This guide will show you how to use “find” and “locate” commands to find files and directories on your Linux file systems.
Table of Contents
- Find Files and Directories in Linux Using find Command
- Find Files and Directories in Linux Using locate Command
You want to access a specific file but can’t find it on your Linux system. While there are many ways with which we can search and locate files and directories on Linux, the easiest and quickest is probably through the terminal.
find command is one of the most important and frequently used command-line utilities in Linux.
Find Files and Directories in Linux Using find Command
find command is a powerful tool that enables system administrators to locate and manage files and directories based on a search criteria. It supports searching by file, folder, name, creation date, modification date, owner, and permissions.
find command is used to find files and directories and perform subsequent operations. It searches for files and directories in each path recursively. Thus, when the
find command encounters a directory inside the given path, it looks for other files and directories inside it.
Find Files by Name
The general syntax of the
find command is:
find [path] [options] [expression]
Let’s break down this syntax:
path: Defines the starting directory where find will search the files.
options: Controls the
findprocess’s behavior and optimization method.
expression: This attribute is made up of options, search patterns, and actions separated by operators.
The most common use of the find command is searching for a file by its name. The
-type f option tells the system that we’re looking for a File. To find a file using the filename, use the
-name flag with the default command.
For example, to search for a file named
report.pdf in the
/home directory, you would use the following command:
find /home -type f -name report.pdf
As you know, Linux is case sensitive about file names, so if you’re looking for a file named
Report.pdf, the command shown above will return no results. So, you will need to use the
-iname option instead of
-iname option runs a case insensitive search so that we can do this:
find /home -type f -iname report.pdf
This command will locate a file with either of the following names:
Find Files by Partial Name
You can use filename meta-characters such as an asterisk (
*), but you should either put an escape character (
\) in front of each or enclose them in quotes.
For example, to find all files ending with a
find /home -type f -name '*.pdf'
which is the same as:
find /home -type f -name \*.pdf
Similarly, to find all the files on your Linux system whose names begin with
report, you could run:
find /home -type f -name 'report*'
Find Files by Size
find command, we can quickly achieve something that might look complicated: find files bigger or smaller than a given size.
-size option on
find allows us to search for files of a specific size. The
- prefixes signify “greater than” and “less than.”
The below example will search for all files greater than 1 Gigabyte. Note the use of the
find /home -type f -size +1G
In the example above, the suffix
G denotes Gigabytes. The other popular available suffixes are:
find command was used to search for all files greater than the specified size. Next,
find command example will search for all files with less than 200 Kilobytes in size. Note the use of the
find /home -type f -size -200k
Now you probably wonder how to find files in Linux between a certain size. For example, you can find files between 100 Megabytes and 120 Megabytes in size using the following command:
find /home -type f -size +100M -size -120M
Find Files Using Timestamps
Linux assigns specific timestamps to every file in the file system. The
find command can also search for files based on their last modification, access, or change time.
-mtime option is used to specify the number of days old that the file is. The expression can be used in two ways:
-mtime +Nfinds the files modified more than
Ndays ago (for greater than).
-mtime -Nfinds the files modified less than
Ndays ago (for less than).
For example, entering
+3 will find all the files inside the
/home directory older than three days.
find /home -type f -mtime +3
Similarly, if we want to find all the files that have changed in the last 24 hours:
find /home -type f -mtime -1
In the same way, you can use the
-mmin N expression to rely on minutes instead of days.
For example, this command finds all the files from the
/home directory modified at the last minute.
find /home -type f -mmin -1
Furthermore, we can even compose expressions. Here’s how to find files in Linux that have been changed less than 60 minutes ago and more than 30 minutes ago:
find /home -type f -mmin -60 -mmin +30
Find Files by Owner
To find files owned by a particular user or group, use the
For example, to find files owned by the user
john in the
/home folder of the server:
find /home -type f -user john
Find all files belonging to a group called
www-data in the
find /home -type f -group www-data
Find Files by Permissions
-perm option allows users to search for files with a particular permission set.
The below command will find the files with permission of exactly 644 in the current directory.
find /home -type f -perm 644
The use of the
- option means “at least this permission level is set, and any higher permissions.”
find /home -type f -perm -644
This example displays all resources in the
/home directory with at least
644 permissions. This means that files with the permissions such as
654, etc., would match, while files with permissions
544, etc., would not match.
Find Directories by Name
All the examples we’ve seen so far return files. However, you can use the
-type d switch if you need to search for directories only.
In other words, you can prevent the
find command in Linux from searching for other file types except for directories by using the
-type d flag (
d means directory).
To find a folder named
scripts in the
/home directory, run:
find /home -type d -name scripts
Similarly, all other options shown so far are also applicable when searching for directories.
For more about the
find command in Linux, consult its manual page.
Find Files and Directories in Linux Using locate Command
find is undoubtedly one of the most popular and powerful command-line utilities for file searching in Linux, it is not fast enough for situations where you need instantaneous results.
locate command is faster than the
find command because it uses a previously built database, whereas the
find command searches in real-time through all the actual directories and files.
locate is not installed, you can easily install it using the package manager of your Linux distro.
sudo apt install mlocate
sudo dnf install mlocate
Arch Linux users need to execute:
sudo pacman -S mlocate
But before the
locate command can be used, the database will need to be created. This is done with the
updatedb command, which (as the name suggests) updates the database.
The database will be updated automatically daily, but you can also update it yourself at any time to obtain up-to-the-minute results.
Find Files by Name
locate command is straightforward to use. All you have to do is pass it the filename you want to search.
locate is configured to process queries in a case-sensitive manner. To have the
locate command ignore case sensitivity and show results for both uppercase and lowercase queries, you need to use the
locate -i rEpoRT.pdf
Find Files by Partial Name
If you want to search for all filenames that have the string
locate in the following way:
Limit Search Results
You can limit your search returns to a required number to avoid redundancy with your search results using the
For example, if you want just ten results from your queries, you can type the following command:
locate -n 10 '*.pdf'
Display the Number of Matching Entries
To count the number of occurrences of a file name or search pattern using the locate command, invoke the
-c option as shown.
locate -c '*.pdf'
Get Information About locate Database
To gather more insights on the locate database
locate has cataloged, use the
Database /var/lib/mlocate/mlocate.db: 72376 directories 1142596 files 98622214 bytes in file names 33950606 bytes used to store database
If you need it, here’s the man page for the
The two most widely used file searching utilities accessible to Linux users are called
locate. Both are good ways to find files on your system. It is up to you to decide which of these tools is appropriate in each situation.
This article should give you a fundamental understanding of finding files on your Linux systems.
However, even if the option were presented individually, you should remember that they can be combined in order to be able to specify even more the files you are looking for.