system; it may even refer to a nonexistent file.

The Unix command:

$ ln -s f1 f2

Creates a new soft link with path name f2 that refers to path name f1.

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