Fixing the ‘Invalid Argument’ Error on Linux

If you have ever executed a Linux command in your system terminal and encountered the Invalid Argument error, there could be several causes. It usually indicates that an unrecognized argument has been specified, your current user does not have the proper file permissions on the file or directory, or the file is no longer accessible. There are also other potential causes and several methods we can employ to help resolve the error. In this tutorial, we will show you how to fix the Invalid Argument error on a Linux system.

In this tutorial you will learn:

  • How to check a manual page for correct arguments
  • How to verify proper permissions and that a file exists
  • How to execute a command with elevated privileges
  • How to reinstall a command binary file
Fixing the 'Invalid Argument' Error on Linux
Fixing the ‘Invalid Argument’ Error on Linux
Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Any Linux distro
Software N/A
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
Conventions # – requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ – requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

Fixing the ‘Invalid Argument’ Error on Linux – Troubleshooting Methods

The Invalid Argument error can occur under a variety of circumstances. It can sometimes be issued as a generic error message, making it more difficult to pin down the exact cause. Different programs and Bash scripts may also have their own meaning for the error.

Since there are various issues that could be causing the error to occur, we will run through some steps to troubleshoot it below. We will start with the simplest solutions, and graduate to more in depth problem fixing if the error persists.

Every part of a command is technically an “argument” in Linux. The command itself is argument 0, and all options or other parameters specified afterwards are additional arguments. An Invalid Argument error could indicate an issue with any one of the supplied arguments.
  1. The most obvious and simple explanation for the error is that you are typing one of the arguments incorrectly. You can check the manual page of any Linux command to make sure that you are typing arguments correctly and using the intended syntax. The man command is used to access a manual page. For example, to see the manual page for the ls command:
    $ man ls

    Inside of the manual page, you will see a list of valid arguments and syntax examples to double check against the command you are trying to execute.

    Manual page of the ls command, which you can use to verify that your arguments are correct
    Manual page of the ls command, which you can use to verify that your arguments are correct
  2. If one of your arguments is the path to a file or directory, you may get the Invalid Argument error if you do not have the necessary permissions on the file or directory or if it does not exist in the first place. You can check the current permissions with the ls command, and also verify that the path you are typing is correct.
    $ ls -l /path/to/dir

    To change the permissions, you can use the chmod command.

  3. Some commands will require administrator privileges to perform properly, or you may need elevated privileges to access certain file systems. In this case, you can preface your command with sudo or elevate to the root user account and try executing the command again.
    $ sudo [command] [arguments]
  4. If you are still encountering the problem after using the troubleshooting methods above, there could be a problem with installed binary of the command you are executing. In this case, you could reinstall the command you are trying to use, and / or ensure that you are using the latest version available. For example, to reinstall a command like curl on Ubuntu and Debian:
    $ sudo apt install --reinstall curl
  5. It may seem like a really basic or unnecessary step, but a quick reboot of the system can do wonders for fixing errors, including Invalid Argument. This will give your file systems an opportunity to be remounted, let all caches clear, etc. If there was a lingering problem that refused to clear itself, then a simple reboot will usually do the job and might get your system working again as intended.
    $ reboot

Closing Thoughts

In this tutorial, we saw how to fix the Invalid Argument error on a Linux system. Since this is a rather generic error and could indicate different problems depending on a given scenario, we covered a variety of troubleshooting steps that should help in most situations. Most times, a mistyped argument or invalid file path is the cause, but rarely the error could indicate an issue with your command’s binary executable or a system error that is usually remedied by a simple reboot.

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