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How to Find Files in Linux Using 'locate'

The easiest way to find files in Linux

The simplest way to find files on a Linux based operating system is to use the locate program. This article explains how to use locate tool to find your files easily. When you run locate for the first time, you might get an error message. To get it working refer to the note at the bottom of the page.

If you want to do more than simply find the location of files then you can use the excellent find tool. The find tool allows you do refined searches.


Here are various ways to use locate tool

locate index.html

It would produce a list of the locations where you could find files that are named as index.html. This might produce results as follows


You could use the -q option to suppress error messages. Error messages would typically be messages stating that permission to access files were not allowed since you are only a user (not superuser). The -q option would suppress any other error messages as well:

locate "*.dat" -q

You could use the -n option to limit the number of returned results to a specific number. E.g. you could ask for only 10 search results by the following command:

locate "*.c" -n 10

This would return the first 10 files that end in .c that Linux finds.

You could use the -i option in case you wanted to perform a case insensitive search. The case of the filenames would not be considered:

locate INDEX.HTML -i

You could make your search faster by typing the following:

locate index.html -l 0

Typing -l 1 takes longer time for the search to complete but is more secure. This is the default action that takes place when the -l option is not mentioned.

There are few more parameters that can be used with locate, but they are generally not used. You can find them in the man pages.

Note: when you run 'locate' for the first time, you will get a message stating that the db is not available. Linux requires a database of all the files, which locate uses to find the files. The message would also state that you can log in as root and run a particular command. Simply doing so would get locate to work perfectly. To change to the superuser mode type 'su' at the prompt. Then type the command you were asked to run (as indicated in the message). Type CTRL+D to exit the superuser mode. Now you can continue with locate commands as normal.

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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