Full Discussion: mtime vs ctime
Top Forums UNIX for Dummies Questions & Answers mtime vs ctime Post 57480 by zazzybob on Friday 29th of October 2004 06:02:12 AM
ctime refers to changes made to the file's inode (such as changing permissions, etc). mtime refers to changes to the data within the file. So cnewer will use a reference files inode change time for the comparision, whereas newer will use a reference files data modification time.

Some manual pages are very vague and don't make a clear distinction, so your confusion is understandable!

FYI, there's also atime, which refers to file access time. Also, there is, unfortunately (and to the best of my knowledge), no way of finding file creation time through an inode.

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TMPWATCH(8)						   System Administrator's Manual					       TMPWATCH(8)

tmpwatch - removes files which haven't been accessed for a period of time SYNOPSIS
tmpwatch [-u|-m|-c] [-faqstv] [--verbose] [--force] [--all] [--test] [--fuser ] [--atime|--mtime|--ctime] [--quiet] <hours> <dirs> DESCRIPTION
tmpwatch recursively removes files which haven't been accessed for a given number of hours. Normally, it's used to clean up directories which are used for temporary holding space such as /tmp. When changing directories, tmpwatch is very sensitive to possible race conditions and will exit with an error if one is detected. It does not follow symbolic links in the directories it's cleaning (even if a symbolic link is given as its argument), will not switch filesystems, and only removes empty directories and regular files. By default, tmpwatch dates files by their atime (access time), not their mtime (modification time). If files aren't being removed when ls -l implies they should be, use ls -u to examine their atime to see if that explains the problem. If the --atime, --ctime or --mtime options are used in combination, the decision about deleting a file will be based on the maximum of this times. The hours parameter defines the threshold for removing files. If the file has not been accessed for hours hours, the file is removed. Fol- lowing this, one or more directories may be given for tmpwatch to clean up. OPTIONS
-u, --atime Make the decision about deleting a file based on the file's atime (access time). This is the default. -m, --mtime Make the decision about deleting a file based on the file's mtime (modification time) instead of the atime. -c, --ctime Make the decision about deleting a file based on the file's ctime (inode change time) instead of the atime; for directories, make the decision based on the mtime. -a, --all Remove all file types, not just regular files and directories. -d, --nodirs Do not attempt to remove directories, even if they are empty. -f, --force Remove files even if root doesn't have write access (akin to rm -f). -t, --test Doesn't remove files, but goes through the motions of removing them. This implies -v. -s, --fuser Attempt to use the "fuser" command to see if a file is already open before removing it. Not enabled by default. Does help in some circumstances, but not all. Dependent on fuser being installed in /sbin. -v, --verbose Print a verbose display. Two levels of verboseness are available -- use this option twice to get the most verbose output. SEE ALSO
cron(1), ls(1), rm(1), fuser(1) WARNINGS
GNU-style long options are not supported on HP-UX. AUTHORS
Erik Troan <ewt@redhat.com> Preston Brown <pbrown@redhat.com> Nalin Dahyabhai <nalin@redhat.com> 4th Berkeley Distribution Wed Nov 28 2001 TMPWATCH(8)

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