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How Do I Search My Linux and Unix Server For a File?

I am a new Linux system (CentOS) user. How do I search my Linux box for a file? How can I locate files on a Linux based system using bash command line?

You need to either use find command or locate command to search files on a Linux or Unix-like server.

Find command

The find command is used to find files on a Linux or Unix like system. It will search directories you specify for files that match the supplied search condition. A search condition can be used to search files by name, owner, group, type, permissions, date, time, case, and other criteria. The search is recursive i.e. it will search all subdirectories.ooks like this:

find {dir-name} -name {file-name} action


find where-to-look criteria action

The default action is to print file names:

find /dir/ -name "file-to-search" -print

Find command examples

To find out a file called foo.txt in entire server, type:
# find / -name foo.txt
To find out httpd.log file:
# find / -type f -name httpd.log
To find out httpd.log file in /home/web-server/ directory, type:
# find /home/web-server/ -type f -name httpd.log
To find out httpd.log file in /home/web-server/ directory without case i.e. match httpd.log, HTTPD.LOG, HTTpd.LOG case, type:
# find /home/web-server/ -type f -iname httpd.log
To find out all php file (*.php) in /var/www/ directory, enter:
# find /var/www/ -type f -iname "*.php" -print

Find all files except “*.c” in a directory called ~/projects/?

To find all files except a specific pattern i.e. invert the search with -not or !.
# find /dir/to/search/ -not -name "*.c" -print
# find $HOME -not -iname "*.c" -print

# find /dir/to/search/ \! -name "*.c" print
# find $HOME \! -iname "*.c" print

Finding file by type

The syntax is as follows:

find /dir/to/search/ -type X -name "file_pattern" -print
find $HOME -type X -iname "file_pattern" -print

Where -type X can be any one of the following chracter:

  1. f : Search for normal file only.
  2. d : Search for directory only.
  3. l : Search for symbolic link only

To search for all *.pl (perl) files in /var/www/, enert:

find /var/www/ -type f -name "*.pl" -print
## OR case insensitive search ### 
find /var/www/ -type f -iname "*.pl" -print

How do find files by content on a Linux or UNIX based server?

Use grep command as follows:

grep 'string' *.txt
grep -R 'string' *.txt

Search /etc/ directory for all files and only show files that content an IP address
# find /etc/ -iname "*" | xargs grep ''
See “find(1)

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Dr.M.Bärmann April 15, 2008, 10:35 pm

    Make it more easy. i did not understan nothing. can you tell people simply things? I still doo not know who you areß what are you dooing? nothing is that what you want? think abaut. Young People may know this, but what abaut the 50-60 generation.

    • Jack March 4, 2011, 4:44 am

      Obvious, but still pretty funny… *and* you fell for it. Didn’t you think it was a bit odd he could spell “generation” but not “do”?? Uh, herr-o?

  • Justin Pinho March 30, 2009, 6:39 pm

    If you can’t construct a sentence Dr M Barmann, you shouldn’t even bother.

  • Frank Ucker July 14, 2009, 10:14 am

    The answer is simple enough to understand although the Doc’s comment isn’t. Thanks for the tip.

  • bob borum January 13, 2011, 4:54 am

    I have a new freespire program and like it , but I do have issues , I can not seam to get my lexmark x3550 printer to work the soft ware disk will not run , an other issue is the yahoo messanger I get is yahoo beta I would like the stanard messager 10 , the last issue is I can not find the clock , thank you for your time bob

  • bob borum January 16, 2011, 3:57 am

    I still can not find the clock on freespire

  • Justin November 22, 2011, 9:59 am

    Thanks for this command. It was quite useful.

  • JN January 27, 2012, 2:41 pm

    Exactly what i was looking for! thanks!

  • razor 3928 February 29, 2012, 11:58 pm

    Please step away from the linux server. You will crash the box and hurt yourself. Call your grandkids they will help you.

    Thanks for the chuckle…..

  • vikram August 24, 2015, 7:44 am

    I tried so many option to find a sting under all directory/file in unix server….
    but many of them showing permission denied after each root path
    couls anyone tell me how to find it.

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