I have an ansible 1.1 playbook where I do something like this:

- name: copy files
  sudo: True                                                                                                             
  shell: cp /from/* /to/

- name: change owner
  sudo: True
  file: path=$item owner=newuser group=newgroup
  with_fileglob: /to/*

The second task, "change owner" is always skipping. can anyone help me finding out why? is the file module skipping because the files exist? I'm stuck :)

  • Never knew if it allows $item ...I thought it was {{ item }}
    – AKS
    Dec 9, 2015 at 1:07

2 Answers 2


From documentation:

Remember lookup plugins are run on the "controlling" machine:

with_fileglob is a lookup plugin, so it looks for files on the local server, the one you are running ansible-playbook from.

Here is what you can do:

- name: list files 
  action: command ls -1 /to/* 
  register: dumpfiles 

- name: change ownership 
  action: file path=$item owner=newuser group=newgroup
  with_items: ${dumpfiles.stdout_lines}
  • that makes so much sense now that you say it. BTW, I solved this by using [shell: chown -R newuser:newgroup /to]
    – deadsven
    May 29, 2013 at 14:12
  • 3
    Using shell in this case is not the preferable way since you are losing idempotency. You should instead use file module and with_items
    – Tom Aac
    May 30, 2013 at 6:59
  • yes, i'd like to use the file module, but with_items does not support globs does it? listing every file in a with_items list is not really what I want
    – deadsven
    May 30, 2013 at 11:12
  • See my answer, there is what you need
    – Tom Aac
    May 31, 2013 at 14:17
  • 2
    Every time you run chown, you change file's timestamp. In particular ctime. That might be issue for some backup software for example.
    – Tom Aac
    Jun 13, 2014 at 21:38

Ansible 1.1 added the recurse parameter to the file module, so all you need to do for your change ownership task is this:

- name: change ownership 
  action: file state=directory recurse=yes path=/to/ owner=newuser group=newgroup

This will make it more apparent when actually things change; using the shell or command modules will always return a changed status, even if nothing was actually changed.

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