WC Command Not Producing Expected Output? Learn How it Works and How to Solve Common Issues!

The word count (wc) command is a popular tool that helps system administrators quickly analyze file sizes, line counts, and word counts in their environments. It is an invaluable command that can be used to determine the length of certain logs or help troubleshoot when something isn’t working the right way. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at how the wc command works and address some common issues you may run into while using it.

How wc Works

The wc command takes a filename or a list of filenames as inputs and outputs the number of lines, words, and bytes in those files. Here is an example of the output you might expect from the command:

$ wc example.txt 
 8 25 161 example.txt

In this case, the command is telling us that the file “example.txt” has 8 lines, 25 words, and 161 bytes.

Common Issues

If you don’t get the expected output from wc, here are some potential issues that could be causing the problem:

1) You may be trying to count the lines, words, and bytes in a file that doesn’t exist. Make sure the filename you are providing is the right one.

2) You may be running the command without any arguments. Try running the command again with the filename as an argument, like this:

$ wc example.txt 

3) You may be running the command without the -l, -w, and -c flags. These flags are necessary for the wc command to output the number of lines, words, and bytes in the file. Try running the command again with the flags, like this:

$ wc -l -w -c example.txt 

4) You may not have permissions to read the file. Make sure you have the necessary permissions to run the wc command with the file.


The wc command is an incredibly versatile and powerful tool for analyzing files and can help system administrators quickly identify and address problems in their environments. However, if you are running into unexpected results with the command, make sure to check out whether one of the common issues outlined in this blog post is to blame.

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