Linux / Unix Find Command Avoid Permission Denied Messages

When I type find . -type d -name "foo" command I get Permission denied error messages. How do I exclude all “permission denied: messages from the find command under Linux or Unix like operating systems?

The find command is used to locate files on a Linux or Unix like operating system. The find command will search directory to match the supplied search criteria. You can search for files by
Tutorial details
Difficulty Easy (rss)
Root privileges No
Requirements find command+
Unix like os
Time N/A
type, name, owner, group, date, permissions and more. By default the find will search all subdirectories for you.

Find command basic syntax

The syntax is:
find where-to-look criteria action
find /dir/to/search -name filetosearch
find /dir/to/search -name "*.c"
find /home/nixcraft/project/ -name "*.py" -print

In this example, find will search the /tmp directory for any files named “data*.txt” and display their pathnames:

find /path/to/dir -name "pattern" -print
find /tmp -iname "data*.txt"


cd /tmp
find . -iname "data*.txt" -print

Sample outputs:

Fig. 01: Find will show an error message for each directory on which you don’t have read permission.

How to fix find command permission denied messages

In this above example, I do not have read permission for vmware-root and orbit-Debian-gdm directories. To to avoid this problem try the following syntax:

 ## redirect error spam message to /dev/null ##
find where-to-look criteria action 2>/dev/null
find . -iname "data*.txt" -print 2>/dev/null

Sample outputs without permission denied spam from find command:


How does it works?

The 2>/dev/null at the end of the find command tells your shell to redirect the error messages (FD #2) to /dev/null, so you don’t have to see them on screen. Use /dev/null to to send any unwanted output from program/command. All data written on a /dev/null special file is discarded by the system. To redirect standard error to /dev/null and store file list to output.txt, type:

 ## redirect error spam to /dev/null ##
find . -iname "data*.txt" -print 2>/dev/null > output.txt
cat output.txt

Exclude all “permission denied” messages from “find” command on Linux

There is one problem with the following command. It would filter out all error messages created by find command, not just the permission denied ones:

find / -name foo 2>/dev/null
find / -type d -name bar 2>/dev/null

To avoid that try the following find command along with grep command on Linux or Unix-like systems:

find / -name foo 2>&1 | grep -v "Permission denied"
find / -type d -name bar 2>&1 | grep -v "Permission denied"

In short you should use following syntax to skip “permission denied” errors messages when running find in Linux or Unix-based systems:

find /path/to/dir -name "search-patter"  2>&1 | grep -v "Permission denied"
find /etc -name "x*.conf"  2>&1 | grep -v "Permission denied"

To store output to a file run:

find /path/to/dir -name "search-patter"  2>&1 | grep -v "Permission denied" > output-file
find /etc -name "x*.conf"  2>&1 | grep -v "Permission denied" > output.txt

Display output.txt using cat command:
cat output.txt

In the above example, we used find command along with grep command to filter out permission denied error messages.

See also
  • Man page for bash or ksh shell.

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1 comment… add one
  • Madan Dec 16, 2014 @ 10:09

    Both errors and warning are thrown into stderr is there any way we can identify that the command has a warning in it and not the error ??
    Apart from checking the return code !!

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