UNIX Find A File Command

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I am a new Sun Solaris UNIX user in our Lab. I would like to know more about finding files from the shell prompt. How do I find a file under UNIX operating systems using bash or ksh shell?

You need to use find command which is used to search files and directories under Linux and Unix like operating systems. You can specify criteria while search files. If no criteria is set, it will returns all files below the current working directory. The find command also supports regex matching and other advanced options.

Another option is locate command. It find files by name. The locate command reads databases prepared by updatedb and displays file names matching at least one of the PATTERNs to screen.


The syntax is:
find /dir/to/search -name "file-to-search"
find /dir/to/search -name "file-to-search" -print
find /dir/to/search -name "file-to-search" -ls
find /dir/to/search -name "regex" -print

Examples – find command

To find all perl (*.pl) files in current directory:
$ find . -name '*.pl'
The . represent the current directory and the -name option specifies all pl (perl) files. The quotes avoid the shell expansion and it is necessary when you want to use wild card based search (without quotes the shell would replace *.pl with the list of files in the current directory).

To list only files and avoid all directories

The following command will only list files and will exclude directories, special files, pipes, symbolic links etc:
$ find . -type f -name '*.pl'
Sample outputs:

Fig.01: Find command in action
Fig.01: Find command in action

The -type -f option only selects files. To select only dirs pass the -type d:
$ find /home/vivek/ -type d -name 'project*'
This will find directory names such as project, projects, projects-perl and so on.

Search all directories

Search file called httpd.conf in all directories:
$ find / -type f -name httpd.conf
Generally this is a bad idea to look for files. This can take a considerable amount of time. It is recommended that you specify the directory name. For example look httpd.conf in /usr/local directory:
$ find /usr/local -type f -name httpd.conf
You may need to run it as root:
$ sudo find / -type f -name httpd.conf

Execute command on all files

Run ls -l command on all *.c files to get extended information :
$ find . -name "*.c" -type f -exec ls -l {} \;
$ find . -name "*.c" -type f -ls
You can run almost all UNIX command on file. For example, modify all permissions of all files to 0700 only in ~/code directory:
$ find ~/code -exec chmod 0700 {} \;
Search for all files owned by a user called payal:
$ find . -user <userid>
$ find . -user payal

Search file for specific sizes

Search for 650 megabytes or above size file in ~/Downloads/ dir:
$ find ~/Downloads/ -size +650M
## gigabytes ##
$ find ~/Downloads/ -size +1G
## kilobytes ##
$ find ~/Downloads/ -size +1024k

Read find command man page for detailed information:
$ man find

Say hello to locate command

To search for a file named exactly foo (not *foo*), type:
$ locate -b '\foo'
Just search for file name matching yum.conf, type:
$ locate yum.conf
To search for a file named exactly yum.conf (not *yum.conf* anywhere in / path), type:
$ locate -b '\yum.conf'
Sample outputs:

Fig.02: locate command in action on Linux based system.
Fig.02: locate command in action on Linux based system.

Recommended readings:

See our previous articles about finding files:

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.

27 comment

  1. It would be interesting to know how to find files that contains certain words in the text (inside the file)


  2. Mich,

    grep 'main()' *.c
    grep -r "string" /home/you
    find . -exec grep -H "string" '{}' \; -print


  3. Also you can combine find with xargs in a powerful ways for example:

    find ~/code -print0 | xargs -0 chmod -v 0700

    the previous commands change mode of every file under
    ~/code including code directory.

  4. great article, thanks for putting this out there, all these find tips are in my notes now.

  5. find . -name “chapter*” -print | xargs grep “Bhanu”
    It will search for the files starting with chapter,
    and with in these files it will search for Bhanu string.

  6. i would like to ask how to use the find command to locate all the hidden files in a folder. the hidden files are error files.

  7. Regarding executing commands on files found by the find command, is it possible to execute the cat command on files found by the find command? If so, it would be great if you could provide some examples of how this could be done.

    I want to use the find command to find all regular files in a directory used to store scripts and then execute either a “cat -n” or plain “cat” command to print the contents of each of the files (i.e., scripts) which were found in the directory.

    Thanks. Howard

  8. I want to remove the records which contains the blank data from specific column of file e.g.
    if we consider the file format :
    Sr.No Name Marks1 Marks2 grade
    1 Nik 50 0 B
    2 Jua 25 75 B
    3 Neeta 30 0 C
    4 jem 0 15 C

    As per in above format i want to remove the records which contains value ‘0’ in Colum ‘Marks2’ .Can anyone please advice unix command for above case?
    Thanks in advance

  9. I would like to find a “file” or “link” by a certain name. Is that possible with find ?

    For example, if I have the following file in the current directory, can “find” locate
    the file by either “pop” or “pullit” ?

    lrwxrwxrwx 1 bb other 6 Oct 3 19:55 pop -> pullit


  10. What command can be used to find all files that contain a given string in any sub-directory of the path you are in? I tried
    grep -lri ‘string’ ./
    but it is only finding the string in files within that directory, not the sub-directories.
    Thanks in advance.

  11. Hi Guys,

    How to find all files and put the result into a file? any idea about this.

    find ./user -type f -name "*" -exec ls -lrt {} \;

    I want to put the above result into a file. is it possible?

    1. find ./user -type f -name "*" -exec ls -lrt {} \; > output.txt
      find /path/to/dir/ -type f -ls > output.txt

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