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How to Find Files in Linux Using 'find'

find is a very powerful tool for finding files in Linux

Files can be found under Linux in many different ways. Using the 'find' tool is one of the best ways to find files. The find tool has a huge number of parameters which can be set so that Linux finds exactly those files that you were searching for.

In case you just want to know where a particular file exists on your system, and nothing else is required, then use locate tool.

Here are a few ways to use find:

find / -name 'program.c' 2>/dev/null
find / -name 'program.c' 2>errors.txt


  • / - Start searching from the root directory (i.e / directory)
  • -name - Given search text is the filename rather than any other attribute of a file
  • 'program.c' - Search text that we have entered. Always enclose the filename in single quotes.

Note: '2>/dev/null' is not related to find tool as such. 2 indicates the error stream in Linux, and /dev/null is the device where anything you send simply disappears. So 2>/dev/null in this case means that while finding for the files, in case any error messages pop up simply send them to /dev/null i.e. simply discard all error messages.

Alternatively you could use 2>error.txt where after the search is completed you would have a file named error.txt in the current directory with all the error messages in it.

find /home/david -name 'index*'
find /home/david -iname 'index*'

The 1st command would find files having the letters index as the beginning of the file name. The search would be started in the directory '/home/david' and carry on within that directory and its subdirectories only. The 2nd command would search for the same, but the case of the filename wouldn't be considered. So all files starting with any combination of letters in upper and lower case such as INDEX or indEX or index would be returned.

find -name met*

The above command would start searching for the files that begin with the letters 'met' within the current directory and the directories that are present within the current directory. Since the directory is not specified as the the second parameter, Linux defaults to using the current directory as the one to start the search in.

find /mp3collection -name '*.mp3' -size -5000k
find / -size +10000k

The first command would find within a directory called '/mp3collection', only those mp3 files that have a size less than 5000 Kilobytes ( < 5MB) The 2nd command would search from the / directory for any file that is larger than 10000k (> 10MB)

find /home/david -amin -10 -name '*.c'
find /home/david -atime -2 -name '*.c'
find /home/david -mmin -10 -name '*.c'
find /home/david -mtime -2 -name '*.c'

The first command searches for those files that are present in the directory '/home/david' and its subdirectoires which end in .c and which have been accessed in the last 10 minutes. The second command does the same, but searches for those files that have been accessed in the last 10 hours. The third and the fourth commands do the same as the first and second commands but they search for modified files rather than accessed files. Only if the contents of the files have been modified, would their names be returned in the search results.

find / -mount -name 'win*'

This command searches for files starting with the letters 'win' in their filenames. The only difference is that the mounted filesystems would not be searched for this time. This is useful when you have your Windows partitions mounted by default. And a search for 'win' might return many files on those partitions, which you may not be really interested in. This is only one use of -mount parameter.

[/shell]find /mp3-collection -name 'Metallica*' -and -size +10000k
find /mp3-collection -size +10000k ! -name "Metallica*"
find /mp3-collection -name 'Metallica*' -or -size +10000k[/shell]

Boolean operators such as AND, OR and NOT make find an extremely useful tool. The first command searches within the directory '/mp3-collection' for files that have their names beginning with 'Metallica' and whose size is greater than 10000 kilobytes (> 10 MB). The second command searches in the same directory as above case but only for files that are greater than 10MB, but they should not have 'Metallica' as the starting of their filenames. The third command searches in the same directory for files that begin with 'Metallica' in their names or all the files that are greater than 10 MB in size.

Exec Option

The exec option is probably the most important feature of the find tool. The exec command allows you to execute a particular command on the results of the find command. A simple demonstration of this feature is shown below. It is up to your imagination to make maximum use of this feature. Suppose you wanted to see the details of the files (read, write, execute permission, file size, owner etc..) that have been returned as a search result you could do the following

find / - name 'Metallica*' -exec ls -l {\}\ \;

This command would find all the files on your system that begin with the letters 'Metallica' and would then execute the 'ls -l' command on these files. So basically you would be able to see the details of the files that were returned according to your search criteria.

The words following the -exec option is the command that you want to execute i.e. ls -l in this case.

  • {\}\ is basically an indicator that the filenames returned by the search should be substituted here.
  • \; is the terminating string, and is required at the end of the command

This article was originally written by Kiran Pai.

Written by Matt

I've been running web hosting servers and building websites for myself using Wordpress for 14 years. My network of sites get a TON of traffic and I use various models to monetize them - mainly display ads and affiliate marketing. Along the way I've picked up hundreds of tips and tricks that I think would be useful for anyone looking to make a website and here is where I'm going to share them. Find me on Twitter too.

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